With deep arts cuts on the horizon let’s seize the moment

1 November 2010 | By Cause4 staff

Following the recent Comprehensive Spending Review, the Arts Council has announced that the majority of Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) will receive a cut of 6.9% to their funding this year. This is ‘despite the 14% cut to the Arts Council’s overall budget’ for 2011/12. In a recent letter Alan Davey, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, pointed out that the organisation has ‘kept the overall percentage of cuts to RFOs as low as possible, whilst at the same time warning that ‘funding for 2012 - 2015 will be limited and...some organisations will not receive funding in the future.’ The RFOs have breathed a collective sigh of relief for now but will be painfully aware of the challenges they face and the shortfalls they will need to make up. They must now prepare for a new age of austerity.

We’ve also heard this week about the cuts to Arts and Business. This means that by 2012 the institution charged with supporting the arts to increase private sector investment will no longer receive their multi-million pound grant from the Arts Council. This begs some serious questions. Why does an organisation with an annual salary bill of over £3m pounds, one supposedly expert in fundraising, require a grant from the Arts Council of such magnitude? Let’s remember that many charities have never so much as received a single dollop of statutory support, have relied exclusively on the private and voluntary sector for their funds and delivered outstandingly successful programmes. These are the organisations in whom statutory funding ought to be invested, those with a proven track-record in securing private funds.

In his letter to Arts Council Chair Liz Forgan, Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt noted: ‘It will be important to strengthen the financial resilience of the sector over this period by building the fundraising capacity of the organisations you support’. This is a role that will now be led directly by the Arts Council. Its task to train, support and energise experienced Development Directors, as well as newcomers to the profession, is vital in helping arts organisations to source new private funding and to re-build morale. There is already a worrying game of musical chairs amongst Development Directors, many of whom tell us that they are worn out, disillusioned and wish to seek pastures new as harassed CEOs increase their targets in order to fill current funding gaps.

Now is no time for dawdling. As Alan Davey correctly points out, ‘These cuts are hard, but the way we handle them will ensure we can still achieve great things.’ Necessity is the mother of invention. The possibilities are endless for those with the vision, inventiveness and tenacity to regard current circumstances as an opportunity as much as a threat. We need ‘survival of the fittest’ thinking and more support for development and fundraising personnel, those who can produce good quality, cost-effective deliverable programmes, who understand both the processes and the art required for effective fundraising and that can galvanise trustees and advisers to help them unlock new pots of gold. It’s time for the Arts Council to seize the moment. Much is at stake.

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