Creating Gateways to Growth? A few thoughts on encouraging private investment in the regions…
The model is set. The major cultural bodies are based in the major towns. They attract the major audiences and the major investors. They have the infrastructure, influence and capacity to take the lion’s share of private investment. They also receive the majority of public funding and the majority of private investment. They are viewed as being too big to fail and also as the catalyst for growth. They are in the magic circle and no other arts body can grow enough to enter.
Our analysis of private investment in culture continues to prove that the distribution of private investment is heavily concentrated in major organisations.
Only around 4% of the sector is considered a major organisation, yet they collectively account for 72% of total private investment received.
Medium and small organisations, which combined make up 84% of the sector, received 13% of total private investment. Does this matter? Should we change it and if so how?
Collectively we want the overall private pot to increase and all parts of the arts ecology to benefit. The argument runs we are happy for the major bodies to continue to receive the lion’s share if proportionately the overall level goes up. But can this happen or will the larger bodies with the sophisticated marketing tools, the audiences, the corporate members, the cultural brands, the artistic profile, the dynamic digital strategies and their influential advocates stay dominant as smaller regional bodies either cry foul or say it can never happen down our way.
Lyn Gardner of The Guardian noted in rounding up the recent State of the Arts Conference: “Personally, I think we can talk about collaboration until the cows come home, but it will only be a meaningful reality if there is a real realignment of funding that allows small organisations equal partnership with large organisations and not just a few crumbs from the table.”
She was writing about public money, but the same goes for private income. With a few notable exceptions - The Royal Academy and Glyndebourne – the same arts and cultural bodies get the most of both worlds.
The minimum funding criteria for Arts Council England’s new National Portfolio Organisation is £40,000. Any bodies currently receiving less as an RFO have had to up their ask and apply at a higher level. Time will tell, though not many are confident, whether asking for more at a time of less will be a strikingly successful pursuit.
Twinning has been suggested most intelligently by Will Gompertz and there was a mutual fluttering of eyelids between the Serpentine and the National Gallery. Of course they could learn much from one another – though they both seem to be doing pretty well at the moment and others might need their guidance and insight more.
Much has been made of the National Theatre helping the Bristol Old Vic and another yet unnamed theatre which is also welcome. Capital campaign aside, the Bristol Old Vic is a pretty big beast in a dynamic metropolitan centre; all things considered shouldn’t private investment flow?
Collaboration cannot turn into a cosy club, it should connect very different bodies those with dynamic fundraising teams of 20 plus, with those of teams of one. Each of our 50,000 cultural bodies needs to have fundraising plans, access to skills, a website that says it needs funds, an understanding of how to earn income and the inclination and ability to turn followers into funders.
We know 38% of the UK’s arts and cultural bodies do not even receive the small crumbs of private investment. In some cases they probably never will. We have to find new ways to ensure these bodies are resilient and can grow. We could put plans in place for an even bigger Big Arts Give, maybe only offering smaller funds to smaller bodies. This way private money will reach those who do not have other ways to strengthen their funding ecology.
Could it happen - could a UK foundation do this? In New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s family charity is making $32-million in grants available to arts organizations around the city. The Bloomberg Family Foundation will invite 250 cultural groups to apply for grants ranging from $25,000 to $350,000 over two years. Three-quarters of the money will go to organisations with annual operating budgets of less than $3-million. Maybe foundations are the only way we can reach the parts other funding can never reach.
Senior Consultant (Membership)
Arts & Business