Against a backdrop of declining public funding of the arts in the UK, the Achates Philanthropy Prize was established to celebrate and encourage the next generation of arts philanthropists.
In 2016, cultural organisations were invited to nominate an outstanding individual or trust who had given philanthropically to the arts for the first time in the preceding 12 months and at any level of giving.
The inaugural winners were Nigel Farnall, who runs a landscaping business and had not been to the theatre for 25 years, and his partner Angelica Puscasu. A brochure for that came with their 2012 London Olympics tickets inspired Nigel and Angelica to book tickets to a performance at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. Within a few months they’d been four times, and now they never miss a show or event.
Describing it as a “magical place” on BBC radio, Farnall donated £2,000 through a “Name a Seat” campaign to help refurbish the auditorium, and another £1,000 to become a Vision Collective patron, which brings donors closer to the life of the theatre.
After their win, the couple said they had never thought of themselves as philanthropists but just wanted to support an organisation and community they felt passionate about.
Farnall and Puscasu became the custodians of a sculpture by renowned British artist Peter Brooke-Ball, which will be passed onto the 2017 winner, and Theatre Royal Stratford East received £5,000, which was used to fund workshops for teenagers to build their confidence.
This year a Corporate Philanthropy Prize, for a company of any size that has supported the arts for the first time and also with a £5,000 prize, was added at the suggestion of Farnall.
The shortlist for 2017 includes nine first-time philanthropists (including three inspired by the generosity of Sir Ian McKellen) and six new corporate partnerships, with their contributions ranging from financial support, to experience and skill-sharing, to network growth and positive advocacy.
Ahead of the Prize Ceremony on 27 November, Caroline McCormick, founder of Achates Philanthropy and Chair of the Achates Philanthropy Foundation, tells the story behind the Prize.
The Achates Philanthropy Prize was established in 2016 as a result of my work as a fundraising consultant and, in particular, two key experiences. One was acting as lead advisor on the National Theatre’s NT Future Campaign and the realisation this and parallel projects brought that the models employed by a limited number of major cultural institutions simply are not replicable by the majority of small to medium-sized organisations. The other was acting as lead philanthropy advisor, alongside BOP Consulting, to the evaluation of Arts Council England’s Catalyst and now Catalyst Evolve programmes, which aim to help arts organisations build the capacity and ability to fundraise.
The Achates Philanthropy Prize was created to achieve three key aims:
- To raise awareness of the arts as charitable organisations that need philanthropic support.
- To promote the idea that anyone can be an arts philanthropist.
- And to celebrate the pleasure that being an arts philanthropist can bring.
The evidence from the extensive research published in annual reports highlights the need for greater public understanding of the arts as charities that need philanthropic support and the need to challenge the idea that arts philanthropy is the preserve of the few.
While carrying out this research, it became clear that the (then) Department for Culture Media and Sport views these challenges as the responsibility of the individual organisations to address. Given that this is an extremely challenging case for the individual organisations to make, particularly at a time of austerity, this led me to develop the Prize as a form of public campaign to support change by sharing and celebrating the stories of individuals from all walks of life who are supporting the arts for the first time.
The shortlist for the 2016 Achates Philanthropy Prize included: the RSC, the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, Northern Ballet, Turner Contemporary, Theatre Royal Stratford East, and The Yard Theatre.
The Prize was ultimately awarded to Theatre Royal Stratford East and their nominated philanthropist, Nigel Farnell. The story of Nigel’s journey to becoming an arts philanthropist after many years of not engaging in culture, which he shared on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row programme amongst other media, has inspired many arts organisations to think of ways they can engage new philanthropists.
In 2017, we have been fortunate enough not only to retain our major sponsor, Achates Philanthropy Ltd, but also to have secured the support of two first-time arts sponsors; the cultural consultancy firm BOP Consulting, and the ticketing agency, Spektrix. This has enabled us to offer two Prizes in our second year. The existing Prize for individual philanthropy and a new Prize for first time corporate supporters of the arts. This is particularly important as corporate support for the arts declined by a third between 2012 and 2016. Both Prizes include a £5,000 donation to the winning organisation and custody of the Prize sculpture for a year for the winning individual or business.
The Delfina Foundation are joining us as in-kind sponsors by hosting a drinks reception at which the 2017 Achates Philanthropy Prize will be awarded by eminent arts philanthropist, Omar Al-Qattan of the A. M. Qattan Foundation, on Monday 27th November.
We have also secured a number of esteemed judges for the 2017 Prize including broadcasters John Wilson and Razia Iqbal, and we are delighted that our 2016 Individual Philanthropy Prize winner, Nigel Farnell, also joined the panel.
The Prize undoubtedly represents a tiny proportion of the energy and investment that is needed to change attitudes to cultural philanthropy, which currently accounts for less that 1% of all UK philanthropy with more than 60% of that going to the 50 largest institutions. However, the Trustees have established a clear framework for measurable change by the end of our current commitment to the Prize in 2019. This includes strongly establishing the Prize within the sector in 2017, starting to specifically target key audiences in 2018, and embedding the Prize nationally in 2019 through a lobbying and advocacy campaign and key activities such as a touring exhibition telling the stories of emerging arts philanthropists.
It is of course clear that the current rate of growth in cultural philanthropy, as detailed in data from Arts Council England, is not growing at a rate that will entirely fill the gap left by reductions in state subsidies, and that most cultural organisations will need diverse income streams to meet their financial needs. However, the Trustees of the Achates Philanthropy Foundation believe that voluntary income can play a vital role as part of this mix with appropriate awareness raising and investment.
Caroline McCormick founded Achates Philanthropy in 2014. Prior to that she led the successful £65 million capital campaign to create the Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum, and was the first director of PEN International. Her first consultancy client was Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Professor Wangari Maathai, followed by the Old Vic.
The 2017 Achates Philanthropy Prize is sponsored by Achates Philanthropy Ltd, BOP Consulting and Spektrix, and supported by Delfina Foundation and studio. The Prize is a project of the Achates Philanthropy Foundation, which was created in 2016 to support innovation in the cultural sector and the development of models enabling organisational resilience.
Here is the shortlist for the 2017 Achates Philanthropy Prize. They are an inspiring group from all walks of life so check them out!