The Future for Arts Funding

Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, used under Creative Commons Licence

Two recent studies have highlighted the current funding situation for the arts which, like many other areas, is suffering as a result of the recession, while the campaign, I Value the Arts, aims to raise awareness of the added value the arts bring to the economy through a publicity campaign supported by well-known artists, such as Tracy Emin and David Shrigley.

A recent survey found that overall, more arts organisations where experiencing increased revenues than those experiencing shortfalls of income.  However, rates of improvement were slight and rates of fundraising have been far lower than had been anticipated for this post-recession period. (source: Economic Impact Survey, Arts Quarter).  This has to be a concern, particularly given upcoming government spending review which is anticipated to impact negatively on the arts.

A recent report on philanthropy trends by Arts & Business also clearly states that philanthropy is unlikely to fill the gap left by these inevitable cuts, although, it also suggests that there is still capacity to increase philanthropy in the arts – even if it won’t fill the gap entirely.  At the moment, 15% of the income received by arts organisations comes from private investment with over half of this coming from individuals.  A&B recommend that arts organisations need to build networks and to look at fundraising to contribute towards the sustainability of the sector – rather than simply to fill a gap or as a quick fix.

What is clear is that the sector needs to immobilise itself now, as the I Value the Arts campaign illustrates.  It is also important that arts organisations work locally, collaborating with others in their area.  Fundraising is a long term activity – any relationship takes time to build and develop and fundraising is no different. 

Arts organisations should use existing networks and contacts to build support – it is most likely that those who already know you and are familiar with your work will consider giving you support.  Look at best practice and emulate – look to those in your sector (and other sectors) to find out what is doing well and what isn’t in terms of raising income and try to think of ways you could adapt these to fit with your fundraising.  Engage with your audiences in new ways – perhaps you could use social media?

I did, however, wonder at the suggestion by A&B that fundraising can’t just fill a gap created by a lack of public funding.  It is a view that I completely agree with but I suspect a few arts organisations read this and thought:  ‘But that’s precisely what we need it for!’ 

It is highly unlikely that you can simply switch like for like.  There will be a need to scrutinise resources and make cuts but, in a sector that is already fairly lean, that might not result in much in the way of savings.  Perhaps viewing your core costs differently could help – could essential maintenance could be used to train artisans or does it have an environmental or community engagement aspect that might appeal to donors?  Perhaps you could assign an element of core costs as part of a project you are fundraising for? You will need to think about your entire programme of activity.  What could be of potential interest to a donor or sponsor?  Are there any areas which are only likely to be met through public funds?  Can you adjust your income streams accordingly? 

There needs to be a move away from knee-jerk fundraising.  There will always be times when there is an urgent need for funds but that shouldn’t be the main pattern for your fundraising.  The arts are by their very nature creative and they need to adopt this approach in their fundraising in order to ensure future sustainability and growth.

What do you think?  Are you dismayed to read that fundraising is unlikely to meet the funding gap?  Or have you already adjusted your programmes in anticipation of the funding cuts?

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