Arts Philanthropy – Some thoughts.

The issue of Philanthropy raised its head again last week.  UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey made some choice remarks to a parliamentary select committee about the response of arts organisations to the call for philanthropy to become a more prominent part of their income.  He stated that supposed claims from regional organisations that they don’t operate in areas where rich people lived were ‘pathetic.’

Once I’d got over the rudeness of the remark, it got me thinking about our current approach to philanthropic giving here in Lincoln.  I don’t believe regional organisations are saying we don’t want to develop philanthropic giving or even that we can’t. Certainly we have never said that here at the Drill Hall.  We have embraced the need to raise money from individual donors in the same way we have started to diversify our income base from business sponsorship, trusts and foundations and through seeking to raise the amount of earned income we make each year.

The issue it appears to me is more about our ability to attract high profile donors, or those considered ‘high net worth’ than it is about a desire to raise money in this way.  Mr Vaizey was quoted as saying  “Philanthropy doesn’t mean a cheque of £5m. It could mean a cheque of £5, it could be a cheque for £500.”  Since I started at Lincoln Drill Hall early in 2013 we have raised our number of individual donors from none to 7.  We are grateful to those donors and seek to make sure we communicate with them regularly to let them know how their money is being spent.  Receiving the cheque is definitely not the end of the relationship, but the beginning.

The total amount raised from those 7 donors is £650.00.  This to me is a fantastic amount and is supplemented by a number of unknown donors who have added small amounts to their ticket bookings, dropped some pennies into our new donation box or donated when we’ve rattled buckets at some of the events taking place.  Overall the total raised from individual donations since I started through these methods is a little over £2,000.00

I am very proud of this and of all the people for whom we have such an engagement that they feel moved to give us anything.  And for an organisation of our size, £2,000.00 will go a very long way. 

I believe that the issue is that in that same period of time, the amount of public funding the organisation receives has reduced by approximately 10 times the amount raised through philanthropy.  The ability of small arts organisations such as ours to replace diminishing public funds with philanthropy is where the challenge lies.  This in turn is perhaps why frustration arises when justifiable claims that large scale philanthropy is more difficult outside of London are made.

Perhaps the most high profile philanthropic donation in recent years, and certainly the one that comes immediately to mind when philanthropy is mentioned is Lloyd Dorfman’s £10million donation to the National Theatre.  That’s the equivalent to 12 years of turnover for the venue I manage. We can but hope!

 Arts organisations the length and breadth of the country do understand the need to raise money from philanthropic sources and many are developing great ways to encourage this type of fundraising.  But for the vast majority of us, the idea that this can fully replace reducing public funding is really not as simple as some seem to be suggesting.






Networking – Nice To Do Or Need To Do?

I have been working in the arts sector in the East Midlands for just over 10 years now.  I arrived in Lincolnshire in 2004 to take up a post with Lincolnshire County Council.  Rather quickly I became embroiled in a number of networking groups and meetings that took place across the county, many of which my role had responsibility for convening.  There was the Lincolnshire Arts Forum, Lincolnshire Arts Partnership (a subtly different group), Lincolnshire Education Arts Forum, the Local Authority Arts Officers group and a Venue Managers Network to name just a few.


Each claimed to have some responsibility for joining up the arts provision across Lincolnshire.  Some were more successful than others, some were essentially pseudo therapy sessions, but whether they were all truly strategically useful is open to debate.  Having said that, the Lincolnshire Arts Partnership did lead to the formation of a Youth Arts Network across the county, which for a while showed real joined up delivery among arts services.


Fast forward 6 years and I am back working in Lincolnshire and quickly I am part of a new network, Lincolnshire One Venues or LOV.  This group developed out of a Thrive project and immediately felt like a more robust group with a clearly defined purpose and most importantly, one that was actually working on cross county developments.


Lincolnshire One Venues is made up of 8 performing and 2 visual arts centres with a geographical spread from Louth and Gainsborough to Stamford and Spalding in our membership.  Most importantly it is more than simply a meeting once a month to vent individual frustrations.  This network has achieved things.


Five venues who individually received RFO money from Arts Council England pooled resources and successfully applied as one county wide consortium for funding under the National Portfolio Funding cycle.  We are now working together on joint programming and commissioning initiatives as well as sharing skills and knowledge across teams at our venues, benchmarking management, artistic and administrative functions.  Importantly though, each venue maintains its own distinct identity in its community.


This grouping also committed to supporting the development of all venues in LOV.  We put forward some funding to act as a match for a bid made to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation which now sees a Young People’s Development project being delivered across all ten venues, including programming and producing groups at most venues of young people aged 12-25.


We have commissioned new work to be presented across venues.  This is a huge step for the arts in a county where there is no producing theatre, no resident orchestras or large dance companies, a county that predominantly relies on others to make work and bring it to us.  Our most recent commission was with Pilot Theatre, and later this year four venues will work with an emerging Lincoln Company Vagabonds Hat.  Each of these commissions links in some way to developments and opportunities for young people.


LOV has successfully received £30,000 from the Creative Employment Programme to deliver 13 apprenticeships and internships across the network and have carried out a significant piece of audience research as one of the first clusters working with The Audience Agency.


Perhaps the most important outcome of LOV is the way that it has generated true collaboration for arts provision in the county.  Our county is huge.  It is 80 miles from Louth in the north to Stamford in the south.  Working alone anywhere can feel isolating and frustrating.  Members have commented that one of the best outcomes of LOV existing is that they don’t feel alone, that there is support and positives to be gained from learning from the experience of others in helping us to do our jobs.  There has also been interest in our working model from other parts of the country, keen to try and develop their own collaborative ways of working.


LOV is constantly looking to develop, but has been a really positive step in the evolution of arts provision for our county.  To quote one of the many puns that is the by-product of an acronym such as ours, All You Need Is LOV!


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