Investment or indulgence?

Post #3: Claire considers the value of the arts to business – and gives you the chance to win £1,000 for a deserving artistic cause

The subject of this blog was suggested by Helen Gaffney of Achates Philanthropy, who won the Falcon Windsor party blogspot prize draw.

The timing of this blog coincides with the launch of the Achates Philanthropy Corporate Philanthropy Prize that celebrates first-time giving by a business to the arts, which sits alongside the Achates Individual Philanthropy Prize. The £5,000 prize in each case goes to the arts organisation and is irrespective of the size of the business donation.

However this blog is entirely independent and represents the views of Falcon Windsor – even though those views unsurprisingly coincide to a significant degree with those of Achates! And here’s my plug for the Achates team: they do incredibly valuable work helping arts organisations find funding. If you’re thinking of donating to the arts and want to make sure your donation will make a difference, Achates would be only too happy to help –

Imagine a world with no films, dance, painting, concerts, sculpture, poetry, novels, plays, musicals… pretty grim, isn’t it? And I bet if you asked pretty much anyone in our society whether they’d prefer a world like that, they’d say no. After all, the endeavours we loosely call ‘the arts’ have been part of what makes us human since the Garden of Eden (a rather beautiful artistic concept in itself, if you think about it, and one that has inspired masterpieces across the artistic spectrum).

Now hang on a minute, I hear you ask – this is supposed to be a corporate reporting blog. What’s this got to do with reporting?

Where arts and reporting meet

The obvious place that the arts and reporting meet is money. If the arts appear in annual reports at all, you’ll tend to find them in the sustainability or corporate responsibility section, usually if a company has, for example, made a donation to a local arts organisation, or supported volunteering with kids in an artistic space. And many companies do support the arts in some way – if, that is, they can make it fit with their sustainability strategy or their corporate purpose.

Because of course today, in corporate terms, it’s all about value. What value is the company getting from its investment? What ‘impact’ is this investment having? How can the company be involved in a way that isn’t just about giving a donation? Giving is no longer giving without thought of return (to some degree corporate giving never was, although old-style philanthropy, when the Chairman sponsored his wife’s favourite opera company or art gallery, had a different concept of return). In simplistic terms, there has to be a measurable return or it can’t be justified to shareholders…. or so the argument goes.

How do you measure the value of a donation to the arts?

I wholeheartedly support the principle that money should be spent wisely to make a difference – but how do you measure the return on investment or the ‘impact’ of something like a donation to a theatre? Or a dance group? Or sponsorship of a budding poet? In some areas the arts have succeeded in meeting the measurement criteria – think of the brand recognition companies get from supporting big names like the National Portrait Gallery or the ENO. But for smaller, less visible arts organisations – of which there are thousands – it can be a harder sell, and many companies tie themselves in knots trying to answer this kind of question. People know it’s worthwhile to fund their local acrobatic troupe (just think of their kids clamouring for the free tickets) but find it very hard to prove it in a way that reporting demands. How do you measure the good that comes from, for example, bringing people together to enjoy a pantomime?

Why should companies get involved?

To look at it from another angle, why should companies give money to the arts at all? Isn’t that something for the state or the individual to do? To me it’s straightforward: business has money; the arts need money. The state can’t do it all – it has other things to fund. And if the arts were available only to those who could afford to pay, then much of their richness (no pun intended) would be lost.

If business is genuinely about creating value for society and not just making a profit – as most annual reports claim these days – then come on, create some value. What might be considered a rounding error in a global company’s annual report could make all the difference to, for example, the flowering of a new art form – or indeed just the simple pleasure that various forms of the arts bring to millions of people every day. And what of demonstrating the value? To take another popular reporting term, think about the negative value of a society without the arts.

And what will the shareholders say about how you’re spending their money? Well, shareholders are people too. Ask them to imagine that world for themselves.


I never ask people to do things I’m not prepared to do myself, so I duly consulted FW’s shareholders* who have, as a body, decided to make a £1,000 donation (with no measurable return to FW) to an artistic cause suggested by one of our blog readers. The only condition is that the cause is a registered charity. Please make your suggestion by posting it in the comments box – the winner will be chosen by FW’s shareholders and announced with the publication of the May blog.


* In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that the shareholding body comprises one C. Bodanis!


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15 comments on “Investment or indulgence?

  1. Eleanor Cowe on

    What a fabulous blog!

    I nominate my son’s school Woodlands School Leatherhead which is a special needs school covering from pre school to 19 years old. 95% of the pupils are non verbal and one way to get them to have any interaction is through music therapy. The school is currently fundraising for this area to continue as it is not government funded but the results are just mind blowing. To see children who seem to not be able to leave that safe world to communicate through music is the most wonderful and magical thing I have ever seen. And I know that everyone nominated is just such an amazing cause I would be so happy if this won. Registered Charity Number: 1156371

  2. Alyson Frazier on

    This blog post was brought to my attention by one of Play for Progress’ integral team members, Alice. Together, we HEARTILY nominate Play for Progress.

    Play for Progress (PFP) is a London-based charity that delivers therapeutic and educational music programmes for children who are impacted by conflict, to help them to engage with, learn through, and explore their capabilities in music. Our local #MakeSomeNoise programme for unaccompanied teen refugees seeking asylum in the UK guarantees that these vulnerable young people can rely on a close-knit community of allies who use music as a tool for social change, expression, team building, and personal development. Every student enrolled in our programme is given access to a curriculum of music workshops, instrumental lessons, performance opportunities, and group outings. It is through this programme and other efforts that we are actively working to strengthen the connections within and appreciation of our diverse global community. Encouraging Children, Enabling Leaders.

    From our homepage:
    Children caught in war and violence are traumatised. Their education is interrupted or non-existent, and
    they don’t have the resources to participate in creative activities that are vital to healthy emotional and
    intellectual growth. Play for Progress (PFP) is a not-for-profit organisation that delivers therapeutic and educational music programmes for children who are victims of conflict and war.

    Abroad, we work with pre-existing NGOs and child protection services in areas of recent conflict to provide therapeutic and educational music programmes within safe spaces for vulnerable children. Locally, we run the ‘Make Some Noise’ programme in partnership with the National Orchestra for All and the Refugee Council UK’s Children’s Section in Croydon for the hundreds of unaccompanied minor refugees who have reached the UK.

    Founded by classical flautist Alyson Frazier and medical doctor, Anna MacDonald, PFP strives to provide traumatized children with examples of how to lead and be a positive force within communities facing difficulties. It is becoming increasingly vital that this vastly connected and swiftly globalizing world needs more points of connection among its diverse communities. Children who come into this world’s current climate of violence, political discord, and misunderstandings will ‘learn’ that this is the norm.

    There is nothing more dangerous than leaving the youngest generation of the Earth without hope and positive examples to reinforce the importance of the self and of connecting with others. We cannot leave these young people to fend for themselves while politics delay and policies fight through bureaucracy. These children need our help now, and it is through community-building projects like ours that we can effect change and work towards a more peaceful, diverse, and welcoming tomorrow.

  3. Michaela Clayton on

    What an amazing idea!

    I would like to nominate Cardboard Citizens ( – a professional theatre company working to raise public awareness of homelessness. Based in Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets, Cardboard Citizens is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary and aims to transform the lives of people affected by or at-risk of homelessness through theatre and the arts.

    The charity reaches more than 1,400 homeless and vulnerable people each year with workshops, performances, education and training, supporting them to gain the confidence, skills and qualifications they need to move away from homelessness into employment, further education or training. This work is reinforced by ongoing one-to-one support, addressing the issues in their lives that may be stopping their progression or putting them at risk. To date, Cardboard Citizens have reached more than 33,000 people affected by homelessness!

  4. Ruth on

    Really excellent blog, thank you!

    I’d like to nominate a small but mighty performing arts charity – The National Youth Arts Trust.

    The charity helps disadvantaged young people and those from low income backgrounds to access, train and succeed in the arts.

    The Trust’s main aim is to ensure that talented young people are not at risk of being excluded from training in the arts because of lack of money.

    The Trust provides bursaries for music lessons, dance classes and drama school (recall) audition and tuition fees to young people aged between 7 and 25 who cannot afford to fund themselves. The Trust also sets up and runs youth theatre projects in areas where there is little or zero arts provision, including work with young offenders, and runs theatre trips for school children who have never or rarely visit a theatre.

    A £1,000 donation could pay for a young musician’s lessons, instrument hire, and ensemble membership for over a year!

    Registered charity no. 1152367

    Thanks for reading 🙂

  5. John Simmons on

    I’d like to nominate Mountview – drama school currently based in Wood Green (north London) and next year moving to Peckham. They’re up against the big posh names from RADA, Central, Guildhall and Lamda but they do a fantastic job in making dramatic training available to the widest range of young people (including Saturday clubs for the really young).

  6. Heidi Goldsmith on

    I nominate the amazing charity Beyond Skin who are using the Arts to build peace between the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland. Their work involves groundbreaking workshops with youth groups and adults, helping them to develop confidence in themselves and their culture, and through building this they bring celebratory events to prestigious and unexpected spaces around Belfast and Northern Ireland. This may mean that traditional music from one community – which is never featured at the other community’s events – is performed and celebrated. Or it may involve bringing music and dance from around the world and bringing it to communities who have little access to it, allowing them to learn and engage with a completely new sound or culture. Beyond Skin are currently profoundly contributing to lasting peace in Northern Ireland and would, I’m sure, hugely benefit from the funding.

  7. Annie King on

    What an amazing opportunity!

    I would like to nominate the Teapot Trust.

    The Teapot Trust is a UK charity providing a nationwide art therapy and creative interventions programme for chronically ill children in hospitals and hospices. Our work aims to build resilience in children with chronic illness by encouraging them to express emotions, mentally overcome the challenges linked to their condition and develop healthy coping mechanisms. We aim to make hospitals less daunting for children and their families by providing art therapy, giving a more positive experience of visiting hospitals.

    Parents and carers have told us that they have seen the benefits almost immediately. The parent of a child participating in our open group therapy told us- “My daughter was very upset when she arrived at hospital but as soon as she saw the painting, she calmed down and immediately joined in. The girls were extremely kind and encouraging to her and what had been a horrible experience for her was transformed into fun. This also made the procedures later much more straightforward. This is an excellent service and I do hope it continues.”

    Your donation will help more children benefit from this wonderful service.

  8. Hannah Preston on

    What a wonderful donation! I would like to nominate Big House Theatre in East London They work with young people who have been through the care system and need a little extra help with the transition. They build confidence and skills using theatre, giving them a platform to get their voices heard, and feeling like they matter within their community. As well as putting on productions they work with mentors along the way to provide life skills and ensure that they live up to their potential. The testimonials on the site speak for themselves

  9. Angela Royal on

    I would like to nominate KidsArtRoom. Creative thinking Art lessons based in South London, Clapham, Wimbledon, Croydon, Sutton and Purley area. Their aim is arm children with whole range of artistic techniques so they can express themselves artistically. Creativity is the most powerful tool to achieve this along with building their confidence and teaching them to be aware of what’s going on in the World. KidsArtRoom believe children can grow in solidarity by selling their artwork for fundraising. They organise this by exposing their Artwork to the most cool and dynamic Art galleries via social media and their own website always trying to reach exposure on an international level. Funds are donated to the children’s chosen charity or their local hospital, school. A very worthy company of winning the prize fund.

  10. Lisa on

    I’d like to nominate Arts Emergency who support less privileged aspiring artists/writers and more with intensive goal focused mentoring at 16 years of age and real networks and opportunity right up to 24. Amazing cause, nothing like it anywhere else really.

  11. Helen Gaffney on

    Dear Claire,

    I’m so pleased to have won this guest blog – thank you so much for your wonderful thoughts and insight on a topic close to my heart – but thank you mostly for your inspired donation.

    I’d like to nominate Ministry of Stories (charity reg: 1138553) for your sponsorship, an incredible organisation in East London which provides writing and mentoring space for young people aged 8 – 18 under the guise of Hoxton Street Monster Supplies. Ministry of Stories was inspired by the ever-wonderful Dave Eggers and his 826 Valencia project in San Francisco’s Mission District, an inspirational community space for young writers. The network of writing centres ‘hide’ behind engaging commercial activity to help fund their work but literature has a tough time raising funds and despite this smart, innovative model Ministry of Stories requires additional support to continue developing confidence, self-respect and communication skills with young people.

  12. Clare Weatherill on

    What a fantastic way to ‘give back’, thank you. I would like to nominate The Penny Parks Charitable Trust which supports disadvantaged children and their families and particularly offers support in times of trauma and crisis. Penny Parks has been running a Dance school for 40 years and provides tuition for children from age 2.5. Miss Penny believes Dance and Performing Arts should be fun, helping children to gain confidence and make new friends – many of which become lifelong friends at classes. All children should have the chance to dance, and of course dance develops healthy bodies including a strong core, strong legs and feet and good posture. The registered Charity Number is 1090779.

  13. Dagmar Walz on

    Thank you very much indeed! I’d like to nominate:
    New Diorama Theatre, Camden, Registered Charity No 278795
    NDT do fantastic work on stage, supporting upcoming new theatre companies, and engaging the local community. Don’t take it from me, here’s Heather Johnson, Local Councillor and twice Mayor of Camden: “New Diorama Theatre is a fantastic resource for the entire local community. In addition to bringing award-winning productions to our doorstep, it offers extensive opportunities for local people of all ages and nationalities to explore their creativity and provides a creative hub around which the whole community can come together. I continue to be delighted and inspired by the outreach work the theatre team does.”

  14. Kate Jeeves on

    Enjoyed reading the blog – thank you for the opportunity! I would like to nominate: Leeds Theatre Trust (West Yorkshire Playhouse) Registered Charity: 255460

    West Yorkshire Playhouse is a vital theatre. We are a creative hub for the city of Leeds and beyond, a place where people and communities come to tell and share stories; to experience world class theatre that is pioneering, invigorating and relevant. We are dedicated collaborators seeking out the best companies and individual artists locally, nationally and internationally to create inspirational theatre here in Leeds at the heart of Yorkshire.


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