SMU DataArts - Cultural Data Profile


Two New Reports and One White Paper to Help Pave a Path for Healthier Working Capital

  • Posted Mar 18, 2021

DALLAS, TX - SMU DataArts, a national center for arts research that provides data-based insights to help arts and cultural nonprofits across the country, today released two new reports and a white paper looking at the financial health of the arts industry leading up to the pandemic:

  • The Working Capital report, which provides data on how much money arts organizations have on hand to cover day-to-day operating needs;
  • A white paper accompanying the Working Capital report -- Buffering Against Uncertainty: Working Capital and the Resiliency of BIPOC-Serving Organizations -- with surprising new findings about arts organizations that serve BIPOC communities compared to those organizations that don’t focus on these audiences; and
  • The Bottom Line report, which looks at whether arts organizations are bringing in enough revenue to cover their expenses.

The Working Capital report is an update of a report issued several years ago that covered the period 2013-2016. The new report covers 2016-2019 and looks at how much working capital arts organizations have on hand based on their sector, size, audience served, geography, and other factors. For example, the average arts organization in 2019 had five months of working capital, but this figure is skewed high by some large organizations. The median, or reality for more than half of the organizations, was the precariously low level of 1.5 months. Working capital varied greatly depending on sector – art museums had almost 11 months’ worth, while dance organizations had only about two weeks’ worth. Institutions in New York had over 9 months of working capital, while those in San Francisco had 1.3 months. And small organizations had more than 7.4 months of capital, while medium-sized organizations had the least, 4.8 months.

The Working Capital report helps answer two questions: From 2016 to 2019, when the economy was strong, did arts organizations take actions to build liquidity to levels that could buffer the storm brought on by the pandemic? And how well prepared were arts organizations that primarily serve BIPOC communities? An examination of the answers is provided in an accompanying white paper, Buffering Against Uncertainty: Working Capital and the Resiliency of BIPOC-Serving Organizations. Co-authored by SMU DataArts Director Zannie Voss and Rebecca Thomas, president of Rebecca Thomas Associates, the white paper shows that organizations of color had more liquidity than their non-BIPOC-serving peers, but that this stability belies factors such as lack of access to capital and revenue and constrained organizational capacity that keep many of these organizations small and make support for them particularly critical.

The Bottom Line report, an update of a report issued in 2017, looks at whether arts organizations are bringing in enough revenue to cover their expenses. The report found that in 2019 there were sharp downward trends, regardless of how bottom line was calculated. The report shows that revenue growth did not keep pace with expense growth, even before the pandemic.


SMU DataArts, the National Center for Arts Research, is a joint project of the Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. SMU DataArts compiles and analyzes data on arts organizations and their communities nationwide and develops reports on important issues in arts management and patronage. Its findings are available free of charge to arts leaders, funders, policymakers, researchers, and the general public. The vision of SMU DataArts is to build a national culture of data-driven decision-making for those who want to see the arts and culture sector thrive. Its mission is to empower arts and cultural leaders with high-quality data and evidence-based resources and insights that help them to overcome challenges and increase impact. To work toward these goals, SMU DataArts integrates data from its Cultural Data Profile, its partner TRG Arts, and other national and government sources such as Theatre Communications Group, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Census Bureau, and IRS 990s. Publications include white papers on emergence from the COVID-19 crisis, high-performing arts organizations of colorprotecting arts organizations through downturns, gender equity in art museum directorships, working capital and the resiliency of BIPOC organizations, and more. SMU DataArts also publishes reports on the health of the U.S. arts and cultural sector with the annual Arts Vibrancy Index, which highlights the 40 most arts-vibrant communities around the country. For more information,





Victoria Winkelman

Meadows School of the Arts



The Working Capital Report

Insights into the arts and cultural organization’s average number of months of working capital shows how long an organization can survive at its current expense size in the absence of revenue.

Read the Report

Buffering Against Uncertainty: Working Capital and the Resiliency of BIPOC-serving Organizations

Analysis and key recommendations to help pave a path for organizations and grantmakers to consider as they develop strategies to stabilize and restore working capital post-pandemic.

Read More

The Bottom Line Report

Analysis to inform funders and board members about where support may be needed now and debunk preconceived notions about certain sectors.

Read the Report