25 Highlights from the Local Arts Agency Census

While LAAs across the country share the same goals and many tactics to achieve them, the LAA Census sheds light on the intricacies of the field. The report, 25 Highlights from the Local Arts Agency Census, offers a broad overview of the findings and paints the portrait of the programs, budgets, and operations of the LAA field as of 2015. Browse the highlights below or download the complete reports, 25 Highlights from the Local Arts Agency Census.

LAA Budget Trends—Steady Increase Since 2011




The LAA Census revealed $1.375 billion aggregate revenues and $1.301 billion aggregate expenses in 2015


Areas LAAs Serve




LAAs serve geographic areas that can cover a single city or county (64 percent), multiple counties (18 percent), regions (16 percent), and other areas such as neighborhoods (2 percent).




LAA Revenue Sources

LAA revenues vary depending on whether they are private nonprofit organizations or agencies within municipal government.  LAAs managed by government agencies (public sector) derive nearly 80 percent of their revenue from government sources, while nonprofits (private sector) LAAs revenues are a more even mix of public, private, and earned income sources.


LAA Expenditures: Dollars in Service to the Community

After payroll, the largest single expense for LAAs is grantmaking (22 percent of expenditures on average), with public LAAs spending a larger proportion of their budget on grants than private LAAs (36 percent vs. 16 percent). Private LAAs spend 4 percent of their money on fundraising-related expenses (excluding payroll), and receive on average 35 percent of their income from private sector contributions sources.


Which Case-Making Arguments Work Best for LAAs

The three most effective case-making arguments for the arts, as ranked by LAA leaders, are (1) arts education, (2) economic impact of the arts, and (3) improving quality of life. Different messages, however, resonate better with different funder categories:

  • Elected officials: (1) the economic impact, (2) arts and community development, and (3) arts education.
  • Business leaders: (1) economic impact, (2) benefits to business, and (3) arts and community development.
  • Private funders: (1) arts education, (2) improving quality of life, and (3) community livability.
  • Individual donors: (1) arts education, (2) quality of life, and (3) “arts for arts’ sake.”


Diversity of LAA Board, Staff, and Volunteers

When asked if their LAA currently has an appropriate level of diversity among the staff, board, and volunteers, 40 percent of LAAs disagreed, 35 percent agreed, and 26 percent had a neutral opinion.


How LAAs Build Partnerships



Local arts agencies (LAAs) are community connectors. Ninety-two percent maintain at least one partnership with a community agency or organization, and 76 percent have three or more ongoing collaborations.


How LAAs Bring Public Art to the Community

Forty-five percent of LAAs operate a public art program, and an additional 23 percent indicated that they are considering implementing one. Of the LAAs that operate a public art program:

  • 25 percent have at least one full-time employee dedicated to public art.
  • 31 percent receive funding from a percent-for-art ordinance.
  • 49 percent participate in regional or national networks that share public art resources and expertise.


The Anticipated Future for LAAs


Sixty-one percent of LAAs anticipated increased demand for their services from their constituents in 2016.


Sixty-four percent of LAAs describe their financial outlook for 2016 as unchanged from 2015; with 17 percent saying 2016 will be easier and 19 percent saying it will be more difficult.


33 percent of LAAs have experienced new or increased competition from other organizations located within their geographic service area that provide similar programs and/or services.