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The Michigan Cultural Data Project comes to Grand Rapids to help arts and culture organizations make the mark they deserve

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

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Free CDP training in Grand Rapids on Thurs., May 27, 2010 at GVSU’s Johnson Center (201 Front Ave. SW) from 10:00am to 12:00pm.

Free CDP training in Grand Rapids on Thurs., May 27, 2010 at GVSU’s Johnson Center (201 Front Ave. SW) from 10:00am to 12:00pm.

At every presentation about the Cultural Data Project (CDP), people gasp at what it can do - at every one of the fifteen talks across the state. And now, after two years of work by a dedicated team, this valuable tool is available in Michigan. If you are part of a group that is involved in the arts or culture, from small to large, including historical societies, nature centers, and zoos, this site is for you.

Register for the FREE Grand Rapids' CDP training at

The CDP is a national online database that holds arts and cultural groups financial, program and facility information.  Michigan became the eighth state to launch CDP on May 3, 2010 when and help desk services went live.

The CDP began in Pennsylvania in 2001 as a collaborative effort of the William Penn Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew), the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and Drexel University to develop a comprehensive and standardized system to collect local cultural institutions’ data on finances, attendance and employment. After a three-year process of planning and implementation, the Pennsylvania CDP was fully launched, and Pew began hosting the project in 2005.

The Pennsylvania CDP rapidly began to fulfill its promise of becoming a vital resource for strengthening the arts and cultural sector statewide. It expanded to Maryland in 2007 and California in January 2008. In the fall of 2008, the original partners, now legally formed as the CDP Governing Group, approved a business plan to expand the CDP to become the national standard for data collection on the arts and cultural sector. The CDP then launched in Illinois, New York, Massachusetts and Ohio in 2009. 

Today, more than 8,000 arts and cultural organizations are participating nationwide, and more than 100 funders are using the CDP in nearly 150 grant-making programs. More information about the national effort and research is available at

In each state, the CDP has been a collaborative effort of public and private funders, including the state arts council, philanthropies and local cultural agencies, which form task forces to lead the development of the project and set the research agenda for the state. It is operated by The Pew Charitable Trusts. 

The new CDP website helps arts and culture organizations understand themselves better. The groups who have so often been missed in counting up what makes our communities vibrant will have fact-checked data to demonstrate their value. In addition, at least six foundations and the State Arts Council will require the CDP in applications and/or grantee reports by the end of 2010.

The CDP tracks data from all aspects of operations: revenues, expenses, investments, loans, employment, volunteers, attendance and facilities for organizations. After completing the 11-section online form annually, nonprofit groups can generate over 70 instant annual reports, trend analysis, benchmark performance against other organizations and use the data as part of applications to participating foundations.  

For example, a theatre company can, in just a few clicks of the mouse, call up a Trend Report on how its marketing expense stand as a percentage of total expenses sand program revenue for three consecutive fiscal years. The information is provided in a table as well as in a colorful line graph. Other data is presented automatically in pie charts. With a few more clicks, the organization can compare its personnel expenses like the cost of health care or number of employees, to aggregate information from similar sized theatres in other states or Michigan communities. It could also learn how its ticket prices compare to others in similar sized towns.

These unique and innovative benchmarking features enable the CDP to help promote superior management practice within cultural organizations and make it a powerful research tool for grantmakers, researchers and cultural policy advocates. Once a sufficient number of arts and culture nonprofits have entered their data and the Michigan CDP Task Force approves a research agenda, ArtServe Michigan will initiate research and reporting on regional and statewide trends and other related information contained in the CDP data. Qualified researchers and advocates may obtain research licenses to analyze and report on the aggregate data. No individual organization’s data will disclosed in any report by anyone other than the organization itself. 

In the current economic climate, with state and local budgets undergoing severe cuts, solid data on the contributions of the arts and cultural sector have become more important than ever.  In the spring of 2008, a coalition of Michigan funders, organized as the Arts Affinity Group under the Council of Michigan Foundations, became interested in the CDP as a resource to strengthen the cultural sector in Michigan, and formed a task force to evaluate the program, initiate securing funds and identify next steps. The members of the Task Force include:
  • ArtServe Michigan
  • Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs
  • The Pew Charitable Trusts, Battle Creek Community Foundation
  • Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
  • Council of Michigan Foundations
  • Frey Foundation
  • Irving S. Gilmore Foundation
  • MASCO Corporation Foundation
  • The Skillman Foundation
  • Southfield Community Foundation.
In September 2009, this group formally invited ArtServe Michigan, in its intermediary role, to submit proposals to bring the CDP to Michigan. In addition to the lead gift from the MASCO Corporation Foundation and grants from all of the funders on the Task Force, the Kresge Foundation, Erb Family Foundation, Grand Rapids Community Foundation and Ruth Mott Foundation have awarded funds to the Michigan CDP. Operating with a three-year launch and operating budget of $854,215, the Task Force raised $691,500 at launch. In the future, with more states joining and more funders involved, the economies of scale will help to keep costs level or reduce.

With CDP, you have support every step of the way, from how to use the computer to enter the data to learning how to explain what the reports graphs and charts mean. The Michigan CDP Help Desk can be reached at [email protected] or 1-877-MICDP-01 (1-877-642-3701) and is available from 9am – 5pm (local time) each weekday. In addition to answering questions and helping organizations understand how to describe their unique situations, Help Desk staff review the submitted data for inconsistencies and contact organizations with any suggested revisions.  

You can begin to enter your data now. The free training will provide all you need to start; either on line immediately or in two-hour sessions that will take place in Grand Rapids on Thursday, May 27, 2010 at GVSU’s Johnson Center (201 Front Ave. SW) from 10:00am to 12:00pm. More than one representative of an organization is encouraged to attend. 

Register for the Grand Rapids' training at
Article by Jennifer Hill (Director of Special Projects, ArtServe Michigan), Edited by Sara Schneider

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