The importance of philanthropy - creating a culture of giving

IN BRITAIN we're used to the state having a major role in funding the arts. However, as we know all too well, pressure on government and local authority bdugets has sharpened the need for arts organisations to look elsewhere for the financial support they need to allow them to continue the vital work they do.

John Tusa, the influential arts administator and journalist, puts the argument for the arts - and by extension the importance of philanthropy - far more eloquently than I can. He says, "The arts matter because they are local and relevant to the needs and wishes of local people. They offer a way of expressing ideas and wishes that ordinary politics do not allow.

"The arts regenerate the run down and rehabilitate the neglected. Arts buildings lift the spirits, create symbols that people identify with, and give identity to places that may not have one. The arts teach the young how to create, inspire the imagination, and believe in their own potential. Where the arts start, jobs follow, jobs which are individualistic, independent, and forward looking. Anywhere that neglects the arts, shortchanges his people."

Without the full spectrum of philanthropic giving by individuals and family trusts and foundations, through to corporate sponsorship, many cultural organisations simply wouldn't exist. For all of us who care about the arts here in Aberdeen, corporate contributions and private philanthropy are vital to the vibrant future of our city and region.

The arts can be a transforming force in the fortunes of any city or region. Arts venues, galleries and museums along with the collections and activities they contain are powerful catalysts for change - witness the outstanding success of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, the buzz around the creation of the V&A Dundee, and of course, the anticipation of the reopening of our own revitalised Aberdeen Art Gallery, Cowdray Hall and Remembrance Hall complex.

Donors give out of a deep sense of community and affiliation. It is my view that everyone who visits and gains something out of our magnificent cultural institutions should be encouraged to give something back. Philanthropy should be part of our DNA. In this country we give £6 per head to culture. In the US, it's nearly £37. We may be a far cry from the US model, but we do need to achieve a balance between public funding and private philanthropy.

Here in the North-east we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to support a major transformational project for our area. By rejuvenating and improving three much-loved buildings, the Inspiring Art and Music redevelopment of Aberdeen Art Gallery, Cowdray Hall and Remembrance Hall is creating a world class cultural centre, celebrating art and music at the heart of civic life.

The overall project cost is £30m. We have secured funding of £10m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £10m from Aberdeen City Council. As I write, our fundraising team has secured over £3m including a recent donation of over £250,000 from the Marguerite McBey Trust and is actively and enthusiastically working towards the gap.

Every individual and organisation in the region will reap rewards from this ambitious project which is making Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire an even better place in which to live, work, study, visit and invest. Philanthropy will play a vital part in achieving that vision - I urge you to start your philanthropic journey today.

Donate today! Discover how you or your company can support the Inspiring Art and Music fundraising campaign, call Michael Hodgson, campaign manager, on 01224 523719 or email