The impact of COVID-19 on arts and cultural charities

31 March 2020


Raphael Leung

Raphael Leung

Data Science Fellow at Nesta

Raphael is a data science fellow at Nesta, where h...

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With many arts and cultural charities having to restrict activities as a result of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to understand the key role they play and how they benefit society. 

That is why the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) and Nesta have today published Charities speak, an analysis of the role played by the sector. Our research reveals the diversity of the social challenges addressed by these organisations, including isolation and community cohesion, alongside arts and cultural activities. These functions will be crucial during this COVID-19 crisis, with these organisations reaching out to and supporting those most affected. 

Despite having an important role to play during and after the pandemic, arts and cultural charities are under significant threat due to the crisis’ economic implications.  Our report reveals that the majority of arts, culture, heritage or science charities are small. Restrictions on movement, and consequential loss of earnings, mean that those reliant on donations and with financial operations are likely to be highly vulnerable in the current crisis and its economic aftermath. 

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In addition, many arts and cultural venues have closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local community arts and cultural organisations rely on in-person gatherings to carry out their activities. As these can no longer take place, their income will be impacted and they will become even more vulnerable.

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This analysis was carried out prior to the pandemic, but with the Government due to announce additional support for the charities sector imminently, it provides evidence on how these organisations are vulnerable and why they will be so important to society’s recovery. 

Charities speak provides hard numbers to complement the many case studies emerging, showing the importance of arts and cultural charities during the COVID-19 crisis, and the threat the pandemic poses to them. 

We hope its data will be used to make the case for much needed Government support to sustain the charities sector, and help ensure that where possible, these organisations are used by the government and by the communities they serve to enable recovery.  

Charities speak examines charities that advance arts, culture, heritage or science (ACHS). There are 30,418 of these charities, which make up about 15 per cent of the active registered charitable sector in England and Wales. The report presents a detailed analysis for charities involved in arts and cultural activities. Using data science techniques, such as machine learning, the findings are based on the text charities use to describe themselves when they register with the Charity Commission for England and Wales. Read the report: Charities Speak

Photo by Rainier Ridao

The PEC's blog provides a platform for independent, evidence-based views. All blogs are published to further debate, and may be polemical. The views expressed are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent views of the PEC or its partner organisations.