Philanthropy in the USA — 31.07.10

Arts Foundation Executive Director, Simon Bowden, heads to the USA to discover the secret to a healthy culture of giving to the arts.

Arts Foundation Executive Director, Simon Bowden, has been invited to the United States of America by the American Embassy in Wellington on an International Visitor Programme. The purpose is to study arts and philanthropy and is being funded by the State Department.

Philanthropy is a hot topic in New Zealand at the moment. The Minister for Arts Culture and Heritage, the Hon Chris Finlayson, has established a task force to investigate how private giving can be improved for the arts, Creative New Zealand and the Ministry of Arts Culture and Heritage have also commissioned research on the subject.

Meanwhile the Arts Foundation, which was established to boost private support for the arts, has just turned ten years old. The Foundation accepts donations and legacies to help grow its permanent endowment fund so that it can give financial awards to artists from interest earned. It also assists patrons who would like to personalise their giving to ensure their gift is effective. With $6 million invested, $3 million donated to artists and up to $15 million expected in legacies, the Foundation is off to a good start.

The United States is the envy of the world when it comes to private support for the arts. Multi-million dollar donations are common. The boards of arts organisations are filled with the names of extraordinary people who have the resources to make amazing things happen.

In New Zealand Chris Finlayson says we need a cultural change to establish philanthropic support for the arts as a common occurrence. He is asking what we can do to encourage New Zealanders to give more, and also, how arts organisations can get better at stating their case for support.

We all want to know what we can learn from the United States to improve giving to the arts in New Zealand. This is despite the major cultural differences between our countries and wealth the in America, which is unimaginable to most of the four million people living here.

Simon is travelling to Washington DC, New York, Kalamazoo in Michigan, Portland in Oregon and Los Angeles. He is meeting with major cultural institutions, venues, arts festivals, specialist agencies that work with artists and one or two online arts fundraising innovators. It is a trip of a lifetime! Subject to the technology working, Simon intends to post regular videos while on his trip so we can all share what he learns. The first 'video log' below was taken before he left with Bryna Dekkers (left) and Angela Busby (right) from the Arts Foundation.

Simon says "I realise we will never have the wealth in New Zealand to match giving in the United States, but I know we can match the enthusiasm and generous spirit of the givers over there. We already have hundreds of committed patrons at the Arts Foundation, but we know there are many more people with the potential to give. I'm looking forward to sharing what I learn with those that support and work in the arts and I am very grateful to the American government for giving me the opportunity".