I n the U.S., many chamber music presenters and ensembles rely heavily on financial support from a modest number of wealthy patrons or foundations year after year. There is comparatively little public-sector funding or grant-making for serious music in the U.S. and almost no programs cover general operating expenses.
I n other countries, the sources of financial support are historically more diverse, and the greater variety makes the whole enterprise more resilient, less vulnerable to year-to-year changes in the budgets or grant awards from any one funder.
D uring my holiday in the U.K. this past week, it has been remarkable how many novel ‘patrons’ programs have appeared—particularly new or more prominent ones this year. It is anticipated that the U.K. budgets for the arts will be cut by about 15% next year, this after some substantial cuts already over the past two years of recession.
F or U.K. ensembles and presenters and other arts groups, though, those projected cuts are only overall ‘averages’ or ‘target’ annualized figures in aggregate. For some organizations, their government funding may be cut to zero; for others, 30% or 50% cuts are anticipated.
T o defend against insolvency if funding from their normal sources is curtailed, a number of presenters and ensembles (and individual artists as well) are ramping up their solicitation of donations. Green Room ‘meet-the-artist’ and other post-performance contact opportunities are associated with many of these fundraising ‘friends’ programs. Intimate dinners with artists, wine-tasting receptions, intimate dinners in elegant homes, and longer holiday retreats in resort locations are sometimes offered. For composers, special commissioning programs (with special formats and lengths, and special promotional prices or donation-amounts) are involved.
A ll of the programs aim to attract a large number of mostly relatively modest donations, most from donors who otherwise may not have been giving on an annual basis. Obviously, this entails a great deal of commitment and effort on the part of the artists and the presenters, compared to more conventional donor development programs in conventional years.
B ut in an era when corporate donations to the arts have dried up and large donations from traditional wealthy individual benefactors have also diminished, the arts groups' marketing and development efforts are compelled to seek funds from other sources.
H ow ‘sustainable’ these programs turn out to be is anybody’s guess, but it has been really encouraging to see so many of these underway here in the U.K., and to see them so heavily subscribed to. [For example, there must’ve been at least 30 donor friends headed into the Wigmore Hall Green Room last week, to meet Melvyn Tan after his performance.]
I hope that organizations in the U.S. do more of this in future than has been their custom. First-hand on the ‘ground’ over in the U.K., it looks like it’s really working wonders in this difficult time. There seems no reason why ‘Patrons’ Association’ activities could not grow from about 5% of operating budget for many organizations to 20% or higher, substantially replacing loss of grant income during the present economic down-turn.
S ome links below may be of interest…
- Friends of Wigmore Hall [501(c)(3) charity]
- Anon. U.K. arts funding to undergo radical overhaul. The Guardian 04-NOV-2010.
- Brown M. Arts groups relieved at 6.9% cuts but told worse is to come. The Guardian 26-OCT-2010.
- Korngold A. The nonprofit financial model never worked; here's a new model that does. FastCompany, 26-OCT-2010.
- Andrew Taylor ‘ArtfulManager’ blog at Arts Journal
- John Dodson ‘CreativeDestruction’ blog at Arts Journal
- FinanceArts LLC (David Gray CFP, Princeton NJ, Tel: 609-924-0040)
- Nonprofit Finance Fund
- Bishop M, Green M. Philanthrocapitalism: How Giving Can Save the World. Bloomsbury, 2009.
- Bronfman C, Solomon J. The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan. Jossey-Bass, 2009.
- Chong D. Arts Management. 2e. Routledge, 2010.
- Gray D. Finance Arts Guide To Nonprofit Cash Flow. FinanceArts, 2010.