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Catalyst Arts funding living up to its name as major donations are announced

Catalyst Arts funding living up to its name as major donations are announced

News (UK)

Two major donations prompted by the Catalyst Arts programme, designed to help organisations get more money from private sources in the face of swingeing cuts in statutory funding to arts organisations, have been announced along with other fundraising successes in the sector this month.

American philanthropist Aileen Getty pledged £200,000 per annum for the next three years to London-based Circus Space to go towards core running costs. This follows the award of Catalyst funding towards increasing fundraising capacity at the UK’s national centre for circus arts.

Known for her work in the struggle against HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, mental illness and homelessness, Getty explained her latest decision: “One may question the importance of supporting the circus arts when basic needs in our cities are so great and not being met. I have thought deeply about this over the years and believe you cannot underestimate the value of keeping wonder alive. Wonder keeps our sprits joyous and resilient.”

Even before Getty’s donation Circus Space had already achieved unexpected fundraising success. Jane Rice-Bowen, joint chief executive of Circus Space, told Philanthropy Impact: "Catalyst funding really did act as a catalyst for us. We went in low and didn’t apply for the full amount because we weren’t sure how much we could raise from a standing start, but we have raised ten times more than our target in the first year, even before Aileen’s donation.”

Meanwhile the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate was given £530,000 ahead of its second birthday on 16th April. This kick-starts the gallery’s Catalyst Endowment campaign which aims to raise £1m from private donors to benefit from £1m in match funding from Catalyst.

The donation comes from Goldman Sachs Gives, a donor-advised fund run by the investment bank, at the recommendation of Margate born Peter Selman, now co-head of American Equities Trading and Global Equity Derivatives Trading at Goldman Sachs in New York.

Selman said: “I was aware of Turner Contemporary before it opened and once it launched I visited and was determined to give it any support I could. It has been transformative for the town of Margate. I hope this gift from Goldman Sachs Gives contributes to the long term security of the gallery and will be the catalyst for many other gifts in future.”

Also this month, the Lyric theatre in Hammersmith, which does not receive Catalyst funding, announced that the Reuben Foundation will become a major funder of their current £16.5m capital development project to build a new space to increase its education and community work.

A new extension to the building will be named ‘The Reuben Foundation Wing’ in recognition of the grant.

Their contribution, which leaves £500,000 remaining of the Lyric’s target, is core to the theatre’s plans to benefit young Londoners through the building expansion. The project will give the theatre its first major facelift in 30 years and add a range of facilities.

Nearby, in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, the Bush Theatre completed a £700,000 capital project in 2011, funds for which were entirely raised from private donations.  The campaign enabled the theatre to move to the former Passmore Edwards Public Library on the Uxbridge Road, creating a larger and more flexible space for the Bush.

The move necessitates a new fundraising strategy and comes with its own challenges, particularly for an organisation that receives just one quarter of its funding from Arts Council England. But it is proving a success story.

Melanie Aram, development director at the Bush, says: “People expect more from a bigger and better space. We must meet the challenges of running a bigger business operation whilst new income streams take time to mature.  Our ask to philanthropists now is to join us on this journey - the story must continue between big capital fundraising drives.”

Catalyst funding helps: the Bush receives capacity building support from the programme which has been invested in a new database, prospect research and other materials to boost the theatre’s fundraising scheme.

“Engaging people to support capacity building means you get a lot closer to potential philanthropists,” Aram says: “You need to (invite)them into the organisations present and future narrative. It’s challenging and rewarding.”

Every part of organisation must be involved in the process to be successful, and none more-so than the artistic team. Output is key to that narrative. The Bush’s new season includes Pulitzer prize-winning play Disgraced, as well as actor Rory Kinnear’s first play. Early signs suggest they have captured the public imagination.

The move has also created new space that will be used to formalise and extend education work. It has also enabled the theatre to create a new funding stream through a café bar. Both augment the Bush’s position within the local community.

“There is a lot of good will towards arts organisations,” Aram says: “But we’re in an environment where perceived essential services are closing. We still need to fundraise to survive and thrive and don’t want to be seen as a sink hole.”

In bold new projects that help reinvigorate their communities, all these organisations can show potential supporters that they don’t fall into that trap. As Aileen Getty says: “You cannot underestimate the value of keeping wonder alive. Wonder keeps our sprits joyous and resilient.”

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