By Tina

This week saw the launch of a new report, commissioned by Barclays Wealth and published by New Philanthropy Capital (NPC). The new report, entitled “An economic argument for philanthropy” investigates, not just a move away from needs- or even taste-driven giving, but giving on the basis of economic arguments and in a way that will induce not only benefits for society, but also for the economy. A sort of ‘preventative’ philanthropy targeted at the most “expensive” social ills would, in a nut-shell, ensure that less is spent by the government tackling would-be problems and more will be gained by enabling individuals to take better control of their lives to begin with.

This is indicative of what some mega-rich, results-driven individuals (eg Barclays Wealth clients) want to achieve with their giving, namely what they achieve with their financial investments: returns. In this case, it’s not direct gains that they’d be after but social impact, expecting therefore to see their money put to good use, where it’s needed most and where it can make most savings.

And charities are becoming increasingly transparent in proving the difference they make, how many lives they change and with how much money, therefore making a good case for ongoing support. 

But even so, according to another relatively recent study on the motivations of philanthropy, an economic argument to giving is probably not a very strong one for all philanthropists, considering that many of them ultimately give to causes that are close to their hearts. 

So where does culture fit into these rather fragmented but interesting arguments on philanthropic motivations and allocations? 

This week I also came across ACE’s updated Audiences Insight report – a cross-section of the English population grouped into detailed segmentations and providing a 360 degree view of their profiles, attitudes and behaviours (and a pleasant, insightful and engaging read I would add). According to this, 27% don’t engage with the arts. But that still leaves 73% of the population that do engage, and more specifically 7% that are highly engaged. So do they give to the arts? The brief exploration into their “arts patronage, charitable giving and volunteering” serves as a good starting point, but only to show that most segments are more likely to give to other charitable causes. This therefore seems to suggest, that contrary to the taste-driven argument, there is still a relatively low correlation between being interested in the arts and giving to the arts (though there is a need for more robust research in this area). 

And this brings us back to the two studies into the decision-making process of giving mentioned earlier – both rigorous in nature, but adopting a slightly different take on how individuals choose or should choose what causes and charities to give to, but neither include culture as major contenders for the increasingly competitive philanthropic pool.

And with local authorities’ culture funding now decreasing by nearly 6%, ever more pressure will be put on philanthropy and private/ charitable giving for the sector. The problem is that though cultural organisations have several strong arguments in their favour, appealing to both needs and taste-driven motivations, they seem to be quite insular and more detached from the wider charitable sector than other causes. This perpetuates a “them vs. us” mentality and differentiates the arts in a way that can sometimes be unfavourable. More efforts therefore need to be made to capitalise on the benefits of a collective with a strong voice, identity and case for support.

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