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In the first of our series looking at the role of philanthropy in arts funding, Caroline McCormick of the Cultural Philanthropy Foundation argues that the financial plight of our cultural institutions is undermining their huge impact.

Children get creative with clay
Children at The Art House in Wakefield, one of more than 150 organisations to sign up to the Culture Makes... campaign

Recently DCMS has been consulting extensively to identify ways of encouraging cultural philanthropy - in particular from high-net-worth individuals. This government views philanthropy as the answer to the problem of declining levels of charitable giving to the sector which, according to the UK Giving Report 2023, has more than halved to less than 1% of all philanthropy.

I have been asked by several of those consulted what they should say in response. Reflecting on this question, I go back to a workshop I developed for Achates on Building a Fundraising Culture.

I always start that workshop by talking about how culture and philanthropy are not luxuries, but fundamental principles that are part of healthy societies. It’s usually easier to convince audiences made up of the staff and boards of cultural organisations of the first of these two points. But many are surprised when I point out that philanthropy is a pillar of every religion, culture and society from Hinduism to Islam to Rastafarianism.

Why that might be? And why is giving one of the NHS’s five ways to mental wellbeing? For me, the answer is simple. Philanthropy is about empathy. The connection it brings is fundamental to a healthy society. Philanthropy and culture go hand in hand; they are both about reflection, about questioning our experience and that of others.

A life well lived

This is a problem for this government. The question they are asking about how to encourage more philanthropy - in particular from the wealthy - is important. But the answer is that they must build a society which values more than just money. A society in which people have empathy, can express their creativity and in which they care about all the elements which make for a life well lived, including culture. 

This was the reason behind the launch in on 1 May of the Cultural Philanthropy Foundation’s Culture Makes… campaign to which more than 150 cultural organisations across the UK have signed up. It celebrates the 8 Types of Impact of Culture and Heritage©, not just economic value. 

I designed the ‘8 Types of Impact’ tool in 2020 to establish a shared framework to communicate the value of the sector. For the Achates Philanthropy Prize, we were reluctant to pitch organisations against one another so we commissioned freelancers in each of the five ACE regions of England, and in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to research and share 20 case studies. 

The aim of these studies was to demonstrate how the sector was supporting communities during Covid and how they were responding in turn as an illustration of symbiotic philanthropic relationships. We were hoping for a wealth of material to celebrate and raise awareness of the impact of the sector during the pandemic.

A framework to capture impact

What we found was revealing: wonderful projects and remarkable organisations. But without a framework to articulate and capture the value of the work, it was not possible to celebrate and share their impact. Many projects involved a commission for a freelancer, which was important, but the project created value in a range of other ways in addition to creative and economic impact, which it wasn’t possible to capture.

Determined to understand impact better, I reviewed the projects to identify the ways in they created value and impact. While we couldn’t prove anything specifically, from this process I developed the 8 Types of Impact of Culture and Heritage© framework.

1.    Creative Impact
The intrinsic benefit of the experience of engaging with culture and heritage. All cultural and heritage organisations create this type of impact.

2.    Economic Impact
Likewise, all cultural and heritage organisations create economic impact if they pay or employ anyone.

3.    Social Benefit
The benefit to the individual in society, specifically outside educational settings.

4.    Innovation
The term is used in line with Arts Council England’s definition of technological innovation. This type of impact is about pushing technological innovation forwards. 

5.    Educational Benefit
This is the benefit to individuals in formal educational settings and includes benefit to teachers and academics. 

6.    Physical Health
Physical health is not only an important type of impact, it shows that not all types of impact are suited to all types of culture and heritage. 

7.    Community Building
This refers both to communities of geography (in the UK and internationally) and communities of interest.

8.    Mental Health and Wellbeing 
Mental health and wellbeing impacts range from general wellbeing through to benefit created with and for people with long-term mental health conditions. 

It’s important to note that while Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are not in themselves a type of impact they are at the heart of the benefits of each. 

We aim to add environmental benefit as a type of impact within two years. As most organisations are currently focused on mitigating their negative impact, to claim environmental benefit at this point would be to risk overstating and undermining our case. We want to work with the sector on achieving this aim.

The world I want to live in is one where culture is part of a healthy society and not only money has value. Ironically, to encourage philanthropy you have to support a society in which money isn’t the only type of value, but also a tool for encouraging and enabling change. 

It won’t happen in isolation; we need a shift in our vision of society. I believe culture can show the way. Join us by becoming a Culture Makes… campaign partner.

Caroline McCormick is Chair of the Cultural Philanthropy Foundation.

Culture Makes… information session on YouTube.

Link to Author(s): 
Headshot of Caroline McCormick