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The Evolving Arts Funding Landscape: Chatting Challenges and Opportunities with Philanthropy Company

Liz Purchase
19 January 2024
The Evolving Arts Funding Landscape: Chatting Challenges and Opportunities with Philanthropy Company

In our latest Arts and Everything in Between episode, host Priya Patel interviewed Liz Purchase, a Senior Consultant for Arts and Heritage at the Philanthropy Company. 

They explored the evolving arts funding landscape, including challenges and opportunities for arts organisations seeking to sustain themselves. Liz outlined insightful funding strategies for arts leaders.

In this blog, we’ll be highlighting key takeaways from their illuminating conversation surrounding the past, present and future of arts finance. From the history of arts philanthropy to advice for diversifying income streams, Liz offers sage guidance for overcoming current funding woes.

A Brief History of Arts Funding

Philanthropy and private donations have long played a vital role in supporting the arts. During the 19th century’s Industrial Revolution, wealthy industrialists would often fund construction of museums, theatres and other cultural institutions to enrich their local communities.

In the 20th century, government funding entered the mix via the establishment of arts councils, but philanthropy maintained its importance. The Arts Council England, founded after WWII to expand access to arts, is now one of the country’s largest arts funders. Its grants, alongside private donations, form the financial bedrock for many organisations.

The Devastating Impact of COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated show cancellations and venue closures, the arts sector experienced massive disruptions. Many organisations faced insolvency, but emergency government funding provided a lifeline. Now, most emergency funding has ended, leaving organisations focused on recovering audiences and revenue.

Fierce competition for limited funding has emerged as myriad arts organisations attempt to rebuild in COVID’s wake. Strategic financial planning is more important than ever for arts leaders to diversify income sources. Reliance on a single funding stream could spell disaster if that source dries up.

Charting a Path Towards Sustainability

While COVID recovery remains arts organisations’ most pressing priority, funders want to see how financial assistance facilitates wider community impact.

Arts Council England’s “Let’s Create” strategy centres inclusion, diversity and community engagement as funding criteria. Environmentally sustainable initiatives may also attract funding. So outreach programs bringing arts to marginalised groups could strengthen grant applications.

Likewise, capital campaigns renovating facilities to broaden accessibility and participation align with funders’ priorities. Arts leaders must clearly convey how proposed programs or projects connect to community needs when applying for support.

Advice for Navigating the Shifting Arts Funding Landscape

Communication with funders is more vital than ever. Share your vision, news of programming pivots and impacts already underway. Funders want to see adaptability and dedication to serving communities—spotlight that in funding requests.

Diversify income by exploring funding combinations: small recurring donors, major philanthropists, corporate sponsors, crowdfunding and grant opportunities. Don’t silo fundraising duties—involve teams throughout the organisation to embed it in operations.

While immense funding challenges remain, this difficult period also offers chances for innovation. Interact creatively with supporters and communities. Their passion for your work can buoy you until funding flows more freely again. Stay adaptable—it’s key to emerging stronger than before.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to Liz for sharing her advice on the podcast. You can listen to the full episode below or wherever you get your shows.

About Philanthropy Company 
Philanthropy Company is a fundraising consultancy dedicated to providing strategic advice, practical support and expert training for charitable organisations, philanthropists and corporate donors seeking to improve lives and transform futures.

About Liz Purchase
Liz is Senior Consultant, Arts & Heritage at Philanthropy Company. She has extensive fundraising and development experience in the arts, heritage and culture sectors, having worked closely with the development and senior management teams of national organisations including English Heritage and Historic England. Liz is passionate about working closely with charities and non-profit organisations on their fundraising strategy, from crucial early planning stages, to the delivery of outstanding projects, helping them secure vital funding. Her skill in developing cases for support has helped to secure significant funding for core programmes and projects.

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