for Arts
& Culture

© Ahmad Odeh

Place-based networks

If the impact of the arts on society is a key driver for donations, that’s even more likely to be the case when the impact is close to somewhere donors live, were born or feel passionately about.

A key part of the work of NPAC to date has been the development of place-based networks, focusing on the role and positive impact of arts and culture on a community and rallying the community around that cause.

The importance of a local approach has been seen in several successful location-based culture driven redevelopments across the country, including initiatives created as part of both successful and unsuccessful bids for UK City of Culture. Through cultural development, significant positive change can be brought to areas in a number of ways, for example:

  • Helping a place, and particularly its young people, to grow more confident, raise aspiration and attainment levels and create many more opportunities to develop as individuals
  • Building a society that is more inclusive and can help tackle issues of discrimination, loneliness and social isolation
  • Creating a healthier populace and increase the wellbeing of citizens
  • Driving economic regeneration and growth
  • Creating a better place in which to live and work, embedding sustainable social change for future generations

Since 2021, NPAC has been working with colleagues across the UK to support the creation of place-based networks of philanthropists, building on conversations and research in each location. We are either working in partnership with the local cultural compact, through engagement with the City Council, or through personal connections with philanthropists (in some cases all three), supported by conversations with arts organisations in each location.

We have developed a number of different models for place-based philanthropy with our regional partners. In some cases discussions are in relatively early stages, although in others charities and partnerships have been established. And of course each model will be adapted to the specific issues in each location. Networks are being supported and developed in Sunderland, Newcastle, Birmingham, Leeds, Stoke and Middlesborough, with networks in early planning in Gloucester and Hastings & Rother with further locations to be identified. If you are interested in setting up a place based network in your area, please do contact us for help and advice.


Sunderland’s network is the most advanced model of place-based philanthropy we’re aware of. Led by NPAC member Paul Callaghan, a new organisation has been incorporated to draw together all of the significant cultural activity in the city (under the umbrella of Sunderland Culture). This organisation has been created as a partnership between Sunderland City Council, the University of Sunderland and MAC Trust, which in turn is a new charity which will act as a recipient organisation for donations to be distributed to key arts organisations in the city. MAC Trust will employ a fundraiser (whose salary will be paid by a leading local philanthropist) to raise funds from new arts supporters to benefit all arts organisations in Sunderland. These donors will form the NPAC network in Sunderland. This brokerage model will enable philanthropists to make donations to the MAC Trust secure in the knowledge that due diligence has been followed and donations will be made to recipient arts organisations in accordance with their preferences. 


In Newcastle, the City Council has engaged the Newcastle Community Fund to manage an annual grant of £600,000 for the next 5 years. These funds are both to support arts and cultural activity in the city through a series of direct grants, but also to facilitate a strategic priority to seek matched funding to leverage the Council’s investment. The funds are being managed under the title ‘Newcastle Culture Investment Fund’. A recent impact report outlining the activities of the fund details the impressive list of grant recipients, the additional money leveraged as a result of the Council’s initial investment and the objectives that are being hit as a result of the activity being funded. However, it is clear that the funds leveraged have been sourced primarily from trusts and foundations and not from individual philanthropists.

One successful philanthropy initiative in Newcastle, led by the Newcastle Community Fund, was to introduce a number of philanthropists to a range of arts organisations on a curated bus tour. This resulted in some donations to the showcased charities, but it was not possible to track these.

NPAC has proposed facilitating some focus groups with philanthropist members of the Community Fund to understand their motivations for giving and to seek advice on models that would work best in Newcastle. We have also been asked to lead some arts philanthropy training sessions for Newcastle – based arts organisations.

We are separately approaching some of the leading arts organisations in Newcastle/Gateshead for their advice on the best approach in Newcastle/Gateshead and the surrounding areas. 

Arts organisation-led model

Working with a lead arts organisation or a Cultural Compact, in this model NPAC will utilise the existing arts and culture infrastructure in a particular location to promote and support the call to find new philanthropists. It is likely that a small number of existing philanthropists will be the starting-point for NPAC’s work – these will be identified by the arts organisations or Cultural Compact and will form the kernel of a new network. It is envisaged that their local knowledge and contacts contribute to develop the local network; NPAC’s role will be to contribute its experience of developing networks elsewhere and to offer our support in engaging additional members. It is hoped that NPAC’s national initiatives and contributions will enable each fledgling local network to reach out to identify new philanthropists and grow the local network to the point of it becoming self-sustaining.

Community Foundation-led model

Working with the local community foundation, NPAC offers its philanthropy toolkit, national networks experience and it’s motivational knowledge to drive and develop the community foundation’s existing network of philanthropists. Acting as a catalyst for growth NPAC will support the community foundation to bring its contacts together to workshop a common-cause that is relevant to the local area. This cause can then be developed as the ‘call to arms’ to gather new philanthropists to the network to grow it and mobilise increased philanthropic support. An additional element specific to the community foundation model is the potential the community foundation’s grant distribution network to be utilised. Further there is potential for a matched funding element to be managed within the foundation, which could attract new donors to join the network and to give to the local arts sector. Any such gifts could be made via the community foundation.

Mayoral-led model

Closely related to the arts organisation-led model, this iteration utilises the additional endorsement and convening power of a local Mayor who has the power to bring disparate parties together within a local area and identify the development of philanthropy as a local priority, perhaps as part of local area action plan or Local Enterprise Partnership. NPAC can support the network that is brought together, drawing on its toolkit and national experience to encourage and grow the a group of philanthropists. The Mayoral-led approach has the potential advantage of the cause around which philanthropists can mobilise being identified early in the process.