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Maker of forms, images and poems, hopefully with deep meaning

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Arts giving

This post was contributed by Deborah Vaughan and first published in Strata, the Tasmanian Arts Magazine.



I’d like to spotlight individual giving to the arts.
Many conversations about art in Australia revolve around a lack of income. In Tasmania this is a particular challenge, with our small population and economy, and high travel and freight costs thanks to Bass Strait. To counteract this (at least in part), we need to get better at giving. Conversely, arts companies need to get better at asking.
Independent research tells us individual giving is growing in this country, but for many Australians, philanthropy is a hit and miss affair. Contrast Americans. In 2009, their individual giving was measured at $227.4 billion ($741 per American). In Australia last year we gave $7.7 billion, or $342 each.
Taking economic differences into account, Americans give around 1.6 per cent of their GDP, while Australians give around 0.7 per cent. Whichever way you look at it, they’re more than twice as generous as we are.
We all know there is phenomenal wealth in the USA, and they formalised a philanthropic culture back in 1601 with a Statute of Charitable Causes, but there’s some solid wealth here too — surely we could do better than a measly $342 each?
Regrettably, both countries give the least amount to the arts. Welfare, community projects, health, religious institutions, international aid, education, the environment, animal welfare, and sporting and recreational causes all attract more cash donations than the arts.
I probably should have expected this, but actually I found it slightly staggering. Art feeds our spirit, soothes, heals, entertains and provides identity. This is important and valuable stuff!
Compounding the Australian culture around individual giving is that many arts companies are just plain bad at asking for financial gifts. Compare the charity sector, where fundraising campaigns are planned and implemented, measured and analysed, and consequently produce continual improvement. It’s an illuminating study.
In a nutshell: more giving, better asking. It’s not a quick-fix area, but I do know that if everyone just gave a little bit, more often, we would all benefit exponentially.

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