Arts sponsorship on a high, but donations stagnate

February 01, 1996

New figures from ABSA show record corporate support for the arts, but the Directory of Social Change says total community contributions are not keeping pace with profits


ABSA’s fifth national research survey, published in December, shows continued strong growth in business support for the arts.  Total support is valued at ?82.8 million in 1994/95, up 19% on the previous period, with London receiving the lion’s share at ?38.9 million. Museums are the largest single recipient at ?17.2 million while opera gets ?12.6 million. The results are based on responses from some 2,000 arts organisations. A control group of 800 individual arts groups also surveyed the previous year to allow a detailed comparison showed a 26% increase, confirming the strong upward trend. Contact Caroline Underwood, ABSA, on 0171 378 8143


Total community support from Britain’s top 400 companies rose slightly during 1994/95 to ?269 million, according to figures published by the Directory of Social Change in December, compared to ?264 million last year. However spending is failing to keep pace with the rise in corporate profitability, down to 0.36% of pre-tax profit compared to 0.47% last year – the lowest figure for five years. Purely charitable donations total ?158 million, last year ?157 million.

The biggest contributor remains BT at ?14.9 million, followed by NatWest Group (?10.7m) and Allied Domecq (?10.0m). Overall two thirds of companies have increased or maintained their giving, although British Gas and British Aerospace are among those highlighted with large decreases. Contributions are still overwhelmingly a large company phenomenon, with the top 25 responsible for more than half the total.

The Directory of Social Change calculates that an extra ?100 million would be raised for charity if all the companies in its Guide met the 0.5% Per Cent Club target. An increase to 1% of pre-tax profits would yield ?700 million, double the amount given by the National Lottery Charities Board. Contact DSC on 0171 209 5151 for the Major Companies Guide 1996/97 (ISBN 1 873860 8907 ?16.95)


A new initiative to encourage arts agencies and businesses to collaborate with schools in London was launched by the London Arts Board and the RSA at a conference on December 6. The London Education Arts Partnership aims to ensure that cultural industries can be a growth area, vital to the capital’s competitiveness in the next century. Contact Adrian Chappell, LAB, on 0171 240 1313


Applications closed in January for the Working for Cities awards, run by British Gas Properties and the Arts Council. Prizes totalling ?30,000 are on offer in six categories, for imaginative projects using the arts to revitalise towns and cities. Contact Gill Harrison, Awards Office , on 0171 221 7883


An award-winning play, commissioned to combat racism in football and in the lives of young people, is being performed in schools in Birmingham during January, part of a ?100,000 national tour sponsored by Midland Bank. The idea originated in the Bank’s equal opportunities department and was sponsored partly because of Midland’s association with the European Cup. Contact Chris Oliver, Midland Bank, on 0171 260 7022


The 1996 Sainsbury’s Choir of the Year began its search in January for the best amateur choir in the UK. Prize money exceeds ?12,000 and the competition is televised on BBC TV.  Contact Marah Winn-Moon, Sainsbury’s, on 0171 921 7851


Arts sponsorship is proving remarkably buoyant and ABSA is understandably delighted given adverse business conditions in recent years. One fact emerging from the survey details is the rise in company support for capital projects, thought to be related to Lottery matched-funding rules. These are likely to stay in place even if Virginia Bottomley’s new consultation (see Lottery news below) results in removing the bizarre rule that no revenue support must be given. Bizarre because once built, arts venues do have to be kept going.

ABSA is concerned that corporate sponsorship of the ‘classical’ arts may be under threat. The villains are decentralised budgets in the control of line managers and preference for more ‘popular’ and ‘community’ art forms. Many community affairs managers also encounter sceptical line managers and reluctance to support ‘unpopular’ issues. The more worrying problem is the failure to keep pace with profitability – and the only hope is that a time lag is operating, as last year’s profits are fed into this year’s spending.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 26 – February, 1996