U.K. Government Encourages Museums to Increase Fundraising But Withholds Their Donations

November 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Challenges continue to abound for U.K. arts organizations dealing with significant budget cuts and changing their philanthropic culture. As previous blog posts mentioned, British arts organizations are feeling the pressure to increase their donations (doing so in a culture not as accustomed to fundraising as in the U.S.) as the government has made a 15% cut to national museums and a 30% cut to the Arts Council of England over the next four years. This is troubling for arts organizations, and for the nation’s museums, the frustrations with the government don’t stop here.

A few years ago, the Treasury implemented new restrictions that put spending limits on the reserves of all government-funded bodies. Unfortunately, this caused museums’ reserves to be put under these restrictions even though they contained donations and bequests – their own money that they can’t fully access.

Now the museums must jump through hoops with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in order to get approval to use these funds. As a result, several capital projects have been delayed and museums worry that this could impact donors’ perceptions at a time when they need to rely on philanthropy more than ever. Since the restrictions have been put in place, museums have started putting donors’ gifts in different charitable accounts that they can access. But for prior donors, their funds may not be able to be used in the way that they originally intended. I personally would be upset knowing that an organization I supported could not use the money I specifically gave them without first getting government approval.

Although the Treasury has approved changes allowing museums to access up to half of their reserves (the total reserves are about $461 million U.S.), it remains to be seen how easily this will happen and how it will affect future fundraising.

“Treasury withholds museum donations”



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