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Arts Sponsorship survives crisis

AUSTRALIA'S arts companies have hung on to their corporate and private sponsors during the lean times over the past two years, although individual donations appear to be shrinking.

Two different surveys of Australian arts sponsorship were released yesterday, and while some of their findings contradict each other, they both indicate that big business still wants to support the arts.

The Australian Business Arts Foundation has tracked more than 700 small and medium-sized arts organisations, major galleries, festivals and major performing arts.

Its survey found that sponsorship, which had been predicted to fall, rose almost 2 per cent to $100.7 million. Private donations rose to $111.4 million, an increase of 6 per cent.

The Australian Major Performing Arts Group, which tracks changes in corporate sponsorship and private donations, also released its survey yesterday.

It found that overall earnings from these areas fell slightly in 2009. But corporate sponsorship rose 1.8 per cent, with dance companies being the main beneficiaries.

The AMPAG is an umbrella group for the 28 major performing arts companies in Australia, including the main state-based symphonies, theatre, opera and dance companies, plus national companies such as Musica Viva, the Australian Ballet, Opera Australia, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Circus Oz.

Its survey found that earnings from sponsorship, private donations and fund-raising events declined by $100,000, or 0.3 per cent, in 2009.

Donations dropped in value in Victoria, where total private funding fell by $1.3 million. NSW fared better in comparison, recording an increase of $660,000 in private funding compared with 2008. Corporate sponsorship earnings stabilised although they have not returned to the levels reported in 2005.

Longer-term, both surveys show that private giving has soared in the past decade. According to ABAF, overall private support has risen by 90 per cent since 2001-02. The AMPAG survey says philanthropic giving for its members has risen by 157.3 per cent since 2001.

The executive director of the Australian Major Performing Arts Group, Sue Donnelly, said the financial downturn had hit the value of donations rather than the number of donors.

''In some instances the companies were getting more donors but they were getting less money,'' she said.

''The coming year will be interesting in terms of sponsorship - some companies will be looking at renewing sponsorship, so it will depend on how the corporates have fared. But by and large, corporate support for the arts has been maintained.''

Clare Morgan
The Age
July 1, 2010