TRG blog: The most valuable research tool you’re not using… yet
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TRG Blog: Analysis from TRG Arts

The most valuable research tool you’re not using… yet

Jill Robinson | September 13, 2016 2:53 PM

This post is cross-posted on the National Center for Arts Research blog.

 Jill Robinson, 
President & CEO, TRG Arts

 “How do we stack up?”

Everyone is curious about how their arts organization compares with others like them. There’s really not been a good place to find that information, though.

Until now.

Recently, our partners at the National Center for Arts Research launched the NCAR Dashboard. It uses data from DataArts (formerly the Cultural Data Project) to explore how organizations from a variety of sizes and artistic disciplines perform on a variety of standardized financial and operational indicators, called KIPI’s. Even better, it allows you to compare your organization to others in its own size category and artistic genre.

The NCAR Dashboard shows you at a glance how your organization performs compared to other organizations in its size category and artistic genre.

The benchmarking ability of the dashboard is enormous. Imagine how you’d plan and act differently if you could gauge how well your organization engages your market, how efficiently it operates, and how financially sound it is in comparison to peer organizations. The NCAR Dashboard allows you to see how your organization performed each year on metrics like the following:

  • Ratio of earned revenue
  • Percentage of revenue from subscribers and members
  • Working capital
  • Community engagement
  • Return on marketing

These are metrics that TRG Arts has seen having enormous impact on organizational health when managers track and act upon them. We often say “what can be measured can be managed.” I can see applications for both organization-wide and departmental strategic planning, multi-year business planning, and market research.

Besides giving you a general report card in dashboard format, the KIPI dashboard goes in depth on each score, telling you how your organization has trended over time and explaining how the metric is calculated.

What’s especially powerful is that it calculates how your organization would need to change its numbers in order to impact each score. For example, the “Working Capital” KIPI is calculated by dividing unrestricted current liabilities by unrestricted current assets. The dashboard calculates how much your organization would need to increase assets or decrease liabilities in order to outperform your peer organizations.

This kind of tool has never been available to our sector; every arts and cultural institution should be aware of and using it.  And there’s a bonus: if your organization has provided data to DataArts (formerly the Cultural Data Project), your information is already loaded and available. You can visit the demo site to see how it works, or log in here.


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Case Study: Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma

Annual operating budget up 32% in 5 seasons

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma 
 Photo: Joseph Mills

After a poor year for earned revenue in 2012, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma (LTO) had rebounded and was experiencing a growth spurt. In 2013, Director of Marketing Danyel Siler had turned her attention to single tickets.

Her hard work had paid off, but season tickets were still a challenge. “Season tickets were steadily declining,” she said. “The season ticket campaign had been done the same way for years, maybe even decades. And we blamed the fall on the trend that subs were declining everywhere. Our executive director, artistic director, and I all knew something needed to change, but we didn’t know what.”

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Jill Robinson
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