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Department of Philosophy

Cold hard cash and warm fuzzy feels

Exploring the Ethics of Fundraising for the Arts

(Funded by a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award)

The UK funding landscape for the arts in Britain now requires those fundraising for the arts to develop new strategies to attract private funding in a highly competitive ‘market’. At the same time, giving has been professionalized, with the ‘effective altruism’ movement urging potential donors to approach a gift as they would an investment and to require evidence of effectiveness and efficiency. Together this represents a profound shift in the way that we conceptualize the nature of philanthropy (love of humanity) and the value of the arts. The university and arts sectors have not given enough space to reflecting on this change and, in particular, its effect on how early career researchers and artists think about their work and its value. With Wunderbar arts this project will establish a new 'fundraising foundation' as a creative research space —- a piece of live art-cum-philosophy —- to explore the ethics of asking for and giving money. Workshops will invite those on both sides of the arts funding relationship to explore the perils and possibilities of giving and receiving money.

Proposed Programme

The award will be used to develop and launch a virtual fundraising founding, hosted on its own website. The ‘Foundation’ and the website will be used to generate debate, discussion and reflection on philosophical and ethical questions around fundraising, including questions about the instrumental and intrinsic value of the arts, scholarly and artistic integrity, the meaning of ‘philanthropy’ and the self-image of the researcher and artist.

The ‘Foundation Game’ will provide a forum through which to explore playfully the power dynamics within the current funding landscape and to highlight points at which the integrity of those asking for or looking to give money is at issue. It will provide an online space to debate these issues and to reflect on ways in which those who are seeking funding—especially those whose job or financial security is precarious—can respond.

Find out more and take part

A project specific website is coming soon. In the meantime go to or or contact Rachael Wiseman.