Inyathelo currently has five anecdotal indicators from our work that provide a loose indication of the state of arts funding in South Africa.  First, we run a clinic which offers one-on-one advisory meetings to organisations to diagnose key problem areas and to propose decisive and effective interventions to tackle those challenges. The indicator arising from Inyathelo’s clinic service is that many of our clients are arts organisations of one kind or another.

Second, in our efforts to promote local philanthropic giving, Inyathelo holds an annual Philanthropy Awards event to identify leadership and excellence in South African giving by individuals. We have only made one award in the arts amongst the 55 or so individuals recognised since 2007.

Third, in our Funding Practice Alliance partnership research into the National Lotteries and the National Distributing Agency, it was established that of the three distributing agencies, the agency for Arts, Culture and Heritage had a history of distributing the least percentage of its available funding.

Fourth, we run a database of prospective donors which currently holds around 1,000 records of South African donors funding in South Africa. A low percentage of these donors support the arts.  Our fifth indicator is the Private Philanthropy Circle, a forum of South African foundations and philanthropists supported by Inyathelo, who have a combined annual grant spend of around R500million. Very little of this is dedicated to the arts.

An added factor is that while in South Africa we certainly have ACTS of philanthropy, we are far from having a CULTURE of philanthropy.  Of course, non-profit organisations can also just use their own experience to confirm that most NPOs are struggling to access appropriate (or any) funding and that there are insufficient funds available.

A feature of Inyathelo’s current engagements with civil society is the refrain: “There is a funding crisis.  Funding has dried up. There is no funding”.  This same refrain arose in the late 90s when government found new ways to direct international funding and overseas development funding and aid. So, it is not new or unique and yet it seems that our approach to the problem has shifted little. We are recognising that we need fundamentally to change the way we view, approach and develop practices for the resourcing of our organisations, and of our civil society more broadly. What is absolutely evident is that we need to move away from our complacent but desperate expectations that our organisations will still be funded in large tranches from single donors – and that all we need to do is identify that one donor (or possibly two) and we will be okay.  The longer organisations have stuck doggedly to this funding path, the more financial trouble they have got themselves into.  Shifting our understanding of the funding environment is one thing.  Shifting our practice is a bit like turning a tanker – slow, laborious, and a process that requires resources, focus, attention, and sufficient lead time to achieve the desired and required results.

The arts perceive themselves as under-funded, and there is nowhere near the kind of funding available in a given year for the total amount of “asks” that are submitted to our statutory funding bodies. This is true of the National Lotteries, it is true of the National Arts Council and it is true of the numerous other statutory funding structures that exist for arts, culture and heritage. The Rand amount of funding has grown to somewhere around R1.9billion a year – significant growth in the total amount of funding directed to supporting this sector.  So what are the sectorial dynamics at play – both amongst and between grantmakers and grantseekers that ensures a relative stasis around funding and strategies to resource arts work?

The obvious must be stated here:  “funding” is not a static environment, waiting only for those clever or connected enough to access it.  The funding environment changes all the time – funder priorities, funding practice, options for funding models, funder requirements, funder focus areas and interests, funder grant allocations.  Along with this, add in changes in the economy, the political context and changing societal interest in supporting different arts formats.  Now add in the growing number of arts practitioners and professionals, the legislative environment, the global context in which we operate – and it becomes clear that strategising around funding for any organisation is a critical and continuous endeavour.

A feature of our current political environment is that a number of white papers, policies and Acts – that impact directly on our funding space – have come up for review.  These include, in the last 12 months – and going forward to the next twelve – the Lotteries Policy Framework, the NPO Act Policy Framework, the BBBEE Codes, the Lotteries Act, and the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage – amongst others.  In addition, an exciting new Independent Code of Non-Profit Governance has been developed through a consultative civil society process and was launched in 2012 – with the potential to impact positively on the funding environment by improving financial management, fiscal oversight and accountability by organisational boards.  All of these initiatives are critical opportunities to ensure that we create an enabling rather than constricting and possibly repressive funding environment.

It is civil society’s responsibility to hold national and provincial governments and funding agencies to account – so while organisations may not be “entitled” to funding, we are certainly entitled to (and indeed must) challenge government at all levels to ensure that their funding practices are sound and enabling, and that the legislative and policy environment keeps our democratic spaces open.

One of the key challenges in the non-profit sector is linked to the very factor that ensures that our civil society space is vibrant and developmental. Most organisations are started by individuals or groups who are primarily activists. They have a passionate commitment to their cause but they are not sustainability experts.  And herein lies the rub: strong organisational leadership is critical to organisational sustainability.

Our voice and our visibility are central to our sustainability – as organisations and as a sector.  This is about self-promotion – about promoting our organisations, the programmes we run, the impact we have had, and what we stand for.  As non-profits, we need to be able to respond swiftly, concisely and coherently to the question “What difference do you make?”. As organisations, we need to be able to argue our value, our worth and our potential as good funding investment partners.  As a sector, the arts need to be working on a public campaign that really answers the questions – why do the arts matter?  What value do the arts hold for society, for social development, for addressing our challenges?

We need to be looking at how we build our audiences, how do we get individuals to value what we do and the role we can have in their lives. Individuals as sources of donor income and support are much more important than most of us realise. We need to get them on board and build them as regular supporters of our work.  Every initiative has its natural constituency and audience, as does every sector – the trick is to identify who the audience is, to build relationships with this community, to demonstrate the value that you are able to offer them – and slowly to build them into a passionate supporter of your work.