When the cash strapped Mayor of Los Angeles asked Michael Jackson fans to cough up the $4 million needed to stage the singer’s memorial, such was the response that, an hour later, the city’s phone and broadband system melted. At the time, the city was $530million in debt. Before meltdown, $17,000 had been donated on the website, and, by the time of the event, over $1million had been donated.
If Liverpool was, say, your favourite tech blogger, or web-cam private dancer, chances are they’d have an Amazon wish list you could peruse, should you want to say thank you with a novelty item.
Micro-donations are an accepted way for us to support and say thanks to the people creating the services that make our lives a little sunnier.
Deliver something of value, and people are more than happy to attach a monetary value on it – even if (or, often, especially when) it’s freely given out.
We know this with our Almanac project. Sure, 10,000 copies were available in town – but 300 or so kindly souls took up our invitation to part with cash for something they could pick up in Leaf for nowt.
Services like Flattr, Amazon’s wish list, or set-amount text donations are a hassle-free way for us to nurture the enterprises that resonate with us. They’re quick, painless, and give an instant kick-back spike of self-congratulatory warmth.
But Liverpool isn’t a private dancer, a dancer for money. So, are there other ways we can show the city our love in times of need? Are there other ways we can help tick off its wish list of safe streets, clean bins and free festivals?
SevenStreets isn’t suggesting that the projected £300 million budget shortfall is gonna be plugged with bucket rattling donation drives, but every little helps, right? And in these straitened times, a few hundred thousand here and there could well prevent arts organisation A, or day centre B facing a very uncertain future.
Grand Rapid’s Art Prize (r) is a free city-wide event, putting the Michigan city squarely on the cultural tourist trail. It’s funded by the city and a raft of sponsors. But, last year, its 330,000 visitors were (for the first time) offered the chance to support the event: either as a simple ‘coins in the box’ donation, or by joining the ‘ArtClub’ with a $30 gift that allowed members a grandstand seat to the main events, and a members-only bar.
The scheme’s raised $500,000 so far. That’s an additional revenue stream the city’s never had. And one less financial burden for the cash-strapped Mayor.
Over in San Francisco, Give2SF was created in 2011 to provide an opportunity for individuals or organizations to make donations to a group of city programmes, such as arts, homelessness, parks and recreation and heritage. It’s raised $1.5 million and counting.
Liverpool is a generous city. We have a heart as big as, well, it’s big.
Last summer, in Sefton Park, 150,000 visitors were treated to an August Bank Holiday of free music, sunshine and sparkling wine. The good vibes were tangible. The feeling was of a city – understandably – a little pleased with itself. ‘Phew, we’ve pulled this off,’ the crowd sighed – followed by a realisation that, yeah, we do this free thing bloody brilliantly, don’t we. Isn’t Liverpool ace?
Now imagine a few strategically placed collection boxes – an army of smiley people asking for a donation to the city. Imagine they did that after most of the field (including my family) had demolished aqualungs of cheap pinot grigio.
Now imagine harvesting the feel-good vibe when the Giants were in town? One million people gawped skywards from the city streets. JustGiving estimates that 88% of us put our hand in our pockets – but here’s the clincher:
“Evidence suggests that a number of factors are likely to shape who gives to charity and how much they give: for example, being asked is widely reported to be the most important trigger. Other studies have suggested that fifty percent give cash, on an impulse, when asked…”
We’re not a charity. But the statistics do seem to show that, when asked, we’re very happy to help.
It’s a widely-held misconception perception that corporations and sponsors are the biggest sources to tap for grants and donations. The fact is that four out of five or 80 percent of funds donated to the UK’s museums and galleries are contributed by individuals and bequests.
Individuals are more of a challenge to reach and solicit, but are by far the largest philanthropic resource. Fundraising strategies for parks, arts events and, well, cities, need to consider all sources and how best to connect with the potential donor sources in our midst, and their motivations for giving.
What if hotels charged a £1 per tourist per night donation? What if we followed other tourist cities’ leads – Rome does it (it charges more for four or five star hotels) The tax raises around £69 million per year, which is used on the maintenance and promotion of the Eternal City’s attractions – which welcome 30 million visitors every year. And, since the tax was introduced two years ago, the city’s seen even more visitors arrive. Liverpool has over 2 million overnight vistitors every year. Crunch those numbers. That could pay for our libraries.
We commend Liverpool for believing in offering culture that’s accessible to all. But let’s not kid ourselves – our rich calendar of shindigs and spectacle costs real cash.
Maybe now’s the time we need to face up to the facts – a giant don’t come for free. In this massive year of Biennials, nationally-important memorials, summer festivals and cruise passengers, we might be pleasantly surprised at how valuable that lesson could be.
Next year, all three Cunard beauties line up at Princes Dock. And more than 50 million day trip tourists will visit the city. Let’s get those tins rattling.
(pic three © Mark McNulty)