Cultural funding: we all need to dig deep

I was delighted to see that so many museums benefited from the Catalyst Endowment grants announced by the Heritage Lottery …
Ed Vaizey
I was delighted to see that so many museums benefited from the Catalyst Endowment grants announced by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in June.

The sum of £18.5m was awarded to nine museums across England, who will now unlock a further £42.5m from private donors through match funding. That will not be easy, but the scheme was greatly over-subscribed, so there is obviously no shortage of ambition across the sector.

This is just the latest step forward in our plans to boost philanthropy and strengthen fundraising across the cultural sector. We know the passion people feel for our arts and heritage, and we know that people will give to causes they feel passionate about.

Charitable giving in the UK, even in the turbulence of the continuing economic travails, totalled £11bn last year. We believe there is considerable scope for that figure to grow, and for culture to receive its fair share.

But let me make clear, for the doubters, that this government believes in public subsidy for culture. We are not seeking to boost philanthropy in order to compensate for cuts in Exchequer funding. Even in what might now be seen as times of plenty, there was never enough public funding to realise the potential of our cultural institutions.

We need to broaden our sources of income in order to strengthen financial resilience against whatever further challenges face the wider economy. We also need to ensure the strongest possible legacy for future generations.

Private sector support, whether from individual donors, corporate supporters, or trusts and foundations, will be vital to that future. Museums should not be strengthening their fundraising skills because government says so; they should be doing it because it will enable them to boost their income and fulfil their purpose.

Government’s role is to support museums in this quest. There is no single template for success and every museum should develop its own fundraising strategy.

That will require strong and active leadership, whatever the governance structure of the museum. The skills required to identify and cultivate donors do not come naturally to everyone, but they can be learned.

So I welcome the HLF’s commitment to support capacity-building for bodies whose grasp of the fundraising agenda is still at a rudimentary level.

Government will continue to support tax-effective giving, and we strongly support the Legacy10 campaign to boost legacy giving following the reduction in inheritance tax liability for those who leave 10% or more of their estate to charity.

We believe the new Cultural Gifts Scheme will complement the highly successful Acceptance in Lieu scheme, and become a valuable means of supporting museum acquisitions.

The public have been asked to comment on the Small Charitable Donations Bill, and we hope that will enhance the fundraising prospects of museums across the country.

We don’t claim to have all the answers, and we have commissioned three new reports on important aspects of the philanthropy agenda: legacy giving; the scope for harnessing digital technology to boost philanthropy; and the challenges of fundraising outside London.

Over the past 10 years, the department for culture and the Wolfson Foundation have jointly awarded over £30m to more than 250 museum improvement projects across the country. Our legacy to future generations will best be secured by the public and private sectors working in partnership.

I thank Wolfson and other trusts and foundations for their enlightened philanthropy. I thank all the corporate supporters of museums across the country. And I thank every single individual whose support enables our cultural sector to thrive, whether they give £1 or £1m.

Ed Vaizey is the minister for culture 

A spokesman from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will hold a session on philanthropy and fundraising at the MA annual conference in Edinburgh, 8-9 November

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