Vox pop - Museums Association

Vox pop

Can private philanthropy make up for cuts in public funding?
Museums Association
Louise de Winter director, National Campaign for the Arts

“No. Nor should it seek to. The UK arts sector thrives because of its mixed funding model. It is not dependent solely on state aid nor private giving for its success and is a slave to neither. This is crucial if we are to have a vibrant arts sector.

The ‘arm’s length’ principle ensures artistic independence from the state and state funding ensures that wealthy individuals can’t threaten controversial and challenging works with closure by removing their financial backing. We do need to increase the amount of private money given to the arts, but this cannot be at the expense of excellent, publicly funded, art.”

Deborah Turton, head of access and development, British Postal Museum and Archive, London

“Reduced public finance may stimulate greater fundraising innovation, including new models for private sector giving, but understanding funder aims remains crucial.

Traditionally, public funders seek policy-related outcomes, private sector funders want commercially beneficial partnerships. Museums can deliver both, but in different ways, so it’s important to establish what you are looking to achieve (your mission) first and then how any partnership (the funding) will support that, and at what cost (the resources required to manage the relationship).

It’s not about replacing one funding pot with another, but diversifying income to avoid reliance on any funder – this should be a museum’s long-term strategy in any climate.”

Peter Tullin, co-founder, CultureLabel.com

“I would urge the sector to think about alternative forms of investment as well as more conventional philanthropy, especially in commercial and digital areas.

From my own experience, CultureLabel.com has been the fortunate beneficiary of ‘venture philanthropy’ as well as venture capital to launch our idea. Our investor is a leading figure in the city. He donates money regularly but is also interested in supporting cultural entrepreneurship that can help create wealth.

Museums have strong brands, inspirational collections and passionate consumers. Such assets can be used to form social enterprises, for example, that investors can support.”

Matthew Tanner, director, ss Great Britain, Bristol

“Encouraging philanthropy is to be welcomed. But while a refreshed culture of private giving may be a hugely welcome outcome, the cynic fears a narrow and elitist focus will remain on the well-funded London nationals that give off-the-shelf kudos to their donors, rather than casting a spotlight on the cultural wealth around the nation.

Every good museum charity development department worth its salt will have long had a legacy programme, and will work at maintaining good relationships with donors.

In the current climate can we really believe that additional private funds will become available to make up for public spending cuts? Hardly. And is there really any new incentive here for a donor to make up a shortfall in local authority subsidy?”

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