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Research shows how arts organisations have tackled funding challenges

Funding cuts to arts organisations have left many in the region looking for new income streams. New research has shown that there are opportunities to bring in money by enthusing patrons.

Academics from the Creative and Cultural Research Group at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) tracked the fortunes of 20 regional arts companies over two years, following a 2010 Government funding review which led to nationwide cuts.

graysonperrytapestry
Grayson Perry's tapestry Julie Cope's Grand Tour, recently on show at DMU's Gallery space

Their findings were presented to arts organisations across Leicestershire as part of Leicester Business Festival. The event was hosted by DMU’s Leicester Castle Business School, The Institute of Fundraisers' Cultural Sector Network and Cultivate, which specialises in helping arts organisations find audiences and explore new income streams across the East Midlands.

All 20 had attended a two year training scheme about new ways of finding funding, which included a keynote from Michael Kaiser, credited with turning around the fortunes of the Royal Opera House and the Royal Ballet during his 18 months as chief executive.

Combined, they managed to bring in 7% more money and increased corporate sponsorship by 72% - despite seeing a drop in the money received from the Arts Council and local government. However, said Jennie Jordan, programme leader for the MSc Business Management in the Creative Industries at Leicester Castle Business School, this was not enough to balance the effect of funding cuts.

She said: “The numbers of organisations who were able to diversify grew, but those without assets had little they could work with to develop and there’s an inequality there. The cuts in public funding were so large that they had no chance of making up that gap.”

Vanessa Rawlings-Jackson, of Cultivate, said she believed an American model of philanthropy was the key to ensuring sustained funding for the arts. In the US, it is common for wealthy backers to donate to particular museums or venues, and board members are expected to make a financial contribution to the organisations which they help run.

The LCBS study identified a lack of corporate headquarters in the East Midlands, fewer high net worth individuals and a paucity of social networks between those working the arts and those in the corporate world as barriers to funding.

But Ms Rawlings-Jackson said there were still opportunities. She said: “We do not make enough of the effect that supporting the arts and artists can have upon people; when we get people to feel passionately about what we do, whether that is theatre or art or dance, we engage new audiences.”

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She pointed to money spinning ideas including a subscription programmes, a sale of vintage costumes at a Coventry theatre company and hosting dinners where patrons could get exclusive access to archives.

The arts sector needed to be more transparent about the subsidies it received, she said, so people understood the need to raise more money.  Leicester City Council’s economic strategy for the arts, published this year, found audiences were growing at all the city’s flagship venues, Curve Theatre, De Montfort Hall and Phoenix Cinema.

Visitor numbers were up at the city’s museums and festivals, with audiences coming for Leicester Comedy Festival reaching 100,000 regularly. It aims to encourage more world-class events to the city’s art galleries and museums and build the cultural offer in the city and county.   The event was one of five hosted by DMU’s Creative and Cultural Industries research team during Leicester Business Festival.

Posted on Friday 3rd November 2017

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