Philanthropy and the Arts

Jennifer Radbourne and Kenneth Watkins
Books, Music Business
Melbourne: Melbourne University Press 2015 228 pages
ISBN 9780522868708
Reviewed by , February 1st, 2016

A collaboration between an experienced fundraiser and an arts management academic, Philanthropy and the Arts promises to unpack the secrets of new philanthropy. It does this, though it’s not an easy journey.

In part this is due to the book’s unusual perspective. It embeds a very narrow focus on the successful fundraising approach taken by just one arts organization, The Australian Ballet, within the strongly “jargonized” perspective of this new philanthropy environment.

Jennifer Radbourne

Jennifer Radbourne

The new philanthropy shifts the fundraising approach beyond donations to a process concerned with the values held by donors, benefactors and philanthropic leaders. When these values align with an organisation’s objectives, it can bring great rewards. Over the past 21 years, author Kenneth Watkins raised $80 million for The Australian Ballet. Watkins found donors looking for stronger connections with the Ballet and prepared to give significant amounts to gain access to deeper levels of engagement. Some even joined the Ballet on international tours to see the benefits of their gifts. While the case study has application across the music and non-profit sector more broadly, clearly few organizations have the history and supporter base to realize this level of success.

Although the book is heavy with jargon, I found this useful in helping to decode the language of new philanthropy. It helps distinguish between pipelining and stewarding, the difference between suggested giving, planned giving and annual giving and explains what moves management means. Values cultivation is not simply about understanding the needs and values of donors, it involves cultivation and solicitation, and the experience of attending a performance. The process is deepened through pre-show information, newsletters, meetings with artists, social events, publications, conversations with administrators and directors, and the favourable media.

Kenneth Watkins

Kenneth Watkins

The authors believe there are five platforms that facilitate a positive environment for philanthropy: vision, strategy, financial management, governance and accountability, and sustainability. We learn that the ‘new’ sophisticated, values-driven donor is attracted to this leadership behaviour. These donors are prepared to be ‘cultivated’ and build a relationship with a Director of Philanthropy who demonstrates passion, adaptability, trust, confidence, care, sound judgement and strong networks. They want the organization they support to embody stable and strategic management, capable financial planning, vision, values, excellence and hard work. They want to know who is on the Board of Directors and how the Board understands philanthropy and stakeholder value. And they want the company to be held in high esteem by artists, audiences, governments and business.

The donor-led social exchange model of giving described in Philanthropy and the Arts has brought substantial rewards for The Australian Ballet in a way that met organisational and donor objectives. The approach bring risks as well. Without clear objectives, organisations risk being reshaped by the values of those most able to support their work, a new dependency that could result in unintended changes to the artistic direction of the organization.


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