Tax Breaks & Philanthropy

I read with interest the article on BBC’s website yesterday in which culture secretary Jeremy Hunt (he of the unfortunate surname mispronouncation by BBC’s James Naughtie) announced that he wanted to encourage philanthropy for the arts through matched funding.

The plan is ambitious with £80m of government funds being set aside and arts organisations encouraged to fundraise for the remainder.  But it does beg the question, who is going to be able to achieve this?  Surely the bigger fish in the arts world with the contacts – and the resources – are going to fare better than smaller organisations?

In order for an organisation to set up an effective, sustainable fundraising operation of the sort Jeremy Hunt envisages, they need to at least have the resources available to them to research, recruit and look after their donors.  And corporate sponsorship is even more labour intensive with high demands placed on the recipients of such monies.  Most smaller organisations don’t have even one member of staff who deals solely with fundraising, never mind a fundraising team, so how realistic or achievable will it be to replace government funding with philanthropic gifts and sponsorship?

It is important to encourage philanthropy – although Jeremy Hunt’s suggestion that we should emulate the levels achieved in the US is unlikely to happen without a radical alteration of the tax system in the UK – and I firmly believe that all organisations need to think of introducing an element of fundraising into their income streams – increasing the diversity of their funding and helping them to become more sustainable.  But is it unrealistic to expect small, cutting edge, community-based or new work to achieve the same levels (proportionally) of more ‘traditional’ larger arts organisations? 

It may be an uncomfortable climate for all of the arts but I worry that new talent and the development of new ideas and audiences will suffer as a result of the plans of the current government.

Do you agree?  Perhaps you think the arts are expendable in terms of government support?


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