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Social Impact Census


179 organizations

179 organizations took part in the Social Impact & Workforce Development Census in summer 2018, completing an assessment of organizations in five counties with annual budget sizes between $10,000 and more than $50 million. These organizations were asked about their “non-arts” programming as well as the make-up and development of their staff. The Cultural Alliance limited the “non-arts” program list to categories that reflected both its most recent census of the sector (2010) as well as the Americans for the Arts social impact project released in 2018.

24 Distinct Categories

The 24 categories are: accessibility, active military/veterans/military families, aging, anti-blight, anti-violence, autism spectrum disorder, child development, drug addiction and recovery, economic revitalization, education, employment and workforce development, environment, health, history and preservation, homelessness and housing insecurity, hunger/nutrition/food insecurity, immigration and refugee resettlement, incarcerated populations and returning citizens, LGBTQ, mental health, neighborhood safety and development, racial justice, school attendance, and tourism.

1,056 Programs

The census measured both the depth and breadth of the sector’s social impact, which means it goes far beyond the general categories of programming. Responding organizations were asked about location, frequency, inclusivity and partnerships with non-arts companies and institutions.

2000 plus locations

Responding organizations were asked for all of the ZIP codes in which they provide programming and if they: have their own physical space for programming; use spaces owned by other organizations for programming; or present programming in public spaces. They were then asked the locations in which the applicable programming is presented, choosing all that apply from a list of 12 possibilities: the organization’s own facility; elementary/Pre-K schools; middle/high schools; community/recreation centers; libraries; senior centers; parks; places of worship; homeless shelters; hospitals/health centers/clinics; workplaces/corporate spaces; and prisons/jails. What did we find? That organizations aren’t “sitting at home” and waiting for participants to come to them. They’re getting out into the community:

65 percent of social impact programming is taking place outside of organizations' own facilities

46 percent are in public spaces: libraries, schools, recreation centers and parks

Public spaces are key to Philadelphia’s legacy, from William Penn’s five squares to the Parkway and now the Rebuild initiative. This list of public spaces includes libraries and rec centers from Germantown to South Philly and from University City to the Northeast that will be improved with funding from the Sugary Beverage Tax. The Cultural Alliance supports the sugary beverage tax because the revenue it will provide to these public spaces will continue to support arts and culture programming that has a social impact. Having high-quality, inclusive public spaces throughout the city provides organizations of all sizes and capacity levels the chance to connect with neighborhoods and communities in nearby, trusted spaces.


If you walk out of your front door on any given day, there’s a great chance you’ll find social impact programming about an issue that matters to you. When we measure by the programs that happen most often, we see education, child development, and history and preservation lead the way. When we measure by which types of programming are most likely to be scheduled on a weekly basis, we find that addiction and recovery and school attendance are ahead by a significant margin.

Our findings suggest that programs that happen all the time (at least once a week) are usually for people, and programs that only happen once in a while (at least once a year) are usually about issues.

Respondents were given three options for frequency: at least once a week, once a month or once a year. So it’s possible that a program is offered three times a month, making it just shy of the weekly category; it’s just as likely that a program happens 10 times a year, which looks much different than one that happens once or twice a year but falls in the same category.


More accessible and sensory friendly programming is happening in more places than ever before. This high location count (10%+ of the total) suggests there is a great deal of “cross-programming” happening. For example, an in-school sensory-friendly presentation by a theater group about the history of Philadelphia might fall into the categories of education, accessibility/sensory-friendly and history and preservation.

26 programs specifically designed for incarcerated populations, 57 programs in homeless shelters, 60 programs in health and wellness spaces

Communities and populations served by these arts and culture organizations range in age from children in Pre-K programs to residents in senior living facilities, and locations span from public libraries to prisons and jails. Organizations aren’t waiting for participants and audiences to come to them: they are going into neighborhoods, bringing programming directly to people wherever they are. 

The census also gives us an interesting way to look at the continuum of “non-arts” programming by Greater Philadelphia’s cultural sector based on how long organizations have been working on specific topics.

Emerging areas of impact: 72 programs have started in just the last two years fcousing on racial justice, LGBTQ, aging, immigration & refugee resettlement and homelessness & housing insecurity.

Well-Established areas of impact: for more than a decade 177 programs across all impact aras have been offered in schools and nearly 200 organizations have focused on accessibility, history, tourism and child development

Taking Off: Programs around homelessness and housing insecurity, immigration and refugee resettlement, hunger/nutrition/food insecurity, incarcerated or returning citizens, addiction and recovery, active military/veterans/military families and LGBTQ issues have all increased dramatically. With the exception of LGBTQ work, these impact areas are the focus of a smaller number of programs.

Accelerating: In the past 10 years, programs around these eight impact areas have doubled or more: mental health, autism, anti-violence, economic revitalization, health, racial justice, neighborhood safety and development and anti-blight. While these topics are the focus of a smaller number of programs in general, new programming is added every year.

Gaining Momentum: Three areas of impact are seeing steady growth, with a fairly even distribution of programs added year to year: aging, the environment and employment/workforce development. These have not yet hit the tipping point into a decline in new programs, though the pace of creating new programs around workforce development is slowing.

Charting the Course: At the far end of the continuum--the organizations that have been providing a category of social impact programming for 10+ years--we see well-established impact around education, tourism, child development, history and preservation, school attendance and accessibility. Levels of new growth in these impact areas are declining, with the exception of accessibility, which sees steady growth year to year.

The Social Impact Census was made possible with support by the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation.

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