Why we're so busy
In past recessions, research was the first budget item to get the axe, especially at nonprofits. After all, asking audiences questions doesn’t bring in money, at least not immediately. But it does cost money — immediately. So during previous economic downturns, it was a luxury that nonprofits and educational institutions felt they had to live without.
This time around, things are different. Spending on research, evaluation, and assessment doesn’t appear to be down. On the contrary, consultancies like ours that serve arts organizations, museums, and educational institutions are busier than ever.
We’d like to think that’s because of our brilliant work and our clients’ good taste. But it’s not just us; colleagues around the field tell us similar stories. The status of audience research in the cultural and educational sectors seems to have shifted.
Why? Maybe because broad changes in society have forced those organizations to renegotiate their relationships with their publics. Where they could once take those relationships for granted, now they have to actively create and nurture them. And that takes understanding — the kind of insight that research brings.
Sure, some organizations have been led down the research and assessment path by far-sighted funders, such as the Wallace Foundation in the arts and the Teagle Foundation in higher ed. But others have had their own light-bulb moments about the value of listening to their communities during a time of challenge and change.
Of course we’re happy about this, and the culture and education fields should be proud of themselves for making it a priority. But it can be bittersweet: some of our clients are laying off staff, cutting pay, and reducing programs even while they continue to invest in their audiences through research.
So we’re trying even harder these days to make that research pay, in the form of new opportunities, fresh perspectives, and concrete action steps.
Don’t be a stranger
Speaking of relationships, you’re an important part of the growing Slover Linett community. Please make your voice heard by commenting on a blog post, sharing this newsletter with a colleague, and — most importantly — typing in a quick answer to this month’s CultureQ question, which is about social media. (And check out your responses to last month’s question here.)
Or just drop us a line. We’re busy, but never too busy to hear from you.
— Your friends at Slover Linett