RSVP: an invited response


Theresa Lloyd, guest editor
Magazine article

In this issue the focus is on Philanthropy and the Arts, with the main feature offering a response to the announcement of a 10-point Action Plan to boost philanthropy across the cultural sector by culture secretary Jeremy Hunt on 8th December. We asked a number of key players, including major funders and leading practitioners in the sector, to comment and to address specific questions.

The extent and depth of contributions we have received for this issue are tribute to the interest in and importance of the topic for a range of organisations across the country. There is a broad welcome for the stated intention to encourage private philanthropy to the arts. Not surprisingly there is a spectrum of views, but as we also see there are common themes.

They include:    

  • The need for the DCMS proposals to be expanded and more clearly defined – more than one person commented, “the devil is in the detail”
  • There cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach
  • Broad welcome for a matched funding scheme, but concern that it is only £80m. There is much support that the money should be deployed strategically to bring about certain outcomes such as targeting to benefit organisations outside London
  • Support of the commitment to recognise and honour donors, including non-doms
  • The welcome of a commitment to promote and increase planned giving, including legacies (See article: Legacy giving: Golden goose or lame duck?)
  • The importance of focusing on individual support rather than corporate engagement, significant though that is, it will continue to be for a minority of the income for a minority of institutions
  • The need to take a long view, particularly for endowments, which it is generally agreed will not be appropriate for many organisations
  • The urgent need to build skill and capacity across the sector to implement these ideas; investment in this might be supported in a revolving loan fund
  • The need to harness technology to engage with existing and new audiences and to innovate ways to generate revenue and donations (See article: Crowd-funding: A remote opportunity for the arts).

Many also point out what Lord Janvrin recently described as ‘the elephant in the room’, namely: the ‘conspicuous absence’ from the Action Plan, or indeed the recent government Giving Green Paper of any mention of the tax mechanisms and incentives that have been recommended by so many over the years, and underpin US philanthropy.  More than one person quotes Lord Myners’ response to the strategy made at the event on 8th December: “Fine words butter no parsnips”. These mechanisms are essentially the responsibility of government, and include the introduction of 

  • lifetime legacies – charitable remainder trusts
  • the extension of tax relief to gifts of works of art
  • the maintenance and simplification of the Gift Aid system, without the introduction of a composite rate 

In addition there are calls for the simplification of the bureaucracy surrounding some philanthropic mechanisms, such as gifts of shares, and for the liberalisation and simplification of the benefits rules applying to donors.

We believe that these calls should be taken seriously. In the following responses we have a significant contribution to the debate, from leading professionals and practitioners around the country, from individual and institutional donors, from advisers to the wealthy and experts in audience development, from major national institutions and small regional organisations.

There is great willingness and enthusiasm to build on the DCMS initiative. As Simon Weil, chair of the European Association for Philanthropy and Giving, a major donor to the arts, a trustee of several arts organisations and a leading charity lawyer says, “we need more tools…notably tax incentives relevant to the 21st century”. 

With these tools I believe that collectively we could indeed transform arts philanthropy in the UK, and together sustain, as the minister says, “a more vibrant and resilient cultural sector”.

In conclusion, I draw readers’ attention to the contribution from Russell Willis Taylor, who has been uniquely placed to observe the scene on both sides of the Atlantic for over 25 years.

Too frequently in comments about philanthropy (in higher education as well as the arts) there is a yearning for “American style philanthropy”.

Also too often there is a wish for the ends but not the means. Whether in the field of the creation of major endowments (underpinned in the US by lifetime legacy type models) or gifts of works of art, the involvement of board members who will give and ask, and grateful and public recognition, we have some way to go in comparison.  

However Russell also points out the very real weaknesses of the US arts funding model, and the strengths of the UK’s mixed funding approach. Let us build on the strengths that we have, invest in creating a culture of giving and asking that is underpinned by intelligent tax provisions and incentives, simplify the expensive and off-putting bureaucracy currently associated with arts philanthropy and together create the framework for an arts funding environment that is celebrated by UK citizens and looked at as a model across the world.

We hope you enjoy this edition of Philanthropy UK Magazine and what it might add to the national ambition to boost philanthropy. We welcome your feedback which can be sent to:

Best wishes,

Theresa Lloyd
Guest editor