Hope in Challenging Times

There has been a deluge of bad news for cultural organisations in recent months, not least the UK Giving report which has shown that giving to culture has decreased from 2% of all philanthropy to less than 1%, its lowest level in more than 10 years and smaller than areas such as human rights.

These figures were echoed by the recent and as acknowledged, small and more performing arts orientated data set, shared by ticketing operator Tessitura, a few weeks ago. This data found that donations to its UK subscribers fell by 25% between 2021 and 2022.

These reports and the evident challenges the cultural sector is facing have led to DCMS seeking to consider what the response should be with round tables and conversations being initiated. Undoubtedly such conversations are urgent and important and the Cultural Philanthropy Foundation which Achates gives at least 10% of its profits to, has led the way in its Thought Leadership event at the US Embassy on 8th November with President of the Ford Foundation, Darren Walker OBE. Darren inspired audiences in the room and online as to what can be achieved when organisations come together and seek to go beyond their usual methodologies and approaches, as Ford did during the pandemic taking advantage of historically low interest rates to launch a $1 billion social impact bond. Achates is proud to have sponsored this thought provoking and inspiring event. You can watch it here.

In considering how to respond to the challenges we face in the cultural sector what is important is that we don’t just look to the major London organisations for the answers, when we know that their income profile is different to small and mid-scale organisations and to the rest of the country and cannot simply be translated. Key to this point is the one piece of good news which has only gained limited traction in the coverage of the Tessitura report, the fact that although there has been a significant drop in overall donor income, the data shows that the total number of people donating to cultural organisations has risen to its highest level with a 29% on the numbers reported in 2021.

It would be easy to conclude from this data that mass giving cannot solve the problems that cultural organisations are facing and that we need is more high net worth individuals (HNWI). However, the Private Investment in Culture survey shows us that 94% of money from individuals goes to what ACE refers to as the ‘top 50 brands’ and what is clear is that whilst HNWI are critical to major London cultural organisations these funds will only support a few. What we need for a national thriving ecosystem is both more High Net Worth Individual giving and more mass giving and it is critical that we not only nurture the wealthy but also build on these green shoots of audience support and encourage giving of all kinds and all levels. What is vital now is research into understanding what has inspired this major growth in the number of people giving and what will encourage them to give again and to give more. As fundraisers we all know how important it is to optimise our donor retention and with so many new donors entering the sector, this is surely a critical question we need to ask if we are to understand and to build on this important success. Culture Track in the US shows us the way forward in their research which consistently highlights the fundamental need to communicate the value and impact of culture. In the meantime, I find hope in the increasing numbers of people who are willing to communicate their belief in the value of culture through philanthropy.


Caroline McCormick

Director, Achates