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September 14th, 2015watch now
"In c.100 AD Gaius Plinius (Pliny the Younger), in a letter to his friend the historian Cornelius Tacitus..." You know when a report starts with a sentence like that we're all in a lot of trouble.
So begins a report called "Philanthropy Outside London" written by Peter S. Phillips for the Department of Culture Media and Sport. A man distinguishable for not only unnecessarily citing his middle initial (presumably to prevent himself being confused with all the other Peter Phillips in the wold who write reports about philanthropy) but also because he works for Arts Council England (ACE).
As you can probably guess from the title the report is all about
a man who finds dinosaur DNA in amber and then makes some real dinosaurs that run amok and eat lots of children philanthropy, in places that aren't London.
Let's cut straight to the chase shall we. Mr Philipps claims that the amount of money available from philanthropists is "infinite". As in, never ever going to run out.
"...philanthropy is not a finite thing, it is infinite if the right tools, skills, and application are used to access it, and this should not by any means be the preserve of London."
Now, the number of philanthropists cannot be infinite, that has a limit of about 7 Billion and counting, so it must be the money he's talking about.
All the money in the world, and a lot of money that is not in this world, is up for grabs, if only you knew how to get it. No dear readers, he's not crazy, he just works for ACE.
Captain Cue Ball continues;
"But the cultural sector also has a potentially large supporter base in its audiences and attendees and its friends organisations, which if correctly involved and cultivated, could well contain the philanthropists of tomorrow. Two thousand donations of £5 in a year produce a total sum donated of £10,000, and if contributed by direct debit might well continue for five years producing £50,000, or £62,500 with gift aid - this would be a challenging single donation to acquire from one giver!"
This is the old "give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach a man to fish he eats for a life time" trope. It's a nice theory, in theory but when you extrapolate it out a little you end up with too many fisherman, no fish left in the lake and everybody is hungry again. Don't even get us started on the EU fishing quotas.
So it goes with the arts. What you're trying to do here is get at least 30 dance companies to persuade 60,000 people to hand over £300,000 every year for five years. Mr Phillips also doesn't think "direct debits" can be cancelled, but that's because he's nuts.
He also misses a trick in thinking that arts organisations don't already try this, which of course they do with varying degrees of success.
If you think of it another way you come to realise why it's not really that easy. Just as folks have paid £15 or more for a ticket you then ask them for another £5 on top of that to say nothing of the money they spend on travel and food and the fact they already fund you via their taxes, albeit to a slightly lesser degree.
There's only so much blood you can squeeze out of a stone you know Mr S.
Article19, over the last year, had approximately 500,000 visitors. If we could persuade 10% of those visitors to hand over just £1 per year then it would be all about letting the good times roll.
It's just £1 after all. That's like 30% of the cost of a pack of condoms. If people could just have less sex so we could film more video features then everything would be great. Except for the people having less sex of course.
We know however that the rate of return if we asked for that £1 would be nowhere near 10%, it would be more like 0.05% because people tend not to want to give away money to websites, no matter how small the amount.
It's all very well writing reports that theorise people handing over money to the arts and doing some simple arithmetic but making the case for them to do so? That's like getting oil out of water.
Further on in the report the "man with a plan" proclaims it might be a good idea if arts organisations spent more money on their fund raising. Speculate to accumulate and all that.
This is a good idea not because it is a good idea but because it neatly dove tails with ACE's own Catalyst Arts project that nobody thinks is a good idea and is currently being rolled out across the country.
It's probably very reassuring to the funding monolith when their own employees produce reports that proclaim their ideas to be a good thing. Talk about self re-enforcement.
Those without Catalyst Arts money though might be somewhat wary about handing over £30-£40,000 of their budgets to some fund raising guru. Those organisations that have lost all ACE support completely and/or Local Government support will, right about now, be either laughing hysterically or plotting an all out assault on ACE HQ.
Mind you, if they lost support from both sources then they probably don't exist anymore. Which, when you look at it thoughtfully, kind of solves the problem of funding altogether.
In summary then. According to this report it would be a really good idea if arts organisations could persuade lots of people to give them small amounts of money but if they want to do that they need to spend a lot of money to persuade all of those people to hand over those small amounts of money which somewhat negates the potentially small amount of money they could raise in the first place. (holy run on sentence Batman! Ed!)
Also, it would be a really good idea if we could make cancelling direct debits illegal.