Arts, Culture and Philanthropy for Social Change

Art, culture and philanthropy can and should be drivers of social change. Social Change School has started a new collaboration with Cultural Philanthropy, chaired by Giampiero Giacomel, to reach important objectives: 

  • educating citizenship to artistic beauty, which becomes active part in respecting and promoting arts and culture
  • promoting a new concept of fundraising, not only built on the idea of raising funds, but also on Cultural Philanthropy, which is based on human relationships able to generate economic value through donations
  • the following actuation of a “High Impact Philanthropy”, to fill the gaps left by society and competent entities, but also for the sometimes questionable results achieved by Nonprofit Organizations.  

Marco Crescenzi


Interview to Giampiero Giacomel

Giacomel is President of Cultural Philanthropy Ltd (based in Ireland), Director of the Scottish Youth Theater and Director of the International Master FRAME – Fundraising, Cultural Philanthropy & AdvancementHe comes from the financial world and trained many years ago with Social Change School, with a Master in Fundraising. Today he lives and works in Glasgow, and he is one of the main international experts on Cultural Philanthropy.

SCS: When thinking about “social change” we usually imagine levers like social volunteering, political activism, environmental commitment. Don’t you think that culture is being somewhat forgotten when it comes to levers of change?

G.G. Arts and culture have always been a channel for social criticism, a way to express full freedom of expression.

During my ongoing experience as Director of Fundraising for the Scottish Youth Theatre, I see that art and theatre are a strong medium for social inclusion, talent development and local community promotion. Our next production will be focused on climate change and the one that just ended was a critic to Surveillance Capitalism.  

During my previous experience as Director of Individual Donors Fundraising for the Scottish Opera, the social theme was more connected to the accessibility of the artistic offer for less wealthy and educated people.

It is strange to think how today, in 2019, we perceive culture and arts as something disconnected from reality, like a distraction. But arts and culture have always existed as an instrument of social critique and protest. Picasso, Foscolo, Hemingway, Verdi. They have created art as a social critique to politics, religion and the system in general. I also believe this has deep roots; it’s coming from the past. I am thinking about Martial’s satire and about the impact the sculptor Phidias had in determining the aesthetics of the West of the world.

Even in our daily experience we can observe that in the more modern forms of art, like cinema or pop music, the social message is always delivered through an artistic medium. Various academic researches have proved that arts are essential for the development of a plural and tolerant society, demonstrating that in situations where the population is not exposed to culture, democracy and tolerance are also at risk. Academia is also agreeing that the effectiveness of school systems that do not include exposure to arts is considerably lower. Is this ever considered in the response plans for developing countries? Hence, arts are not only one of the many things that can be done to create social change; arts are necessary to enable social change. 

SCS: Fundraising and cultural philanthropy are significantly established in the UK and USA. What can we say about Europe?

G.G. One of the cultural problems we have to face is the equalisation of fundraising and marketing, as this led to the idea that fundraising is governed by selling logics, instead of relational ones.

Philanthropy means voluntary actions for the public good. This definition is broadly accepted at international academic level. Philanthropic actions are giving, volunteering and advocating. In regards to the action of giving there are two aspects that must be equally considered: grant-seeking and grant-making. Grant seeking is what is traditionally called fundraising. Through philanthropy, arts and cultural organizations can develop long-lasting human relations that ultimately can generate a income-stream. The focus is therefore on relations, not on money. Philanthropy for the arts and culture contributes to a healthy funding mix where public funds are measured and balanced in other to prevent that political priorities override creativity and artistic vision. 
We often think that the logic of private financial management is something that originated from the Anglo-Saxon world, but this is not the truth. I believe that cultural philanthropy should become a management model for arts and culture in the near future and thus I reckon that the State should progressively start to spend its money in other sectors, like education, and leave the arts free to determine themselves.

For example, let’s take into analysis a country like Italy. Until the Franceschini reform, public cultural entities were forbidden to receive any amount of money from private funds, which in my opinion is a major ideological prejudice. Now that the prohibition has finally been lifted, 250 million euro were donated through this medium and 250 million more came from banking foundations. This data is certain, and only in a few years donations for arts and culture have already reached the same amount collected for international cooperation. There is also a great number of donations to arts and culture that are not measurable, as the donors did not request or couldn’t access tax benefits. The field of culture in Italy is convinced that single people would never donate to arts and culture; this isn’t only false, as demonstrated by the above-mentioned data, but it’s also a prejudice shared by Americans and Europeans.  They too believe that foundations and companies are the ones donating the most, but that is untrue.

SCS: How were your love and commitment for the development of culture born? Would you like to mention a meaningful project or organization you have followed?

G.G. I am the founder of Cultural Philanthropy, with Head Quarters in the UK. It’s the only European consulting company specialized in philanthropy for arts and culture. Our objective is to change the paradigms that currently govern the cultural sector in Europe, where the State holds sway. We believe that public funds caused a great damage to culture. Because of this, we propose a winning alternative model to allow all cultural institutions to thrive only with private funds and to really let culture flourish in an independent way. I am fully aware that the majority of the readers may receive my statement with perplexity, but I am convinced I am right, and I have data to support my views. The reason why countries offered economic aid to culture during the post-war period was to grant access to poorer groups of population. This is something that never even happened at all and that, on the contrary, caused the collapse of the sector’s sustainability.  

This line of thought wasn’t just born from data, but from my international work experiences.

I have worked in the cooperation and social sectors, both in Italy and UK, and I was left with many doubts and perplexities. Then I worked as responsible for philanthropy for Universities, and then again as Individual Donors Director for the Scottish Opera. Through these experiences, I learnt why marketing and fundraising are two separate things and what relational fundraising and philanthropy mean.  

At some point in my career, the investment company Bailie Gifford identified me as the right person to lift the fate of the Scottish Youth Theatre, which was nearly closing due to economic reasons. After only a year, the theatre that saw the start of personalities like Gerard Butler and Karen Gillan is not under emergency conditions anymore, although there’s still a lot of work to do.

I am also promoting the development of cultural philanthropy as a system project in collaboration with Social Change School through Master FRAME in Fundraising, Cultural Philanthropy & Advancement, which I also attended many years ago.

In Italy, I have experimental collaborations with Fondazione Circolo dei Lettori, Orchestra da Camera Polledro, Teatro Aperitivo and other realities in the cultural sector. The consultancy with Fondazione Circolo dei Lettori of Torino, directed by Maurizia Rebola (another FRAME student, like Giampiero – Ed.), is particularly relevant. The Foundation is the European leader in promoting books and reading. Together, we have traced a path to involve their public, which is showing promising results. Individual donations and testamentary bequests, all contributions donated in a collaborative climate, not through “marketing”. Within a year, we will open a philanthropy office inside the Foundation itself, to give continuity to the activities. I am certain that, once it picks up, the Foundation will be able to generate a sum of money that will grant its economic and decision-making independence in all fields. That is my dream for all cultural institutions!

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