A few weeks ago, a community arts centre in Sandwell, the Public, was given notice by the local council that it will not receive a funding extension and will have to cease its activities at the end of November. The centre’s fans are outraged, with almost 200,000 of its annual visitors coming from the local community, which numbers just over 300,000 in total. The council has cited annual costs of £1.6m, which it can no longer afford in light of £100 million worth of cuts. As Councillor Darren Cooper explains: ‘In the face of the cuts…from central government, this can’t carry on.’ But if this subsidy is divided by the total number of visitors, it costs a mere £4 per person, which seems little for the value it brings. There are strong arguments on both sides that never end in a simple calculation.
We at NPC like the arts. In 2011, we reviewed three arts charities in the criminal justice sector (Clean Break, Only Connect and Unitas) and found that the potential impact they could have on target beneficiaries exceeded several times the original investment. We have continued to work with other arts charities and funders helping them with impact assessment. And this summer, NPC proudly became part of the Cultural Commissioning Programme, which aims to help arts and cultural organisations to engage in public sector commissioning. The programme will provide a range of activities and advice to arts and cultural organisations, whilst promoting greater awareness amongst public service commissioners of the potential for arts and cultural organisations to deliver their outcomes. Our goal is to help organisations such as the Public to be better strategically placed to secure and retain public funding. The programme is funded by Arts Council England and delivered by NCVO, in partnership with NPC (New Philanthropy Capital), nef (New Economics Foundation) and Mission, Models, Money.
During the first six months of the programme, NPC is undertaking a scoping study. We have launched a survey to identify areas where the interests of arts and cultural organisations align with those of commissioners, and where there are opportunities to strengthen and broker these relationships. If you are a UK-based non-profit organisation and use the arts for at least one type of your activities, we would love you to participate. There is a prize draw as well. Click here to go directly to the survey.