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Giving Attitude

I was excited when Creative Partnerships Australia asked me to write the Giving Attitude research report – which was launched today. It is an important study; a window to how the CEO’s and CFO’s of arts and cultural organisations are thinking, feeling and behaving in relation to private support.

Matthew Westwood wrote in the Australian this morning. "It provides a timely reality check for arts companies about the commitment required to boost private sector income, and also for policymakers who may regard the private sector as the answer to government funding shortfalls".

It is a fact of life in the cultural sector that there never seems to be enough funding to go around. So, it makes sense that many organisations work to grow the size of the pie with more private support. Of course, not all organisations have equal capacity. Giving Attitude confirms that the size of an organisation has a big influence on fundraising skills, knowledge, resources, and the results achieved. Large organisations spend more on fundraising, raise more funds, and achieve higher returns than smaller organisations. And the Major Performing Arts organisations, who receive the most government funding, earned the most private support and achieved the best fundraising return on investment.

Giving Attitude found the biggest challenge to private support for organisations of all sizes was a lack of people, skills and expertise to raise funds. Nearly half of all arts and cultural organisations had a turnover of under $50,000 – and nine out of ten of these did not have dedicated fundraising staff.

“We have little experience in this area, do not have any idea where to start and are also very understaffed.”

For these micro organisations the task of fundraising falls to other staff and volunteers, who may not see that as part of their role or be comfortable asking for money. The study confirms that those organisations who were comfortable asking for support from the private sector were more successful at fundraising.

So, what should organisations do to become more successful in raising private support? Here are seven things that our research showed contribute to success;

1. Become comfortable asking for support from the private sector

2. Have staff and/or volunteers dedicated to fundraising

3. Find staff with the right skills to drive fundraising

4. Engage your Board in fundraising

5. Make direct approaches to individuals for donations

6. Make direct approaches to business for sponsorship

7. Build long term relationships with and/or develop a community of donors and sponsors

One in four arts organisations suggested they could become more successful in raising private sector by having staff with increased skills and experience and/or dedicated fundraising staff and volunteers. Over half of organisations reported they did not have the resources to implement changes - and smaller organisations said they were particularly ill-equipped.

It was a surprise to me (and perhaps it shouldn’t have been) the sheer scale and value of time given freely to arts and cultural organisations each year. Two thirds of organisations had mainly unpaid staff and almost all boards were unpaid. The value of volunteer and pro bono services made up nearly one third of all private support (30% equivalent of $180 million). Smaller organisations received nearly three quarters of their private support in this way. The ABS reported there were some 220,000 volunteers across Australia, who gave 18.5 million volunteer hours to the arts and heritage organisations in 2014 [1]. Interestingly, the most common volunteer activity was fundraising and sales – with nearly one in four volunteers spending most of their time on these activities (23%).

Giving Attitude found that cultural organisations rated government and private support as equally important to both their current income stream and future viability. They expected private support to deliver a slightly larger share of their funding in future, and a slightly bigger share than government support in five years’ time.

The Australian economic outlook is uncertain, however JB Were forecast last year that the cultural sector should receive more support from corporate partnerships, High Net Worth Individuals and Private Ancillary Funds in future [2]. Time will tell, and future editions of Giving Attitude will track the trends, so we know for sure.

This is just a taste of Giving Attitude – there is so much more - and I hope that you are inspired to check out the full report. Finally, I would like to thank Creative Partnerships Australia’s Fiona Menzies, Matthew Morse, and Christine Maddern for commissioning and guiding this research.

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics, General Social Survey Summary Results, 2014

[2] The Support Report, John McLeod, JB Were, 2018

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