New research illustrates complicated relationship between audience-building strategies and financial health in the performing arts


March 1, 2024
Professor Francie Ostrower
Professor Francie Ostrower was the principal investigator for the research on audience engagement with support from the Wallace Foundation.

The Wallace Foundation recently released a report that shares insights from a study led by Professor Francie Ostrower that explores how nonprofit performing arts organizations could engage new audiences while retaining existing ones, and whether audience-building contributes to organizations’ financial health. The report, “In Search of the Magic Bullet: Results from the Building Audiences for Sustainability Initiative,” offers broader implications for organizations pursuing their own audience-building efforts and presents findings from the foundation’s multiyear Building Audiences for Sustainability (BAS) initiative. “In Search of the Magic Bullet” is available for direct download on The Wallace Foundation’s website.

From 2015 to 2019, Wallace awarded nearly $41 million in grants to 25 performing arts organizations with budgets over $1 million to support audience-building projects guided by factors ranging from age, race and geography to frequency of attendance and interest in new work. "In Search of the Magic Bullet" analyzes findings from significant data collection efforts, led by The University of Texas at Austin between 2015 and 2022, including hundreds of leadership and staff interviews with all 25 of the organizations, as well as a study of outcomes from 15 of the projects that included audience surveys and ticketing and attendance data across the timeline of the initiative.

Ostrower is a professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs and College of Fine Arts, director of the Portfolio Program in Arts and Cultural Management and Entrepreneurship jointly sponsored by the College of Fine Arts and the LBJ School, and a senior fellow in the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service.


Faculty Research College of Fine Arts

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