Half of arts organisations at risk from pandemic income loss, Sheffield university study reveals

More than half of UK arts and cultural venues and organisations believe they are at risk from the decline in income during the pandemic, a new study led by the University of Sheffield shows.

Friday, 28th May 2021, 12:05 am

The study asked how arts and cultural fundraisers were impacted by and managed the pandemic during 2020.

Many artists, organisations and venues rely on fundraising as a significant part of their income, alongside support from patrons, donations, memberships and subscriptions.

The study has highlighted a number of risks which threaten to harm the diversity and richness of the sector due to the impact of the pandemic.

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The iconic Leadmill in Sheffield was one of many entertainment and cultural venues to struggle financially during the pandemic

Almost two-thirds of fundraisers (62 per cent) surveyed expected their organisation’s income to fall during the pandemic, with nearly half (47 per cent) reporting the social restrictions meant many revenue-generating programmes had been postponed.

Key findings of the report:

79 per cent of respondents said fundraising activity overall has decreased

66 per cent of organisations had postponed projects and programmes

Plot 22 on Exchange Street, one of the Sheffield venues that was supported by the #saveourvenues campaign

64 per cent said financial support in 2021 and beyond was very important to the sector’s survival

89 per cent said supporting organisations unable to access emergency funding was important

Reports of increased workload and stress highlighted the concern that if staff welfare issues are not addressed, there will be a a significant loss of talent from the sector.

In Sheffield, the Leadmill and music venues Plot 22 in Exchange Street and Dryad Works in Neepsend had to be supported by the Music Venues Trust’s #SaveOurVenues crowdfunding campaign.

The National Emergency Services Museum also turned to crowdfunding, raising more than £11,000.

Dr Marta Herrero, from the University of Sheffield’s Management School, led the study. She said: “Closures of venues and cancelled events left a gaping hole in the finances of many in the sector, with fundraisers having to quickly find new and flexible ways to raise money in an accessible way to ensure the survival of their organisation.”

The research found arts and cultural fundraisers adapting their fundraising.

In total, 55 per cent said new approaches to digital offers for members and supporters had met or exceeded their expectations. Many said that having the digital infrastructure to hold events online broadened their audiences.

The study authors are calling on the Government to provide substantial support in the hope that the findings will be able to inform policy on how best to allocate financial resources as some smaller or independent organisations are falling between the gaps of emergency support available.

Dr Herrero said: “So many of us interact with and benefit from arts, cultural and heritage organisations regularly, such as museums, live music venues, visiting sites of historical interest or even attending events and activities run by community groups.

“But a significant number of fundraisers report that the sector needs continued financial support, and for furlough and recovery fund schemes to be accessible for all to ensure its survival in the medium and long term.

“Whilst resilience and innovation continue to be key skills characteristic of the fundraising profession in the face of prolonged funding cuts, only with this kind of support will they be able to safeguard the richness of our cultural life here in the UK and create a sustainable sector akin to pre-Covid levels.”

The study also involved the University of Kent and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising.