Study: ArtsQuest Contributes $100 Million in ‘Social Capital’ to Lehigh Valley

By Colin McEvoy on February 20, 2020

A new study calculates the “social capital” that ArtsQuest has contributed to the community is valued at $100 million. (courtesy image)

You can track ticket sales. You can determine economic impacts. You can calculate financial benefits to local businesses and vendors. But can you put a dollar amount on the positive social impact ArtsQuest has provided for the Lehigh Valley each year?

A new study has done just that, and the answer is $100 million.

ProSocial Valuation Service (PSV) is a program that calculates what has widely been considered unmeasurable: social capital. That term broadly refers to all types of public goods that benefit people; the intangibles that shape the health and well-being of our community.

PSV conducted an 18-month study to measure ArtsQuest’s social capital in Lehigh Valley, and found that the organization created $99,996,000 in measurable social value in 2019, in addition to the $136 million in economic impact the organization generated that year.

“Many of ArtsQuest’s most valuable outcomes are in the public goods it creates yet these were never measured, so its contributions to things like personal and community welfare have taken a backseat to economic impact,” said Lesa Ukman, founder of PSV.

The complete study can be viewed and downloaded here.

PSV uses evidence-based research and a detailed methodology to put a number on that social capital, taking into account such outputs as attitude shifts, crime statistics, fundraising, population shifts, housing statistics, educational access, civic engagement, and much more.

Combined, PSV says ArtsQuest’s measurable social value and economic impact total more than $235 million. Allocating half of ArtsQuest’s $22 million budget to social capital (and the other half to economic impact) results in a 900% return on investment, according to the study. That means for every $1 invested in ArtsQuest, $9 in social capital is created.

This study was the first of its kind conducted by PSV, according to ArtsQuest President & CEO Kassie Hilgert. PSV plans to use this model for other future studies to determine the quantitative relationship between the presence of ArtsQuest and key aspects of well-being.

“There are so many nonprofits doing great work across the nation, so it was humbling to be invited by PSV to serve as the arts beta in its new ‘social capital’ survey,” Hilgert said.

“From launching Musikfest in 1984, through the development of SteelStacks, ArtsQuest’s focus has remained steady: using arts and culture to improve the well-being of our region,” she said. “A huge part of this has been the partnerships we’ve developed with government, brands, foundations, educators, volunteers, artists and other nonprofits. Being able to demonstrate the actual value these partnerships and programs create will animate our new capital campaign.”

To reach their conclusions about ArtsQuest, PSV researchers created an inventory of ArtsQuest assets, identified a taxonomy of outcomes associated with those assets, conducted a interviews and research tests about the relationship between ArtsQuest and those outcomes, and turned each unit of social capital into a dollar value.

PSV valued four types of capital created by ArtsQuest. They include:

  • Community Capital ($22.8 million), which refers to the public goods created by ArtsQuest. This includes its contributions to the revitalization of South Bethlehem, population growth, brand building and image enhancement.
  • Civic Capital ($27.6 million), which refers to ArtsQuest’s ability to shape behaviors that positively contribute to the collective life of Lehigh Valley, including civic engagement, volunteering, donations, advocacy and fundraising.
  • Human Capital ($48.8 million), which refers to the skills, knowledge, network and well-being that individuals gain from ArtsQuest, including through such methods as academic achievement, and skills and mentoring.
  • Intellectual Capital ($796,000), which refers to intangibles that drive sustainable and substantial growth , such as audacity, connectivity, capacity, ingenuity, tenacity, and diversity, according to PSV.
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