for Arts
& Culture

© Ahmad Odeh

Understanding Philanthropy

The first priority of NPAC was to improve our understanding of the reasons why philanthropists support the arts and culture sector.
To understand this better we undertook qualitative research into the philanthropic motivation of members of NPAC and their individual experiences and ‘philanthropy journeys’.

The 20 founder members of NPAC include many experienced arts philanthropists with a wealth of experience in supporting, developing and mentoring arts and culture organisations. As part of the NPAC project we undertook qualitative research into their ‘philanthropy journeys’, exploring their varied individual experiences and philanthropic motivations.

Our research was probably the largest survey of the motivations of senior philanthropists in the arts and culture sector to date, and is encapsulated by three models below.

Who are the NPAC founder members?

What motivates donors?

This diagram attempts to summarise the more detailed findings from our qualitative research. In this model we have distinguished between those who grew up in relatively affluent families and had an early engagement with [arts] philanthropy, and those who became more affluent later in their careers which gave a particular impetus towards giving. Several mentioned significant promotions or selling companies as being their first opportunity to give significantly.

Turning patrons into donors

In this diagram we summarise the typical route of an arts donor to increased engagement with the organisation they are supporting. Generally, a first engagement is ‘transactional’ – taking the form of purchasing a ticket or attending an event. As a donor’s engagement increases, they might become more involved, for example by taking a governance role. In so doing they start to see their personal impact on the organisation, and the impact of its work leading to an increased sense of personal fulfilment.

Route to increased donor engagement

Our third model attempts to evolve a model for creating a broader association between a philanthropist and an organisation – starting from a simple transaction and then evolving to a philanthropic engagement motivated by much broader impact both on and of the organisation.

Donor motivations

Elsewhere donor motivations might be categorised as:

  • Being involved with/belonging to (directly or indirectly) “virtuous causes”
  • Feeling good about themselves/improved self-esteem
  • The arts can provide a route into “something that matters to the donor”
  • Being part of a family/club/social grouping with which one can identify oneself and define one’s identity
  • Gaining satisfaction from the opportunity to provide BOTH money and one’s own involvement in making something happen

Research undertaken by the Beacon Collaborative has focused on understanding the motivations to give among high net worth individuals. From this, it is clear that philanthropists need to understand how their contributions are spent and to feel that their involvement is meaningful. They value having knowledge of the charities they support and, in particular, the underlying cause they are supporting and its impact on beneficiaries.

It goes without saying that making the case is always important, and that it is much easier to raise funds from individuals with a compelling story and project, rather than to support the core costs of a organisation.

NPAC has a long term aim of creating a platform to help match philanthropists to arts organisations. In the meantime, our directory has numerous examples of philanthropy support organisations, and arts organisations across the sector. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.