We believe it is important for our stakeholders to have a good understanding of our funding and grantmaking history. Knowing more about the impact of our allocations and the constraints in which we work will help us advocate together for greater public and private investments in Medford’s creative sector, educational programs in the arts and humanities, and infrastructure for cultural activities of all kinds.
Analyzing our own data going back to 1998 and kept by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, we are able to illustrate important trends regarding cultural funding and activity in Medford as seen through the perspective of the grant program of the Medford Arts Council. In this three-page report, we have also produced several Medford-specific indicators that can be used as a baseline for future consideration of our grantmaking. This page covers our own funding history. Funding Matters 2 covers the cultural disciplines we have funded over time. Funding Matters 3 covers the constituencies who have been served by our grants. You can click on any chart to enlarge it.
Our funding dollars are precious.
The graph below shows at once our granting budgets (blue line) and the number of projects we have funded (red line). As the graph indicates, our funding declined dramatically in 2003 after massive cuts to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and has not recovered to more than 65% of our high-water mark of $51,698 in 2002. Our history since 2005 shows a plateau of funding input and granting output for about nine years with a promising bump in the last two years, when the City of Medford began to allocate its own funds to our budget.
The trend lines showing our annual granting budgets (in blue) and the annual number of projects we have funded (in red) have very similar shapes over time. One implication of this similarity is that our ongoing potential to serve the community is directly tied to the amount of money allocated to us by the state and the City of Medford. This linkage is especially important to keep in mind because the Medford Arts Council has tended from year to year to award partial funding to a large number of accepted proposals, rather than selectively funding a smaller number of proposals and providing them greater or full awards, as some other cultural councils do.
Another important finding is that over the last seventeen years we have experienced a significant funding gap. The amount of money asked for by the community for its public programs has been, on average, more than 50% greater than what we have had available to give out. As the following graph shows, we have never had enough grant money to fulfill community requests, and the degree of unmet need varies over time.
We have quantified the unmet need in the graph below—the blue line indicates the difference in dollars (or shortfall) between total grant requests and total grant awards, and the green line indicates the fraction (or percentage gap) of this shortfall compared to the total amounts requested. Our average shortfall in dollars is greater than our average granting budgets from year to year, and our average funding gap is greater than the statewide gap for all Local Cultural Councils in the most recent fiscal year. It is notable that in the last two years, despite new money allocated by the city of Medford, the funding gap has gotten worse, suggesting that the demand is increasing more quickly than our capacity to meet it.
Of course, many projects to which we have allocated grants also have other sources of funding that can be pursued to make up the shortfall. And many projects simply scale back their proposed program (for example, by reducing the number of times that an event can be held, or the number of students who can participate) in order to address the funding shortfall. In most cases, however, the projects would not likely occur here without some level of grant funding from the Medford Arts Council.
Our funding analysis continues with a look at the various disciplines we have funded: next page.