Innovative approaches to growing private sector support for arts and culture

Innovative approaches to growing private sector support for arts and culture

By Adam Lopardo


The Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland has driven or supported various innovative approaches to growing private sector support for arts and culture in the North East. This case study describes some of the arts sponsorship initiatives it has been involved with over the past 25 years.

Since its creation in 1988 the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland has been the catalyst, driver or supporter of a number of innovative approaches to growing private sector support for arts and culture. Here are just a few.

The Sponsors Club

Set up in 1990/1 by North East businesses and hosted at the Community Foundation, The
Sponsors Club was the first and central plank of the Foundation’s engagement with arts and
culture. There were two drivers for its creation. Firstly a few big companies who understood the benefits of arts sponsorship were being asked to sponsor everything and wanted to encourage others to be involved and benefit. Secondly, although Arts & Business (then ABSA) existed and looked after the Government's Business Sponsorship Incentive Scheme, the region felt it was a poor relation, a satellite of ABSA Leeds.

The initial idea to come together came from English Estates who suggested using match funding to incentivise other companies to support the arts. Along with Northern Electric,
Tyne Tees and BT, they met with Northern Arts, ABSA and The Arts Council, agreed a structure and became the founder members of The Sponsors Club putting their membership
fees into a match funding pot held by the Community Foundation. Other major companies soon followed including Northumbrian Water, Northern Rock, and P&G. A business and
their arts partner could apply for £1 of match funding for every £1 of the businesses sponsorship up to a certain amount. The business had to be a first time sponsor of the arts
in the region and the match funding had to be used for additional activity to enhance the

The first ‘Sponsors Club Awards’ were given in 1991 and the scheme sat at the heart of The Sponsors Club until 2011 when the scheme ended. In that time our 68 business members supported 306 arts organisations to partner with 620 new business sponsors across the North East. Our total investment was just under £900,000 against business sponsorship of at least

The Sponsors Club – more than just match funding

With the awards at the core, the partners were also keen to provide their expertise and
sponsorship advice to businesses and their arts partners. After an informal beginning and
with support from Arts Council and the expansion of the team this area of work developed
to include over 200 one-to-one meetings with artists, arts organisations and businesses a
year as well as training sessions and other initiatives to grow corporate engagement further. In 2000 The Sponsors Club partnered with Arts & Business to deliver A&B’s activities in the North East.

Over the years The Sponsors Club ran a number of schemes to get businesses engaged in the arts. The Sponsors Club ran artist residences, creative training, placed business people
on the boards of arts organisations and even created and curated its own contemporary art
collection – The Business Collectors Network (BCN). Another membership based scheme,
the BCN bought works from emerging local artists and offered them to the business members for display in their offices. The collection was brought together annually for public
exhibition. In 2011 the whole collection was gifted to the Laing Art Gallery to kick-start their own North East contemporary art collection.

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Resource type: Case studies | Published: 2014