Funding in the Arts: Borrowing to Pay the Piper Could Be a Better Way

Funding in the Arts: Borrowing to Pay the Piper Could Be a Better Way

funding in the arts - paying the piper

funding in the arts - paying the piperDr Daniel McDiarmid, Principal Consultant at AskRIGHT, reacts to the release of Cathy Hunt’s Paper “Paying the Piper: There has to be a better way” (Currency House). The paper deals with the current changes and challenges facing the arts in Australia, and the need to introduce a new funding framework.


Return of some funding to The Australia Council does not take away from the important task of developing a mature, comprehensive cultural policy in Australia. Cathy Hunt’s paper canvasses the trashing of cultural policy by Queensland and Commonwealth governments, and others, in recent years.

The paper covers many areas but I am primarily interested in how cultural enterprises are funded, and the paper addresses how the total amount of funding might be increased. No one should give up on the need for greater and more coherent government funding, but the paper looks at other ways of growing the total amount available to the arts sector.

The role of philanthropy is discussed, as is the role of new funding models (social and impact investing). I think this puts some important dots on the page but fails to connect them. There is a significant financial opportunity available to social and impact investors who will lend money to arts and cultural organisations to improve their fundraising.

If you accept that philanthropy is elastic and that fundraising done well can raise money at a much higher rate of return that the cost of borrowing, you have to include that it would be worthwhile borrowing money to pay for fundraising.

Investors who want to make money while doing good should lend to arts organisations to fund their fundraising. Foundations that wish to invest their corpus for a good return while having a mission impact should do likewise.

The impediments to this action are not financial but in the lack of readiness of many organisations to grow their fundraising operations. The main reasons are the lack of identified prospects, an inadequate strategy, or a shortage of great fundraisers. All of these can be overcome.

Paying the Piper calls us to action to create a strong and resilient cultural sector and grow the resources available to make this happen. Let’s invest in fundraising to make this happen.

Dr Daniel McDiarmid

Dr Daniel McDiarmid

Principal Consultant at AskRIGHT
Daniel is a highly experienced and innovative fundraising professional with more than 30 years of success raising funds for higher education, research, religious and other organisations in Australia and New Zealand.

To find out how Daniel can help your organisation, contact
Dr Daniel McDiarmid

Latest posts by Dr Daniel McDiarmid (see all)