Arts charities merge after funding loss put jobs at risk

Charity

The arts charities Culture24 and The Audience Agency have merged after both organisations lost long-term funding contracts from Arts Council England.

Culture 24, which promotes the cultural sector online, had a total income of £468,296 for the financial year ending March 2023.

The Audience Agency, which provides support services for arts, cultural and heritage organisations, had a total income of just over £3m for the financial year ending March 2022.

The three members of staff from Culture 24 are moving to The Audience Agency as a result of the merger. All of its clients are also being moved to the merged charity.

In a statement published last week, The Audience Agency said the merger came after “services and jobs were put at risk following the decision to drop both organisations from the Arts Council portfolio in March 2023”.

The Audience Agency was funded by a national portfolio grant from ACE between 2018 and 2023.

The grant comprised an annual investment of £750,000 from 2018 to 2022, and £763,800 in 2022/23. With this money, it provided an audience finder service for use by ACE and other organisations.

The Audience Agency applied to the funder’s national portfolio for the 2023-2026 funding period but was unsuccessful.

Arts Council England told Third Sector it needed a service that could provide “comprehensive data” on the organisations it funds, to help track performance.

The funder decided to deliver its audience data service as a contract rather than a grant, with Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) contracted to deliver the service in 2023.

In its statement, the Audience Agency said: “Although both organisations have had to make redundancies, the new business model and merger mean that years of ACE investment in tools and resources, skills and experience will continue to benefit the sector.”

The charity said the merger will allow it to continue providing services for Arts Council Wales and Creative Scotland.

The Audience Agency said it has restructured and developed its business model to offer a new “five-pillar programme of services and products”.

Under this model, Culture 24’s team will lead on the organisation’s digital pillar, with The Audience Agency’s existing staff team leading on its four other pillars: participation and engagement, impact and evaluation, cultural and creative places, and data and evidence for policy.

Anne Torreggiani, chief executive of The Audience Agency, said: “Merging with Culture24 is one of the most exciting aspects of our new model.”

She added that the charities have worked in partnership on many projects in the past, so they “already had a keen sense of shared values and how well we complement each other”.

Torreggiani said: “Between us, we’ve got a pretty awesome network in the UK and internationally. But our boards challenged us to go further, to ‘make one plus one equal three’, to create an offer together that would more than double the value and impact we had on our own.”

Jane Finnis, the former chief executive of Culture24 who has now been appointed consultant director at The Audience Agency, said: “This is the perfect moment in our histories to join together the expertise and ambitions of our two organisations.

“Together, we can offer the sector a new generation of services, built on our shared learning, that will support the kind of positive change so urgently needed. This merger harnesses the expertise, knowledge, insight and relationships of both organisations.”

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