Arts, cultural groups must apply creativity to funding

info@islandpacket.comOctober 31, 2013 

The Town of Hilton Head Island's population is slightly more than 38,000. But it's home to a whopping number of arts and cultural groups -- around 40.

Such a large number is a point of pride, highlighting the many and varied passions of residents.

But it also presents a financial conundrum for the town. Many of these groups go hat-in-hand to the town annually, looking for accommodations-tax revenue, money generated by taxes on overnight lodging. The groups use the money to pay for festivals, lecture series, firework displays and other events aimed at tourists.

Each year, the amount of money the groups request grows. But the pot of money does not. And there's no reason to believe it will any time soon.

Earlier this month, the town received 28 applications for accommodations-tax proceeds, the same number as last year. But applicants are collectively asking for 50 percent more -- $3.6 million versus about $2.4 million. The town expects revenues from the tax to increase only slightly from last year, meaning some groups will not be fully funded, or not funded at all.

Otherwise, groups will continue to expect money they may not receive. Hard feelings are inevitable between the town, the groups that are funded and the groups that are not. There will be cancellations of events planned by the denied groups. Even worse, some of the groups may cease to exist.

So how can the groups get more creative?

It might mean leaning more heavily on their patrons, asking them to be more generous with their checkbooks or asking them to volunteer more hours at events. It could mean aggressively looking for grants.

Groups could also take a tip from the city of Beaufort's Tourism Development Advisory Commission, which is encouraging Beaufort groups seeking accommodations tax dollars to collaborate on advertising and promotions. The approach would work well on Hilton Head, too. When groups work together, they can make their dollars go further.

And with a little creativity, Hilton Head's arts and cultural groups stand a chance of not only surviving, but prospering.

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