By Tina

The UK Culture secretary recently announced the launch of an Endowment Fund worth £55 million, which should purportedly leverage at least £110 million over four years through match-funding from private donors. In his speech, he realistically acknowledged however, that “endowments aren’t for everyone.” It is therefore quite clear that endowments are not a long-term strategy for culture in the UK, but only for a handful of organisations, with wide-reaching appeal and significant resources and capacity for fundraising to begin with.

Encouragingly, since November 2010, there has been a series of good news regarding philanthropy in the sector, with multi-million pound donations from the likes of the Sacklers, Lloyd Dorfman, Dame Vivien Duffield, Andrew Lloyd Weber and most recently Sir Terence Conran.

These gifts alone add up to more than £70 million, which is of course to be greatly commended. Such gifts could therefore potentially increase the overall levels of philanthropy (individual giving) to culture by about 20% from the previous year (assuming there won’t be significant decreases in other parts of the sector).

The recipient organisations of these recently announced gifts include the National Theatre, Tate Britain, the Serpentine Gallery, the Chickenshed Theatre Company and the Design Museum. Most are large or major organisations and based in London.

These are the organisations that are able to raise big gives from major donors, and it will be those organisations that will be best placed to start building their endowments. And to be clear, that is by no means a bad thing – it’s great that very worthwhile organisations are able to raise high-level gifts, with which they can start planning ahead to secure their financial autonomy and sustainability.

So though there is no doubt that these gifts are to be welcomed and encouraged, two obvious questions should be raised:

a) Will the momentum continue and will more wealthy individuals contribute, even if only to the larger organisations? Or is this an ephemeral hype, spurred by the pressures of the current government and the immediate need for more to go to the arts?

b) And what of the smaller organisations without the resources to raise the big gives? What is the strategy and government policy to enable their long-term financial security?

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