Less giving, more taking - Museums Association

Less giving, more taking

Another fall in corporate giving means private investment is failing to make up for the decline in public funding 
It was promoted by the government as the Year of Corporate Giving, but as Museums Journal reported last month, an independent survey has shown that in 2010-11, business investment in the arts fell to its lowest level in seven years.

Published by Arts & Business, a charity that promotes ties between commerce and culture, the report found that, in spite of the government’s efforts to “play cupid” between business and cultural organisations, corporate giving dropped by 7% to £134.5m.

This comes after a fall of 11% the previous year. Meanwhile, an Arts & Business audit has revealed that just one fifth of FTSE 100 companies support the arts.

The fall was somewhat alleviated by increases in donations from individuals and trusts or foundations, which rose 6% and 10% respectively, leading to a slight increase of 4% in private giving overall (not allowing for inflation).

Heritage, museums and the visual arts were the top three beneficiaries of cultural philanthropy, collectively attracting a 53% share of the £686m total.

No cause for concern

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) says the drop in corporate investment is “not a cause for immediate concern”. Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s 10-point plan to incentivise giving takes a more long-term view, he says, and the department sees year-on-year outcomes as “impossible to predict”.

Hunt’s key measures include a £100m match-funding programme, training in fundraising skills for organisations of all sizes, better recognition for donors and tax incentives to encourage lifetime giving and legacies after death.

Although these steps have been applauded, not everyone is so unconcerned about the fall in corporate giving. The four-year downward trend has reignited scepticism about the sustainability of the government’s drive to create a US-style model of philanthropy at the same time as rolling out its programme of public funding cuts.

According to shadow culture minister Dan Jarvis, the government’s promise that “generous donations” would fill the gaps left by cuts simply hasn’t happened.

Jarvis points out that last year’s £28.5m increase in private investment is far outweighed by the government’s £71m cut to Arts Council England’s (ACE) grant-in-aid budget.

For his part, Hunt strongly denies that the government intends private endowments to be a replacement for public money. What the Arts & Business figures show is that as cuts take effect, philanthropy is on course to become, proportionally, a much more significant source of income for the culture sector.
This raises worrying questions for some organisations, particularly given the startling disparities in the regional spread of philanthropy.

Capital intensive

Unsurprisingly, private giving – through individuals, businesses or foundations – is overwhelmingly concentrated in London, which attracted 71% of total UK investment in 2010-11 (in contrast to Northern Ireland’s 1%).

In addition, almost 90% of donations go to major institutions. Recent high-profile endowments in the capital include the Conran Foundation’s gift of £17m for the redevelopment of the Design Museum, and a £25m donation towards a new wing at the British Museum from two of the Sainsbury family's charitable trusts.

Last month, a poll of Museum Journal readers found there is a near unanimous belief that the government should be doing more to boost fundraising capability across the UK.

Arts & Business says it is working with ministers to identify weak spots across the country and to help arts bodies to adopt fundraising strategies that have proven successful elsewhere.

Encouragingly for the museum sector, the arts council has committed £750,000 to the V&A Purchase Grant Fund for 2012-13, reversing the previous year’s £150,000 cut. The scheme offers match-funding for acquisitions, and has been cited by regional institutions as a crucial tool for drumming up local fundraising support.
Last year the DCMS and ACE facilitated a series of regional training seminars, to equip smaller cultural bodies with better fundraising skills.

At the sessions, attendees offered an insight into the obstacles they face in trying to boost local philanthropy. Some outlined how, in organisations with less staff capacity, the costs in time and resources that it takes to build a strong fundraising network were daunting when set against their present financial situation.

Others said they found it difficult to convince people and businesses that “art is a charity”. Concerns were also raised that donors might seek to make agenda-driven endowments.

The mixed results of the Arts & Business report underline the fact that philanthropy can be a fickle source of income.

Though measures to boost charitable giving are welcome, it is clear that Hunt’s ideal of a US-style model of arts philanthropy remains a long way off and will do little to alleviate the current austerity programme.


We originally stated that Lord Sainsbury had donated £25m towards a new wing at the British Museum. In fact, this sum came from two of the Sainsbury family's charitable trusts, the Linbury Trust and the Monument Trust. This has been amended.

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