The Endowment Century

Today is a slightly daunting anniversary for me. In my first speech as Culture Secretary last year, I quoted Grayson Perry speaking about the…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP

Today is a slightly daunting anniversary for me. In my first speech as Culture Secretary last year, I quoted Grayson Perry speaking about the 10,000 hours it takes to achieve excellence in any field.

He might want to revise that to 20, 30 or 40,000 hours in my case because as of today, I have actually been doing this job for…10,000 hours.

George Osborne and I both have Grayson Perrys hanging in our offices, courtesy of the wonderful Government Art Collection.  Mine is called “Map of Nowhere” and is full of cryptic comments that taunt me on a daily basis. Like the man whispering in the Roman Emperor’s ear, one comment reads: “Got above ourselves have we?” Another warns me to avoid “catastrophic optimism.” Yet another of “the sadness of the excessively logical”.

So, avoiding Grayson’s elephant traps, what I want to do today is reflect back on the last year and see what lessons can be learned going forward.


The year to date

**Looking back first, two things strike me. The first is the scale of the financial crisis we have had to face. The second is the extraordinary resilience with which the arts and heritage sector has responded.

I didn’t become Culture Secretary to cut arts budgets.

Withdrawing funding from CABE and Creative Partnerships wasn’t something I’d have chosen to do.

Cutting back on admin costs has meant losing talented public servants who’ve given excellent service to our sectors.

But by taking these difficult decisions it has been possible to limit cuts in frontline arts budgets to 15%. That’s around 4% a year over 4 years - a much lower cut than in many other parts of the public sector. If you add in the changes we made to the National Lottery, the net cut reduces even further.

The Arts Council, too, has played an important part.

Firstly by running a fair and transparent process to decide funding allocations for arts organisations; and secondly by introducing four year funding settlements for the first time, as we’ve also done for museums and heritage bodies funded by DCMS.

So at a time of great uncertainty and worry, people do at least know exactly where they stand.

They have rolled up their sleeves and said ‘the show must go on.’

More than this, they - you - have proved that even in the toughest of times this country’s culture is thriving.

Five Tonys for War Horse and one for Mark Rylance for his spell-binding performance in Jerusalem …

Brilliant new productions like Anya Reiss’s the Acid Test at the Royal Court …

Astonishing new buildings like David Chipperfield’s Turner Contemporary in Margate and Hepworth in Wakefield…

Miro at Tate Modern and Tracey Emin at the Hayward…
Neil MacGregor’s History of the World in 100 Objects, built on a ground-breaking partnership between the British Museum and the BBC…and many more.

Some of these projects were planned before the financial and economic crises hit.

But the evidence is that, far from our artistic and creative output contracting, we’re raising our game and staking an ambitious claim to have one of the most exciting and innovative cultural offers of anywhere in the world.

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The big call

The question is: how do we sustain that progress?

When I became Culture Secretary, I made a big call.

I decided that in an era of austerity and inevitable budget cuts the right thing to do was to focus my energies on what some might call the grubby business of money. That is, helping cultural organisations weather the storm by strengthening their fundraising capacity.

In December I launched a Ten Point plan for philanthropy, including new match funding programmes and 2011 designated as the year of corporate philanthropy.

The Chancellor has responded to decades of campaigning by announcing plans to simplify gift aid, and publishing a consultation on making gifts of art tax deductible.

And, most significantly, the budget reduced inheritance tax for those who pledge 10% or more of their legacy to charitable or cultural organisations.

And the work continues.

Just last week, the Arts Council launched their £40 million Catalyst Arts Fund to help boost fundraising capacity outside London for smaller arts organisations.

And this morning the Heritage Lottery Fund announced a further £20 million to boost philanthropy, of which £5 million will help to develop the fundraising skills of the Heritage sector through the new Catalyst Heritage Fund.

While the Government and our funding organisations have been busy, so too have others.

This has also been a year of extraordinary individual generosity, most recently, with Sir Terence Conran giving £17.5m to helping to transform the Design Museum …

But I also think of:

  • Jonathan Ruffer saving the Francisco de Zurbaran collection …
  • Lloyd Dorfman supporting the National Theatre’s redevelopment …
  • Dame Vivien Duffield’s amazing support for learning  zones …
  • Sara Miller McCune’s fantastic gift to the Globe …
  • The Sackler Foundation’s donation to the Serpentine …

…and many, many more.

Gifts of different sizes, delivered in different ways, often for different reasons.

All of them showing the same, shared responsibility - as Lloyd Dorfman put it - “to lead from the front” in protecting what the arts and culture bring to our lives.

I’m hugely grateful to them all.

I am particularly grateful to one person in particular who has championed philanthropy long before it was a glimmer in any politician’s eye - Prince Charles.

Through the Prince of Wales Medal for Arts Philanthropy and his wider support for the arts, he’s done a huge amount to recognise the public spirited generosity of many cultural benefactors.


Financial resilience and artistic freedom

**But as encouraging as this may be, we all know there’s much, much more to do.

And here lies the fundamental dilemma.

Many cultural organisations are fragile. They’re led by talented, passionate people who rightly think that great art matters more than great money.

Yet without financial security, fragility becomes vulnerability - and great art can sometimes wither on the vine.

Shakespeare put it best, in one of his great sonnets:

“How with this rage can beauty hold a plea
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?”

Without artistic freedom, art is nothing.

That’s why we will always support the arms length principle with respect to arts funding.

But artistic freedom is built on the rock of financial resilience.

And that means not being dependent on any one source for financial survival, neither the state nor a company nor a generous individual, however well-intentioned that support may be.

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The pendulum

**Historically, arts funding hasn’t lent itself to this kind of resilience. Funding patterns have resembled a pendulum.

Alastair Campbell famously said Tony Blair “didn’t do God”, yet before the fifteenth century, art did very little else. The artist’s patron was his priest. The arts were largely a vehicle for religious devotion.

Then we had the cultural earthquake of the Reformation and the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the pomp of the Elizabethan and Jacobean courts. Art and literature became weapons of the state, enmeshed in the power politics of the day.

Then with Civil War and Restoration came another swing to private philanthropy. And the great bequests of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Institutionalising the arts. Giving us the British Museum, the Royal Societies, and some of our finest libraries - those great engines of the Enlightenment.

And then onwards to the Victorian age. Civic pride and individual philanthropy combining and giving us so many of the cultural landmarks we draw upon today: the Tate, the V&A, the Walker Art Gallery and so many of the fine Town Halls that continue to host art and culture today.

And then finally, in the 20th century, the State fought back. Mostly it must be said as a positive, democratising force that had a huge impact in opening up the arts to broader audiences. But not without its drawbacks, whether the targets, the box ticking or the boom and bust funding.**

The role of the state

**No funding model is perfect.

But interestingly, even at the highest levels of public investment, the top 20 RFOs drew less than half of their income from the public purse.

Even before the banking crisis, before the collapse in the public finances, our biggest cultural institutions were sensibly reducing their reliance on state funding and putting a greater emphasis on other sources of funding.

Not just philanthropy or corporate sponsorship, but membership schemes, commercial income from shops and restaurants or credit card donation schemes - all of them playing an important part. Deloitte’s ‘More Than Just Giving’ report published today and gives us a very clear-headed analysis of the role the corporate sector has to play, and I am most grateful for it.

But there is one piece of the funding jigsaw that’s still largely missing. Explaining it explains why I have chosen to deliver this speech here at the Whitechapel. **


**The Whitechapel’s tag line and philosophy has always been “Our history has always been the future”

From Picasso to Jackson Pollock, it has specialised in giving Britain its first glimpse of major international artists.

That reputation for trend-setting now carries through to its fundraising.

Because the gallery has just launched a new campaign to raise a permanent endowment of £10 million by 2020 - a “Future Fund” to be used to secure another 100 years of showcasing outstanding emerging artists.  

Setting up an endowment is unusual. But it shouldn’t be.

In the US giants like the John Paul Getty Trust and the New York Met are built on massive endowments ($4.4 billion and $1.9 billion respectively).

Even federal institutions like the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art use endowments to cover a proportion of their expenditure.

Endowments don’t necessarily mean capital tied up religiously so only the investment income is available to spend.

Some can be used to support acquisitions. Some for capital projects. Others could potentially be used to weather financial storms.

Endowments aren’t for everyone. For organisations with limited fundraising capacity they need to sort that out first.

Nor are they a quick fix. It’s taken the Met over a century to build up its endowment.

But the question is if we want to aim high, then shouldn’t our own world class institutions - large and small -  have the world class financial resilience? Is not now the time to start our own - British - endowments century?

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Our plan

**I want to end with three specific announcements that will help make possible this transformation to financial resilience.

I mentioned the Catalyst Arts Fund and Catalyst Heritage Fund earlier, both of them twin pillars of our philanthropy strategy.

I’m now announcing plans for the third pillar: a new Endowment Fund worth £55 million over four years, which should leverage at least £110 million more through match-funding from private donors.

The money forms part of what is now a combined £100 million pledge by my Department, the Arts Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund to boost cultural giving across the UK.

Around fifty grants ranging between five hundred thousand and five million pounds will be on offer through a competitive applications process.
I am delighted to announce that Michael Portillo will chair the judging panel, and will bring his considerable knowledge and skill to the process.

We expect the first winners to be announced early in the new year.**

Autumn summit

**The second announcement is about building knowledge and skills.

As I suggested earlier, I think we are developing a growing reputation for arts fundraising in the UK.

But it’s still an area where we need to draw on the best international practice.

So the Chancellor and I will host a conference this autumn bringing together thinkers, leaders and experts from around the world to enhance and develop our collective expertise.**

National campaign

**Finally later in the year we will launch a new, dedicated national campaign to encourage people to give more to the arts, with a particular focus on legacy giving.

I  hope that together these three measures will help sustain the momentum that’s building across the sector, and support the desire we all share to give the arts a more secure financial base for the future.**


**The brilliant Michael Kaiser told me on his recent, hugely successful trip to the UK, nothing should ever get in the way of producing great art, which is the best fundraising strategy of all.

He is right.

But if we are to continue to do that, we must also learn from the challenges of the last year, notably the importance of financial resilience.

Shakespeare described “the wrackful siege of battering days.” None of us know when those battering days will come again, or indeed what form the siege will take.

All we can do is be ready.

And apply the world-class creativity and imagination of our cultural output to the financial input upon which it depends.


Published 4 July 2011