Bloomberg To Fund Tech Upgrades For The Arts

Almost 50 cultural nonprofits will have access to $30 million for strategic improvements to technology infrastructure through a commitment from Bloomberg Philanthropies that aims to help build audiences, increase fundraising, drive revenue, and deliver programming both virtually and in person.

The Digital Accelerator Program will launch with an initial cohort of 46 nonprofits — 26 in the United States and 20 in the United Kingdom — that will expand in the coming year to help arts organizations invest in tools and training. A recent survey by the Knight Foundation found that 60% of U.S. museums lacked a digital plan for the future.

“When the pandemic hit, cultural organizations everywhere got creative and adapted quickly to keep their virtual doors open,” Patricia E. Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies, said via a statement. “Now we’re excited to launch the accelerator program to help more arts organizations sustain innovations and investments – and strengthen tech and management practices that are key to their long-term success.”

The Digital Accelerator will support the full spectrum of digital infrastructure, including tools to enhance core operations, such as integrated marketing and fundraising systems, as well as projects with the potential to benefit the broader cultural sector. For example, the National Theatre at Home streaming service launched last year, providing world-class filmed productions to audiences around the world.  National Theatre at Home also provides a platform for smaller theatres throughout the U.K.

The Battersea Arts Centre in London launched a “Pay What You Can” ticketing program, which artistic director and CEO Tarek Iskander said has promise in broadening its reach. “How should this be refined and integrated into our programming plans and fundraising efforts? The support of Bloomberg Philanthropies will be critical as we work to understand and align our digital best practices to serve artists and audiences,” Iskander said via a statement.

The Apollo Theater in New York City provided 45 virtual programs with more than 500,000 households tuning in. “As we look forward to our reopening this fall, and a newly redeveloped Victoria Theater next year, we know that investment in our digital infrastructure will be essential to engage community members and donors, grow revenue and present newly commissioned work to the widest possible audience,” President and CEO Jonelle Procope said.

Bloomberg Philanthropies invited organizations to apply based on creative excellence, service to diverse communities, talented leadership, and efforts to improve digital capacity during the pandemic. The first phase of the program will focus on institutions in the U.S. and the U.K. which will receive training and support. A Bloomberg Tech Fellow, designated by each participating organization from existing staff, will drive the development and implementation of their digital project. Tech Fellows have been selected based on their track record as a change agent within their organizations. 

Bloomberg Philanthropies will work with technology experts who will provide strategic assessment and implementation support to the Bloomberg Tech Fellows. In the U.K., services will be provided by the Arts Council’s Digital Culture Network, and in the U.S., by the Lapine Group.