Several institutions, including the Bowes Museum, were recently awarded Catalyst grants to help them attract money through private philanthropy

Arts sector struggling to capitalise on individual giving

Geraldine Kendall, 01.08.2012
Report finds that organisations lack resources to maximise donations
A new report has found that, although arts organisations have set ambitious targets to increase income from individual giving, a combination of factors is preventing the sector from reaching its full potential.

The Arts Quarter report, Increasing Individual Giving to the Arts, showed that, in general, respondents are aiming to increase levels of private giving three- or fourfold by 2015.

But they said that these targets were being hampered by several barriers, including inadequate staff resources and experience, as well as a lack of appreciation at senior management level and among trustees of the process of engaging potential donors.  

Just one third of the organisations reviewed said they felt their trustees understood their fundraising strategies or the importance of philanthropy to their business models.

The report found that many respondents felt they lacked confidence in their ability to articulate an effective “case for support” to donors, feeling that this was an issue that needed to be addressed by the sector as a whole.

In addition, respondents said there was a lack of awareness of the wider channels of potential support that exist beyond cash gifts, while others felt their organisations were not doing enough to nurture relationships with donors outside of their core fundraising activity.

Arts Quarter’s managing partner, John Nicholls, said: “What concerns us is the lack of engagement by trustees in fundraising at a time when senior volunteers need to step up to the plate and play a more active fundraising leadership role in supporting the organisations of which they are a part. 

“Furthermore, the lack of confidence that organisations have at this time in effectively communicating their need for support to potential donors is a significant concern particularly given increased competition for philanthropy.  We hope that as many arts organisations as possible will heed these findings.”

Philanthropy is a key pillar of culture secretary Jeremy Hunt's future funding model for the arts and cultural sector.

Museums Association director Mark Taylor said: “In the long run, if the UK culture sector is going to significantly increase its philanthropic funding, it is individual giving that offers the best and most sustainable model. 

“The thing is it will take a culture change and that might mean a whole generation. This was acknowledged by Jeremy Hunt in his first speech to the culture sector after he was appointed. It is way too early to judge whether the culture change is possible or likely.”

The report brought together data from two separate surveys covering 126 and 351 UK arts organisations respectively.