At Cultural Heritage Partners, we regularly counsel clients seeking to amplify their impact in the art, cultural heritage and historic preservation fields. As we ring in a new year, we have our eye on several trends that may affect our clients:

1.    The Age of Austerity Continues.

Many cultural institutions continue to struggle with cuts to government spending and grant programs. Even as the economy improves, previous spending levels are unlikely to be reinstated at the federal, state or local levels.

Cultural and historic preservation organizations must adapt and seek out new funding sources to ensure that they can meet their objectives over the long-term. We encourage our clients to consider cost-saving partnerships that expand their audiences and develop new revenue streams.

2.    New Corporate Forms Gain Popularity.

As many cultural and preservation organizations seek to operate more like private businesses, they will find several states experimenting with new corporate forms to allow for a hybrid non-profit/for-profit structure.

For example, twelve states have passed legislation creating a new corporate structure: the benefit corporation. Benefit corporations are not required to value profit above all else, but instead must create a general public benefit. In addition, nine states have enacted legislation providing for a low-profit limited liability company structure called the L3C, which allows businesses created for a socially beneficial purpose to become LLCs. In contrast to traditional non-profits, an L3C can receive mixed investment, including from foundations and private investors.

These new corporate structures may provide organizations with additional flexibility to find funding or to pursue a purpose beyond maximizing profits.

3.    Access to Technology and Information Grows Exponentially.

A recent study by the IDC Digital Universe predicted that by 2020, the world’s data will grow fifty times, and that the number of servers required to hold all of that data will grow by ten times. We are only beginning to explore the repercussions of this exponential growth in information technology for the cultural heritage field.

In 2013 and beyond, we will be watching organizations like Digital Antiquity, which seeks to digitize archaeological reports through the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR). We will be following how the world’s museums make their collections available online through the Google Art Project. And we will be thinking about how instant access to information changes the user experience, the perception of public value, and businesses in the cultural heritage tourism sector.

4.    Energy Booms.

New technologies are fueling an energy boom, with shale gas development, wind farms and solar fields impacting huge swaths of land across the country. How will we ensure protection for cultural and historic resources impacted by this development? How will we address regulatory shortcomings, ensure that solutions deliver value to the public, and gain useful information from sites that are affected by energy development?

5.    Congress Continues to (Dys)Function.  

 These days, it seems that Congress lurches from one manufactured crisis to another: the fiscal cliff, the sequester, the debt ceiling. The traditional budgeting process has been turned on its ear. Just this week, the White House made it clear that the President’s budget will be released much later than usual, and Congress has shown no urgency to pass a regular budget; federal agencies have begun to accept that operating on a continuing resolution is the new normal.

With the traditional appropriations process a big question mark and partisan gridlock reigning on the Hill, we must be vigilant and vocal to ensure that Congress hears and shares our preservation priorities.

*          *          *

We welcome your comments—what trends are you watching for 2013?