How Do We Remain Relevant When Communities Change?

Categories: ASC, ASC Projects, Blog, Cultural Partners

CCI Wednesday

By Katherine Mooring, Associate Vice President, Education & Professional Development

How do we remain relevant when communities change? This is a critical question facing our arts and cultural sector as we work to build audiences, develop compelling programs, engage with the broader community and cultivate donors in the face of rapidly changing demographics. Shifts in age, family composition, economic status, race/ethnicity, level of education and many other areas have major implications for the work that we do, and ASC has been working hard to provide tools, best practices and learning opportunities for our partners to better navigate this change.

Yesterday morning, for example, ASC hosted a FREE workshop entitled “Cultural Participation in a Changing Society” in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau. Presented by Patricia Fletcher, Census Partnership Specialist, the workshop provided an overview of Census products and illustrated simple ways to use this data to meet organizational needs. For example, Patricia shared practical tips for developing engagement initiatives (like a marketing plan) that consider not only the characteristics of a target population, but how organizations may need to adapt and/or (re)allocate resources in order to implement these new strategies.

Here are a few things we learned:

* Did you know that the South as a region grew 14.3% in population between 2000 and 2010; North Carolina’s population grew 18.5%; and, Mecklenburg County saw a growth rate of 32.2%?

* While much media has focused on the growth of the Hispanic/Latino population (which has   increased by 12.2% in Mecklenburg County over the last decade), did you also realize that the U.S. population aged 45-64 grew by 31.5%?

* Did you know that the Census also produces The American Community Survey (ACS), an ongoing survey that provides up-to-date information every year about the social and economic needs of your community?

How might this information be useful to us in making decisions about programs or services we offer and how we communicate those offerings externally? How might changing interests, spending habits or preferences for community involvement impact our operations? How can we build authentic relationships with new audiences, capitalize on demographic shifts and, ultimately, use this knowledge to help our bottom line?

We explored these questions and more during our 2+ hours together yesterday morning. We learned about the wealth of invaluable information available on sites like, and and how to apply the data to identify and address organizational challenges, craft a case for support in a grant application or even find helpful facts to include in a press release. Attendees left with new tools, new connections and (I hope) new ideas about how to use this wealth of (FREE) information to better understand the audiences and communities they serve. Now, I’d call that a pretty successful morning!