The Timespan Museum and Arts Centre

The Timespan Museum and Arts Centre in Sutherland is running a fundraising campaign called ‘Our Appeal’ a rural endowment project.

Timespan was the first Social Enterprise partner with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), in this area. The organisation’s business planning process with HIE, financial reports, and the results of a report by SKS Scotland in June 2011 clearly evidenced that the annually reducing Local Authority funding, the reliance on arbitrary Trust funding and the business case for development indicate an annual income need for core costs of c.£27,000.

While endowment schemes are not a new model they are one which has been successful in other areas and scales of operation, usually large organisations in urban areas. Rural areas have always benefited from voluntary time and skills, and Timespan has enjoyed some small corporate donations for specific activities, but never developed confidence or competence in attracting patronage as investment. The legacy of training for staff and board would enable the organisation to continue the process; advocating benefits and attracting future support. The endowment project is funded by Creative Scotland through their Cultural Economy Sustainable Development funding strand.

The aim of the project is to secure private funds as an expendable endowment; using public funds to create a foundation for more successfully accessing private funds. The project has caused a shift in thinking about the long term funding of the organisation. The project aims demonstrated a willingness to test the new idea of a rural endowment for a small cultural organisation – an under explored area of possible funding. Financial outcomes are uncertain but the process has had an impact on the organisation’s strategic approach to funding. Determining the appropriateness of funding sources for the scale and focus of different organisations is essential for agencies which support cultural and creative sectors and this sort of pilot project can help to inform that process. The investment has created an environment where the organisation can take stock of its position with regard to the various funding sources available. It has enabled one organisation to test this approach and through that activity inform the wider sector. This could contribute to new thinking about long term private donor funding for arts and heritage organisations, raise awareness and raise questions about options for funding in the current economic climate.