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Seek out business ‘brains’, arts sector urged

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Theatre organisations need help and not just money from commercial “brains”, according to the director of research body Arts & Business.

The charity released this week its full report on private investment for culture in 2010/11, which includes a call for the industry to avoid viewing the private sector as a “funder of last resort”.

Instead, organisations need to start talking to the private sector “as the initial ideas are being formed”, the report says.

Following a panel discussion at the Conservative Party conference in which culture secretary Maria Miller was presented with suggestions from the report, Arts & Business director Philip Spedding said there needed to be more emphasis from the government on cultural groups building sustainable relationships with businesses.

He said: “We need to engage the business sector in a fundamental reworking of the model in which the not-for-profit arts sector is now expecting to exist.

“We are hoping the arts will be able to become more sustainable, so the business brains need to be a part of the equation as much as the business money does.”

Miller, who was speaking for the first time on the arts sector since her appointment to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport last month, was reported to have said there would be no increase in public funding for the industry.

She spoke of the importance of creating relationships between art organisations and businesses, and said cultural groups need to become “better askers” for private support.

Figures from the report, which were released earlier this year, reveal that corporate sponsorship of the arts fell for the fourth year in a row in 2011 and was 7% down from the year before.

The report also shows that cultural organisations based in London generated more than 80% of all UK individual arts giving. The same arts groups received around half of all business support nationwide.

The recommendations from the full survey highlight the importance of membership schemes to increase individual giving across the country. Spedding explained that these programmes involved the donor approaching the arts organisation, rather than the other way round, which he said was more beneficial for creating long-term private support.

“We need to make sure friends schemes are efficient, effective, take advantage of the tax benefits available and are attractive to those who want to support them,” he said.

He added: “[Through friends schemes], we naturally find the people interested in the arts organisation, and then hopefully… that person will become a significant donor.”

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