Statements on Philanthropy

PaulConnaughton-2-150x150

Dáil Éireann, 3 October 2012

In Ireland, fundraising by arts organisations is responsible for, on average, just three percent of total income. In Britain and Australia, that figure can be multiplied by 11, where fundraising accounts for one third of total income. Clearly, the culture of philanthropic giving to the arts in Ireland must be promoted and encouraged and I commend the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht on a number of initiatives introduced to drive progress in this area.

Unlocking new funding from the private sector for the arts is a key proposal in the Programme for Government and it is only right that the Government support every effort to bring the level of arts funding secured through fundraising up to mirror the ratio experienced in countries such as Britain and Australia.

The Philanthropy Leverage Initiative introduced by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in May of this year is designed to encourage philanthropic sponsorship and funding of the arts from private sources. Significant funding of €230,000 has been set aside for 2012 for this initiative as it aims to support projects of varying scale and art forms all across the country.

The Leverage Initiative is the key that can be used to unlock funding of up to 2.5 times that allocated, generating additional funding of €805,000 to the arts in 2012.

I believe that the key to the success of this initiative is the spread of projects supported. This Government aims to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms and to increase access to and participation in the arts and so great care must be taken to ensure that people all across Ireland can see the fruits of the labour supported by the Philanthropy Leverage Initiative.

There is a danger that many of the projects will centre on the capital, given the well-developed infrastructure already in place, but a geographic spread is imperative. I understand that to date groups that have benefited included Macnas in Galway and Cork Community Art Link and the Little Museum of Dublin.

I also note that the recently launched Arts Council’s RAISE: Building Fundraising Capacity has identified eight key projects to be supported for two years by providing one-to-one professional support and these are spread across the country and include Galway Arts Festival, the Model Gallery in Sligo, Wexford Festival Opera and the Gate Theatre. Groups selected had to demonstrate that they had the ambition, potential and commitment to raise more than €250,000 per annum in private investment.

The current recession has hit families and communities all across the country particularly hard. With little money and few work opportunities, the arts is one area where people’s energy can be harnessed and their creativity encouraged but this needs greater support at community level. There is a danger that by picking out larger projects for support, that smaller community arts groups will lose out, not having the necessary infrastructure in place to pursue the available funding.

I believe that philanthropy also has the potential to be of huge benefit to local community-led arts groups, but only if their micro-finance funding capabilities are matched by philanthropic giving.

The culture of philanthropic giving in Ireland also has to be examined, promoted and encouraged. Too few people are aware of philanthropy, in fact programmes such as ‘The Secret Millionaire’ are awakening people to the possibility of giving money for medium and long-term community projects which will improve the lives of people in your local community or region.

In contrast, this is a well-established cultural norm in places such as Britain and Australia, where wealthy people often choose to establish a bursary for students from their home area or provide long term finance to sustain a particular project.

A culture of philanthropic giving can be promoted in Ireland and I believe that community is at the heart of this. Just as the Tidy Towns initiative harnessed the energy behind people’s love for their home place, wealthy individuals could be encouraged to become part of an initiative where projects in their own locality can be promoted, be that a community arts project, a sports project or the provision of a bursary to ease the path of a student from a particular area through college.

The Philanthropic Leverage Initiative is one tool to be used to open avenues of funding to arts group and I believe that this Government’s efforts to increase the culture of philanthropy is a move in the right direction as we seek to harness the fundraising capabilities of arts groups of all sizes and in all areas of the country.