New research is exciting. It offers us a sense of discovery and possibility for change. Sometimes research findings become integrated into discourse and influence practice in the field. All too often, however, once the thrill of the discovery is over, many valuable research reports become “old news” and get filed on a shelf or in a deeply buried folder and are rarely looked at again. A great deal of useful information is therefore lost to practitioners, particularly to incoming generations of philanthropic leaders who may not even know that this research exists.
In this series of articles, GIA pulls five significant research reports from the shelf and dusts them off, giving us the chance to consider them anew. Some of these reports, like Gifts of the Muse, are still widely referenced but deserve a fresh look. Others, like Autopsy of an Orchestra, were published before the digital era, which is to say they are practically invisible to today’s researchers and practitioners. Each of the selected research pieces relates to an issue that is still a vital concern of philanthropy today: arts education (Champions of Change), cultural participation (Gifts of the Muse and Art and Culture in Communities), capitalization and the nonprofit business model (Autopsy of an Orchestra), and artists and cultural workers (Crossover). There are many other important research reports that deserve to be revisited, but these reflect a cross section of themes and approaches.
To provide a fresh perspective on these pieces, we asked five younger-generation grantmakers to reflect on the findings and their relevance today. Their responses offer confirmation of the continuing usefulness of these works, as well as suggestions for where we might take things further today. We also asked five more seasoned field leaders to comment on the historical importance of the research. We hope that these ten voices come together to refresh a discussion centering on these particular studies, which still offer instructive lessons for philanthropy today. We also hope that these reflections will stimulate grantmakers to revive and revisit other important research reports that have lasting usefulness for our work.