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Revealing the state of public and private arts funding

February 18th, 2022

Public funding for the Australian arts and culture sector reached a new high of $7.26 billion in 2019-20 but the investment is not keeping pace with the nation’s population growth, according to a new report from Australia’s leading culture think tank, A New Approach (ANA).

The report, The Big Picture 2: Public Expenditure on Artistic, Cultural and Creative Activity in Australia 2007-08 to 2019-20, captures some of the government investment in arts and culture during the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic but has a broad timeframe. It found that Australia’s arts and culture organisations accessed more than $4 billion of pandemic support.

The data helps build on a picture of the extent of private-public support for Australian arts and culture and follows the analysis of private investment in culture from Creative Partnerships Australia in December.

Central to both analyses is the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on cultural activities across Australia and the response from government and philanthropy to help support the sector.

ANA CEO Kate Fielding said: “We know these industries have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and these effects are ongoing and will be for some time. From national events to everyday activities like going to the cinema, taking ballet lessons, visiting the library, or doing a painting class, Australians have been missing out.’’

The report found that outside the COVID-19 support, the federal government contributed 37.9 per cent of total cultural expenditure in 2019-20, state and territory governments 36.7 per cent and local government 25.3 per cent.

The Creative Partnerships Australia report found the total of private sector support for the arts in Australia was $540 million, which was an 11 per cent decline on previous results.

But the Giving Attitude 2020 report described the decreases being limited to some of the intangibles - in-kind support, volunteering, and pro bono support. The report, following Creative Partnerships Australia’s first analysis of private sector giving in 2018, noted marked falls in the value of in-kind sponsorships ($65 million to $25 million), volunteer and pro bono support ($180 million to $124 million), and bequests ($49 million to $17 million) received by arts and cultural organisations.

However, there was growth in cash received from philanthropy and business partnerships.

(The total value of private sector support recorded in the 2020 report was $540 million and covered all cash and in-kind support provided through donations, sponsorships, bequests, fundraising and volunteering.)

The report noted that the results showed an increase in the sector’s acceptance of the need to raise private sector support, as well as an increase in its perception of its skills in fundraising.

“As a result, organisations are spending more on fundraising activities, and recognising philanthropy and sponsorship as important and necessary sources to supplement government grants and earned income,’’ the report said.

The ANA report on government support for the cultural sector found that between 2017-18 and 2019-20, there was only a marginal increase in real terms in expenditure, only slightly faster than inflation. The per capita decline in government spending on culture between 2007-08 and 2019-20 was 6.9 per cent, leaving Australia ranked 23 out of 34 OECD countries. According to the ANA research, the OECD average for expenditure on arts, culture, recreation, and religion was 1.23 per cent of total GDP – Australia was 0.95 per cent of GDP.

A New Approach, which is supported by a national coalition of 11 philanthropic organisations that includes the Myer Foundation, the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, the Sidney Myer Fund, the Ian Potter Foundation, the Besen Family Foundation and the Neilson Foundation, states in its report: “…Australia urgently needs to design and implement mechanisms to boost cultural expenditure as a percentage of GDP to at least the OECD average within the next decade…’’

And the report identifies that increasing cultural expenditure cannot just come from governments. “[It] will require commitment and courage from all parts of the ecosystem – including philanthropists, businesses, non-governmental organisations, individuals and creators – as well as from governments.’’

The Creative Partnership’s Giving Attitude report discerns some grounds for optimism within the private sector commitment to the cultural sector. The survey period of the report covered the first few months of the pandemic and identified signs that donors and sponsors were sticking by the arts, in a confirmation of the close relationship between arts organisations and their supporters. The report observed that this was a positive sign and “…  we should be optimistic about continued private sector support for the sector.’’

The report did, however, note that less than a quarter of organisations surveyed had a dedicated fundraiser on staff and that senior staff acknowledged low levels of board engagement in fundraising activities.

A more comprehensive picture of how the pandemic impacted on private sector support for the arts will emerge from Creative Partnerships’ additional survey of 2020 financial results that is planned to take place this year.

The Big Picture 2: Public Expenditure on Artistic, Cultural and Creative activity in Australia in 2007-08 to 2019-20 - A New Approach (ANA)

Giving Attitide - Private Sector Support Survey 2020 Research Report

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