We asked Caroline McCormick, Director of Achates Philanthropy, to discuss the future of cultural centres ahead of her keynote at Culture Business Melbourne, 26-28 July 2017.
Based on your experience working with the UK’s leading cultural organisations, what are the UK’s major fundraising trends?
“The latest DCMS and ACE reports shows voluntary income is increasing and achieving record levels of fundraised income in the UK. However, closer examination of this data, along with my experience of working both across the country with cultural organisations of all sizes and with BOP Consulting on the evaluation of the Catalyst and Catalyst Evolve programmes for Arts Council England, reveals a more complex picture than the figures initially suggest; at a time when many organisations are facing local authority funding cuts, as well as real term cuts in funding from ACE, corporate support for the arts is in significant decline, and whilst trust endowment levels are currently high, competition for grants is fiercer than ever before. With regard to individual philanthropy, once the campaigns of a few major institutions are taken into account, an underlying trend of limited, but important growth emerges.
This is the context with in which the majority of UK cultural organisations are operating. The philanthropy debate in the UK is often pitched around the idea of London versus the regions, more significant, in fact, is the impact of a few major organisations who account for the lion’s share of fundraised income. What is clear is how increasingly significant individual philanthropy is to the future success of organisations of all sizes and how they are looking to develop new strategies to reflect the full range of audiences and their relative wealth.”
At Culture Business Melbourne, your talk focused on”the meaning of a cultural centre in 21st Century?” Which challenges do arts organisations face as they try to answer this question? How would they overcome these challenges to develop a successful fundraising campaign?
“At Achates Philanthropy, one of the questions we ask new clients is “What does a successful cultural organisation look like in the 21st Century? – What are you trying to achieve? What is your role in the wider socio-cultural ecosystem and what is your relationship to your audiences?”
Successful cultural organisations have a clear understanding of who they are, what they are doing, who they are doing it for, and the impact of their work; this informs all of their decision-making. Reimagining your identity in this context can be challenging, whether you are a Victorian institution, or a recent cultural regeneration development, and to do so successfully requires a new and shared understanding of the organisation across the Board and staff team.
Once achieved, this enables the development of a distinctive and engaging brand, which audiences can relate to and build a relationship with. Successful campaigns result when fundraising and communications come together as a public manifestation of the organisation and its work; it’s critical that you have your house in order before you invite people.”
In your opinion, what is the best way to encourage first time donors to the arts?
“The mission of Achates Philanthropy is the democratisation of culture and philanthropy is at the heart of this. In 2016 we launched the Achates Philanthropy Prize with three key goals, which summarise our approach:
- To promote the arts as charities
- To raise awareness of the idea that anyone can be a cultural philanthropist
- To share the pleasure that cultural philanthropy can bring
We identified these priorities because we believe they are key to changing the wider understanding of cultural organisations and to driving philanthropy. In Britain, the old perception of full state funding remains and arts organisations are not understood as charities responsible for their own financial health. The Prize is now evolving into a national campaign for cultural philanthropy under which individual institutions can advocate for support at a local level.”