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The Rise of the Arts Donor


21 September 2016 at 10:02 am
Lina Caneva
Private donations continue to outdo corporate sponsorship of the arts in Australia, according to new research.


Lina Caneva | 21 September 2016 at 10:02 am


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The Rise of the Arts Donor
21 September 2016 at 10:02 am

Private donations continue to outdo corporate sponsorship of the arts in Australia, according to new research.

New figures compiled by the Australian Major Performing Arts Group (AMPAG) found that since its first survey of the major performing arts companies in 2001, total private sector revenue had increased by $52.2 million, or 172.6 per cent.

Of the 2015 total revenue of $82.5 million, $44.2 million (54 per cent) was received as donations, $35.6 million (43 per cent) was from corporate sponsorships and a net amount of $2.7 million (3 per cent) came from fundraising events.

AMPAG said the major performing arts (MPA) companies had successfully leveraged their core government investment through a mixture of long-term relationships and a general broadening of the overall base of support.

Significantly, it said the donor base across the group has grown year on year over the last five years.

In 2015 the group reported donations from 36,255 individual donors compared to 17,422 in 2011. However, the average donation is 39 per cent less in 2015 compared to 2011.

Total private sector support for the arts now comprises 16 per cent of total income, with 43 per cent from performance income, 30 per cent government grants for core funding (federal and state), 4 per cent grants for specific projects / initiatives and 7 per cent from other income.

AMPAG executive director Bethwyn Serow said the MPA companies’ total year-on-year results provided a sense of the growth in opportunities and the increase in the overall pool of resources.

“The growth in revenue in 2015 from corporate sponsorships, donations and fundraising of 5.1 per cent, although ahead of CPI, is below last year’s rate of 9.7 per cent. While the results are encouraging, they aren’t consistent,” Serow said.

“The ability to raise private sector support in individual companies within the MPA group varies due to a range of factors including individual state economic conditions, the company’s audience profile, touring footprint, program initiatives and special capital-raising campaigns.”

She said large companies received substantially more in both corporate sponsorship and donations compared to small and medium companies.

“We can never take private sector support for granted – their partnerships and support are invaluable and extend the capacity of the companies to commission new work, extend arts education, remove barriers for participation, and support artists to develop and to take risks,” she said.

This support creates vital creative legacies and can be instrumental in securing performance and operational spaces, not only for this generation, but for those that follow.

“Ensuring our major companies are stable and sustainable – as well as artistically vibrant and engaging – requires a careful balance and understanding of the important contributions each area of support makes to both the companies themselves and the cultural life of the country.”

Serow said it was also important that the government doesn’t relax its responsibility in supporting Australia’s arts sector.

“Herein lies an ongoing challenge – the arts are highly labour-intensive, with a cost base that almost always runs ahead of CPI, and this is in the context of government funding that is a mix of non-indexed and partially indexed contributions. It has always been a complex and interdependent relationship, with government funding an essential element in generating support from the private sector,” she said.

AMPAG chair John Irving said the support of corporate sponsors and donors enabled them to expand and to innovate.

“Each year they begin with the need to grow their earnings as costs rise, if only to match what they did the year before. However, every major performing arts company is ambitious and has a unique abundance of talent and skills to nurture its art form and to create a variety of opportunities for Australians to experience and engage with the arts,” Irving said.

“The role of government in providing stable base funding remains critical to the long-term sustainability of the major companies. Governments at state and federal level get a great return on their investments in the major companies who leverage that investment many times over to achieve great work and add enormously to the cultural fabric of the country.”


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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