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  1. Wealth
March 28, 2011

Govt’s arts philanthropy strategy lacking, Parliament says

By Spear's

The lack of any tax incentives in the Government’s strategy to encourage arts philanthropy is a ‘significant omission’, the Culture Select Committee’s says today

The lack of any tax incentives in the Government’s strategy to encourage arts philanthropy is a ‘significant omission’, the Culture Select Committee’s says today. In their report ‘Funding of the arts and heritage’, the Committtee ‘urges’ the Government to suggest ‘reforms to the tax or gift-aid systems to encourage contributions’. Last week’s Budget did in fact say that Gift Aid would be simplified.

It also concluded that philanthropists should not have to ‘plug the gap left by receding public subsidy of the arts and heritage’, although they will play an important role in leveraging public funding. We should not expect, however, the American culture of philanthropy to take root over here.

The Committee’s full conclusions are below. The report can be downloaded by clicking here.

Philanthropy and private investment in arts and heritage

36.    Arts & Business largely represented good value for money, leveraging £4 in investment for the arts for every £1 it received. We are surprised and disappointed at the Arts Council’s decision to withdraw all funding from Arts & Business after 2012 and are concerned that the Arts Council lacks the experience and enthusiasm successfully to take on this role. (Paragraph 222)

37.    It is not, and should not be, the role of philanthropists to plug the gap left by receding public subsidy of the arts and heritage. We have heard a consensual response from arts organisations and philanthropists that new private investment should be encouraged but should be additional to, not a substitute for, public funding. It is also unlikely that British philanthropy will ever resemble that in America, for reasons of size and culture. (Paragraph 228)

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38.    There are limited private investment opportunities for organisations outside London and the metropolitan areas, and it is difficult for smaller organisations to spend time and resources promoting themselves to potential givers. However, there is a still lot of work that can be done to increase levels of private giving to the arts and heritage. The arts can learn from the work done by the National Trust in raising a large number of small donations to fund specific projects. (Paragraph 229)

39.    It is a significant omission from the Government’s “philanthropy strategy” that it suggests no reforms to the tax or gift-aid systems to encourage contributions and we urge it to do so. (Paragraph 230)

40.    Although most philanthropists do not donate their wealth primarily for publicity or recognition, there is still a need for greater incentives and acknowledgement of their charitable activities. We therefore welcome the launch of the Government and Arts Council’s match-funding initiative. (Paragraph 231)

41.    We welcome the use of the Prince of Wales Medal to recognise arts givers, but we note that many of the recipients are major gift givers who have already received honours. We recommend that both the Prince of Wales Medal and the honours system be used more widely in acknowledging philanthropists at all levels, and that the Arts Council be pro-active in nominating more arts givers for honours. We also recommend that local authorities instigate a form of local honours system for philanthropists who invest in the arts and heritage of that area. (Paragraph 232)

42. Despite the current hostility of the economic climate for arts and heritage organisations, their long-term funding and independence must remain a priority. It is the mark of a civilised society that its citizens all have access to arts, culture and heritage. A mixture of public and private funding works in these sectors, although more can still be done to raise more private money and to make public funds go further. (Paragraph 233)

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