Arts Council England Data: A Question of Scale

Arts Council England Data: A Question of Scale


Arts Council England (ACE) has recently released its dataset with 2015/16 information provided by National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) and Major Partner Museums (MPMs).  This is published as a very useful Excel spreadsheet, allowing readers to filter this large dataset looking at specific groups according to their geographic region, artform/sector and organisation scale.

This gives a really good ‘temperature check’ for income generation across the sector, as shown by Liz Hill in her article for Arts Professional.  It is also a fantastic resource for benchmarking, and I wanted to focus on one area in particular: benchmarking against organisational scale.

The chart above shows the percentage income breakdown across NPOs and MPMs across the five main income areas of Arts Council subsidy, local authority subsidy, other public subsidy, contributed income (i.e. fundraised income) and earned income. The blue column on the far left of each group shows the average percentage breakdown of income for all NPOs and MPMs.  The next three columns show the breakdown filtered by scale: small organisations in red (turnover of less than £250k); medium organisations in green (turnover of £250k to £750k) and large organisations in purple (turnover of over £750k). 

This chart highlights the stark variations in income profiles across organisations of different scales.  Indeed, it is possible to see the extent to which the 289 large organisations in the dataset dominate the combined data, particularly with respect to levels of Arts Council subsidy and earned income. 

Whilst it is very positive to present a picture of Arts Council-funded organisations as being only dependent on the Arts Council for one quarter of their total income, and able to generate over 50% of their income from earned sources, in reality this applies only to the large organisations.  The 263 small and medium organisations rely on the Arts Council for almost half their income, and can generate under a third from earned sources. 

None of this is a surprise.  Large organisations tend to attract large numbers of attenders to events and have more opportunities to earn income.  Small and medium organisations, if they are venue-based, have smaller capacities and are often programming newer, more innovative work. Meanwhile, the group forging ahead with fundraising are the medium organisations, which managed to achieve an average of 16.4% of fundraised income in 2015/16.  This is an extremely impressive average, and puts the large organisations to shame.  In fact, the large organisations achieved a slightly smaller average level of fundraised income than the national group (12.7%, the national average was 12.8%).

I hope this demonstrates the importance of delving into the detail with datasets, not assuming a ‘one size fits all’ approach.  I’d encourage you to have a look at the dataset yourself, and find the right benchmarking group for your organisation.

What are your thoughts on the data? We’d love to hear.