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Philanthropy growth for theatre lags behind visual arts, dance and music

Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB Shutterstock London-based arts organisations were found to receive 66% of total philanthropy. Photo: Philip Bird/Shutterstock
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Theatres are lagging far behind other art forms when it comes to growing philanthropy, a new study claims.

According to a report by Arts Council England and independent research company MTM, the industry managed to boost its income from donations by only 2% between 2013 and 2015 – a long way behind other art forms such as the visual arts (38% growth), dance (24%) and music (24%).

However, the sector remains resilient, attracting the third highest revenue from donations, trusts and businesses of any art form.

Theatre accounted for £75 million or 16% of donations across the arts. It remains in the top three even when the industry’s 50 largest beneficiaries are not taken into account.

Only the visual arts and music were more successful than theatre, attracting 32% and 23% respectively of all private arts philanthropy.

Trusts and foundations are the most important strand of philanthropic theatre funding, contributing £32 million, next to £28 million from individual donors and £15 million from businesses.

But recent analysis suggested that income from trusts and foundations was waning, falling by £2.2 million between 2013/14 and 2014/15.

The ACE/MTM report also found private donations were “much more important” for smaller arts organisations. It accounted for 29% of income for those whose total was less than £100,000, compared to 18% of income across the sector as a whole.

Notably, London-based organisations were found to receive 66% of total philanthropic giving, which the report said is “broadly in line” with their share of total income (63%).

ACE philanthropy director Clare Titley said: “It’s encouraging to see that private investment [philanthropy] has grown over the last three years, especially as it is evident from the data that this is an important source of income for smaller companies, as well as the larger, more nationally recognisable organisations.”

She added: “The findings in this report will help to support the sector in their strategic planning at a time when there is increased need for organisations of all sizes to diversify their funding and strengthen resilience.”

More than 1,300 organisations across different art forms responded to a survey sent out by ACE, which formed the basis of the sector calculations.

Most respondents were positive that their income from private donations will rise, but 63% warned a lack of in-house staff able to do the work required could hold back their ability to attract more philanthropic giving.

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