In the mind of the wider public, the arts are not necessarily a charitable cause, according to Arts Council England (ACE) Chair Peter Bazalgette, speaking at the UK Community Foundations conference. Summarising the findings of a number of recent studies of philanthropy in the UK, he told delegates that while the cultural sector has been able to attract major donors, it has been less successful with smaller donors as the “public isn’t aware of how deeply embedded the arts are in their daily lives, and how vital the arts are to every aspect of communities across the nation.”

Figures from the Charities Aid Foundation reveal that just 1% of charitable donations go to organisations that promote the arts, and he described the reluctance of smaller donors as “a major marketing challenge to all of us.” He went on to cite a recent YouGov poll that revealed the extent of the disconnect between public perceptions and the true picture: only 9% think that arts funding goes to charities.

Setting out some of ACE’s thinking about how it can encourage greater philanthropic support for arts and culture, he said: “Philanthropy may not be the only answer to the funding challenges faced by every arts organisation. But it’s pretty important and we have to find ways of improving it.” Whilst recognising that it may be more difficult to fundraise outside the “charmed circle of the major arts organisations in London”, he cited examples of companies across England who do support the arts, and described successful fundraising in the regions as “genuinely possible.”

Tax breaks for giving

Bazalgette described tax breaks for giving as existing to “sweeten the pill” for donors, but said that these are poorly promoted by Government and not properly understood by donors: “I believe we have much work to do to extract maximum advantage from them.” He called on the legal and accountancy professions for more support in accessing tax breaks, which both donors and recipients find “complicated and involved”, and cited a Philanthropy Review estimate that a further £2bn of charitable income could be achieved if it were made easier for people to give, especially through the tax system.

Bazalgette also put forward a personal view that “every arts board member should contribute, whether it’s one pound or a million, according to their circumstances.” As a former Chair of English National Opera, he described himself as having “collected money for most other things – for the arts, for other cultural organisations, for education and for social campaigns.” He added: “We are all involved. And if you’re going to ask, you should first have given, whether it’s time or money.”

But recognising that people who give generously like to be thanked, he has pledged to write personally and thank any “significant donors” to ACE’s National Portfolio Organisations: “It might be £100 or ten million pounds, but it has to have made a real difference. Because I do have a day job I’m restricting it to two donors per organisation per year. My first ones have just gone out… to supporters of Opera North in Leeds and the Hall for Cornwall theatre.”

Article originally published by Arts Professional.