Corporate Sponsorships and Private Donations

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Major Performing Arts Companies

The Australian Major Performing Arts Group (AMPAG) represents 28 major companies, sorted according to artform and colour-coded by states in the right-hand list. Half are exclusively music-related (10 music and four opera companies), and music is also essential in the five dance companies. Of the four performing artforms, theatre is the only one generally unrelated to music, except for music theatre. One-third of the list shows theatre companies, leaving two-thirds of companies where music is a major element. The source of this article is AMPAG’s Tracking Changes in Corporate Sponsorship and Private Donations 2012: Summary Report, retrievable here. All tables and charts were derived from that report.

The publication does not define sponsorships versus donations though it makes a clear distinction between the two types of support throughout its report. In the performing arts world and elsewhere, corporate sponsorship supports an activity in return for access to the commercial potential of that activity. In principle, private donations are gifts given with no strings attached — there are no legal return considerations. These gifts are often given by CEOs and other top corporate managers (and their families).

AMPAG distinguishes between “large” companies with a turnover exceeding $15m in 2010, “medium” ($8m -$15m) and “small” companies (less than $8m). Of 10 music companies, the Sydney Symphony, Melbourne and West Australian Symphony Orchestras are “large”, the Queensland, Adelaide and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras “medium”. The four other music companies are the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Musica Viva Australia (all NSW), and Orchestra Victoria.[1] Three have “medium” turnover; one (Brandenburg) is “small”.

Alt=Table 1
Opera Australia (“large” turnover) is based in Sydney but caters for Melbourne and the rest of Australia. (Conversely, the Australian Ballet is Melbourne-based but performs also in Sydney and the rest of the nation.) Three “small” opera companies, Opera Queensland, State Opera South Australia, and the West Australian Opera, basically serve their own state. Table 1 provides a summary of AMPAG members classified by artform, state and turnover.

Apart from the Australian Ballet, which is in the top turnover group, the dance companies on the AMPAG list fall into the small group: Bangarra Dance Theatre and Sydney Dance Company in NSW, the Queensland Ballet and Western Australian Ballet. These ballet companies, like their operatic counterparts, basically cater for their respective states.

The Sydney and Melbourne Theatre Companies are “large”, and Bell Shakespeare and Belvoir in Sydney and the Queensland Theatre Company “medium”. The four “small” theatre companies are Circus Oz and Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne, the State Theatre Company of South Australia, and the Black Swan Theatre Company in Perth.

All 28 companies are based in a state capital city: Sydney (10), Melbourne (6), Brisbane (4), Adelaide (3), Perth (4) and Hobart (1).

State Distributions: Artform and Turnover Class

Alt=Orchestra sizes
The typical music company appears to be larger than other AMPAG members, perhaps spurred by the need for state symphony orchestras to cover all instrument groups and provide enough strings (the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra is the smallest as shown by Box 1, but still of medium size with a 2010 turnover of between 8 and 15 million dollars). Thirty percent of music companies are large and only one is classified as small. All 10 music companies are orchestras except Musica Viva — the six state capital symphony orchestras and three others.[2]

It has already been noted that of four opera companies, only the Australian Opera is classified as large; of five dance companies, only the Australian Ballet is large. Two of nine theatre companies had turnovers above $15m in 2010 — the Sydney and Melbourne Theatre Companies. In total, companies defined as large make up seven of the 28 AMPAG members, or 25%.

At the other end of the scale, only one of the 10 music companies is small, compared with three of four operas, four of five dance companies, and four of nine theatre companies. For all four artforms combined, small companies accounted for 43% of all AMPAG members.

Three of the seven large companies are in Sydney (43%), another three in Melbourne, and one in Perth. Among nine medium-sized companies, Sydney accounts for as many as 44% and Melbourne for a low 11%. The 12 small companies are more evenly distributed among states: 25% each in Sydney and Perth, and 17% each in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. Numbers are small, but again Melbourne is pipped at the post for top or second position.

Overall, Sydney dominates with 10 companies of 28 (36% of the total 28 AMPAG members). This compares with 21% in Melbourne, 14% each in Brisbane and Perth, 11% in Adelaide, and 4% in Hobart (one company).

Melbourne is reputed to have a high cultural profile, so the low proportion of AMPAG members based in Melbourne (21%) compared with 36% in Sydney, is a little surprising. Removing the seven large companies of which some are national or semi-national organisations (the Sydney-based Opera Australia and the Australian Ballet in Melbourne), or benefit from large local market bases for the Sydney and Melbourne Theatre Companies and the symphony orchestras, the discrepancy remains: Sydney is home for 33% of the 21 remaining medium-sized and small companies, Brisbane for 19%, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth 14% each, Hobart 5%.

General Statistics to 2012

Alt=Price index
The AMPAG report analyses levels of corporate sponsorship and private donations for the major performing arts sector from the years 2001 to 2012. This section shows data for all 28 companies as a group. Subsequent headings provide details by states, artforms, and turnover.

All the statistics have been converted to 2012 values using a general indicator of price rises, based on the national accounts published quarterly by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (Box 2). [3]

Alt=Chart 1
Alt=Chart 2
There are three components of private funding of major performing arts companies — corporate sponsorships, private donations, and fundraising events. The trend in corporate sponsorships has remaining static around $30m at 2012 prices (Chart 1). An almost 7% growth rate in 2012 was exceptional, from $28.5m to $30.4m after removing inflation. The long-term trend in gross corporate sponsorships since 2001 remains static in real terms, despite the increase in 2012.

The efficiency of raising such funds has increased significantly, at least since 2006, indicating that these companies are becoming better at targeting their sponsorship campaigns. Chart 2 shows that the cost of funding corporate sponsorships fell from a high of 41.6% of the total sponsorship income in 2007 to 31.6% in 2012. Gross sponsorship income increased from $28.4m in 2006 to $30.4m in 2012 (7%), but the net amount rose from $16.6m to $20.8m, or by 25%.

This puts a different complexion on corporate sponsorships, though it raises the issue of how far cost efficiency can go. The trend shown by Chart 2 from 2007 to 2012 (complemented by the actual amounts in Table 2) looks consistent, but is the lower average limit for all major performing arts companies the 20% that seems to be a reasonably steady level for private donations, or is the ultimate cost efficiency a different percentage of total sponsorship raisings? We don’t know and would appreciate comments from anyone who does.[4]

The picture is different for private donations, which more than tripled from an average of $10.1m (2012 prices) in 2001/2002 to an average of $33.6m 10 years later. The AMPAG report highlights this while noting that the high year, 2011, was boosted by a number of large one-off donations to the four Western Australian AMPAG companies covering the four artforms.[5] The report notes that the impact of these one-off donations was more than $8m in 2011. It adds that significant one-off donations are a common facet of performing arts sector income, with one or two AMPAG companies normally undertaking a campaign each year.

The companies spent about $6m in 2012 and more than $6m in 2011 to secure private donations. Chart 2 shows that since 2006 the cost of raising donations has hovered around 20% of total raisings, varying between 22% in 2006 and less than 18% in three of the seven years. It increased from 17.8% in 2011 to 19.3% in 2012, when less funds were raised from donations.[6]

Alt=Table 2
Looking at the general cost efficiency of raising corporate sponsorship, versus private donations, the latter has an edge. However, the efficiency of raising sponsorships has increased significantly, compared with a largely static 18-22% for donations. Furthermore, the trend in cost efficiency has not yet abated for sponsorships according to Chart 2, and the cost level remains much higher than for donations.

In conclusion, the companies will have to continue to seek private sector funding from both main sources — and from the fairly small category of fundraising through special events which would be relatively more significant outside the major performing arts companies).


Corporate Sponsorships

Alt=Table 3
The total value of corporate sponsorships has gone backwards in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, but increased in Queensland and — especially — in WA (Table 3). Comparing the average of 2001 and 2002 with 2011/2012, the largest declines were in SA (36%) and Victoria (29%). It was 12% in NSW. This contrasts with a 65% rise in Queensland and one-third more than doubling in WA (+132%). This indicates the changing geographical structure of corporate sponsorships but doesn’t replace the more detailed view of year-to-year variations shown in Table 3.

Despite the decline in corporate sponsorships in NSW, the state still accounted for 49.4% of the Australian total in 2012 (down from 59.4% in 2001).[7] The Victorian share declined from 19.8% to 15.1%, and South Australia’s from 5.8% to 3.8%. In contrast, WA’s share by 2012 had grown to 21.4%, up from 9.2% in 2001. The increase in Queensland was from 5.5% in 2001 to 9.6%. Corporate sponsorships in both WA and Queensland kept increasing through 2010-2012.

The AMPAG analysis distinguishes between cash and in-kind corporate sponsorships without commenting on their relative merits. Presumably cash, or funds that can be readily converted to cash, gives more control to the receiving companies. The ratio of in-kind to total sponsorships varied among states with Queensland received by far the highest portion this way (63% of the state total in 2012). The in-kind ratio was much lower in the four other states for which statistics are available: NSW 17%, WA 23%, SA 29%, and Victoria a somewhat higher 43%. The typical average for the latter four states is about 25% in-kind, 75% cash.

While major organisations may be expected to be located in larger population centres, NSW’s and WA’s share is much higher than would be expected on a population basis. Their share of the total Australian population in 2012 was 32.1% and 10.8%, respectively, but the share of corporate sponsorships was 49.4% and 21.4% as we have just observed. The situation was the opposite in Victoria, with a population share of 24.8% and a share of corporate sponsorships which has declined to 15.1%. Similarly low shares continued to apply in Queensland (population share 20.1%), despite the rapid rise in sponsorships in that state since 2001. South Australia’s population share was 7.3%, almost twice its 3.8% share of corporate sponsorships which, like Victoria’s, has declined.

Private Donations

Alt=Table 4
The situation is different for private donations (Table 4). The most spectacular increase was again in Western Australia, where these donations were tiny during the first few years and remained modest until 2011 when they increased from the $1m level of the previous three years to $7.5m — before falling back to $3m in 2012. We have already learned from the analysis in the previous section that a significant part would be due to one-off donations from mining entrepreneurs, so it may be assumed that these donations will depend on continued boom conditions in the mining industry, and continued rapid growth in China.[8]

Private donations in Queensland also rose from modest levels, which persisted in the first half of the period shown in Table 4. It reached $1.5m in both 2011 and 2012, exactly six times larger than the average level 10 years previously.

Victoria experienced the third-largest percentage increase in average 2011/2012 donations, 3.4 times above the average level in 2001 and 2002. Donations in NSW in the last two years exceeded the first two years by 126%, still a hefty increase. Only South Australia suffered a falling trend, with the 2011/2012 being 16% lower than 10 years previously.

The national total increase was 563%, exceeded spectacularly in WA and slightly in Queensland.[9]

New South Wales in 2012 accounted for 44.9% of private donations in Australia, down from 68.8% in 2001. The Victorian share increased from 22.6% to 37.1%, in contrast to the adverse trend for Victoria in corporate sponsorships. The other major increase for donations was in WA (up from 1.3% to 9.6%, with Queensland moving from 2.1% to 4.9%. The SA share almost halved from 4.9% in 2001 to 2.6% in 2012. Tasmania, the residual between the Australian and mainland state totals representing the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, accounted for a minute 0.1% in 2001 but 0.9% in 2012.

Relative to population figures, with 32.1% of the Australian total living there, NSW still attracts more than its share despite the fall to 44.9% between 2001 and 2012. But Victoria appears to be the biggest success increasing its share of donations to 37.1% with a population share of 24.8%.[10] Other states punched below their weight, including WA with 10.8% of the population and 9.6% of private donations. WA was getting close on this criterion, which Queensland (20.1% of the population, 4.9% of donations) and South Australia (7.3% of population, 2.6% of donations) doing worst.

Costs of Generating Funds

Alt=Chart 3
Alt=Table 5
It was established in the previous section that the efficiency with which major performing arts companies raise sponsorships increased significantly between 2006 and 2012, or more exactly from a ratio of costs to benefits of 41.6% in 2007 to 31.6% in 2012. The ratio for private donations fluctuated between 18-22%. But wide variations remained among the five mainland states in 2012 (Chart 3).

By far the highest relative cost of raising sponsorships in 2012 was in SA (66.8%), followed by Victoria (40%). The ratio was about the same as the Australian average in NSW and lower in Queensland and Western Australia.

For private donations the Australian average of 19.3% also applied to NSW and Victoria. It was lower in WA (14.5%) and higher in SA and Queensland (25% and 31%, respectively). The cost ratio in Queensland exceeded that of corporate sponsorships, the only state where this was so. Some of the differences would be due to market conditions and size, with WA in the box seat and SA in a weak position. There were also marked differences in the level of sponsorships between NSW ($15m shown in Table 3 for 2012) and Victoria ($4.58m). Queensland remains a relatively minor player in the donations area which may help explain the high cost ratio there. These are general observations. Great differences exist between the major arts performing companies and the company mix is not known in sufficient detail at this level of analysis.

Table 5 shows the cost data for 2012 numerically for sponsorships and donations separately. Tasmania is included as a residual but as the footnote below Table 5 explains there is a discrepancy between the state and total data sets which obscures the true net income for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. This may be for reasons of confidentiality.


Corporate Sponsorships

Alt=Table 6
Sponsorships to music companies represent the largest group of major performing arts companies (Table 6), but the increase has been modest or non-existing as for other artforms. Average total sponsorships in 2011 and 2012 were not very different for the averages reached in 2001/2002, after removing the impact of rising prices and costs to obtain a measure in “real terms”. Fluctuations around a flat trend is the general picture obtained from Table 6.

In 2012, 35.2% of corporate sponsorships went to music companies, 25.3% to theatre companies, 20.2% to opera companies, and 19.3% to dance companies.

The level of corporate sponsorships of music companies was 5.5% higher in real terms in 2011/2012 than in 2001/2002, but there were higher observations in intervening years. Opera sponsorships, 18.4% lower in the two most recent years than in the beginning of the period covered by Table 6, showed a generally downward trend up to 2011 when they received only $4.3m — but the level then jumped to $6.1m in 2012.

Corporate sponsorships to dance companies have grown in recent years and were 9.3% higher in 2011/2012 than in 2001/2002. The bottom year was 2007. Sponsorships to theatres oscillated around a flat trend.

Total corporate sponsorships peaked in 2004 and then showed a downward trend to 2011, before a 6.7% jump in 2012. It was the largest upward change since these sponsorships increased by 9% in 2003 (followed by a 4.4% increase in 2004, the peak year). Like other similar tables in this article, Table 6 shows total statistics for all members in a given category, that is, 10 music, four opera, five dance, and nine theatre companies. The AMPAG report also shows averages for each artform which are revealing as separate indicators. Converted to 2012 values, opera companies enjoyed the highest average corporate sponsorships over the 12 years in Table 6 ($1.36m), followed by music companies ($1.16m), dance companies ($1.14m). Theatre companies trail ($780,000). The averages for 2012 were: opera $1.535m, music $1.07m, dance $1.17m, and theatre $855,000.

Private Donations

Alt=Table 7
In contrast to corporate sponsorships, private donations grew strongly for all four artforms, though at different rates. Comparing 2001/2002 and 2011/2012, the strongest growth benefited dance companies (475%), followed by theatre (382%), music (167%), and opera companies (65%). The overall growth in private donations was 232%.

So there was a strong increase across the four artforms, but dance and theatre companies gained share of total private donations compared with music and, especially, opera companies.

In 2001/2002, 39.1% of private donations went to music companies, 26.2% to opera companies, 18.1% to dance and 16.6% to theatre companies. In 2011/2012, the share of total donations were practically equal for dance and music companies (the former up to 31.3% and the latter down to 31.5%). Opera’s share halved from 26% to 13%, and theatre’s share increased from 16.6% to 24.2%. Quite considerable changes in funding patterns, within a much bigger pool. All artforms, including opera, enjoyed substantially increased funding from private donations.

Average funding over the full period in real terms was highest for dance companies ($955,000), followed by opera ($755,000), music ($670,000), and theatre companies ($550,000. The average bears little relationship to either the initial year of 2001 or the final year of 2012: dance up from $315,000 in 2012 values to $2.125m, opera from $640,000 to $1.08m, music from $470,000 to $970,000, and theatre from $200,000 to $740,000.

Cost of Funding

The cost of funding sponsorships exceeded the cost of securing private donations in all four artforms. The relative cost of funding through corporate sponsorship in 2012 was highest for theatre companies (35.9%), second-highest for music companies (33.9%), and below the overall 31.6% average (shown by a dotted line on Chart 4) for dance companies (29.8%) and operas (24.2%).

The cost of securing private donations was highest for music companies (23%), about the same as the 19.3 average of all private donations (dotted line) for theatre and dance companies, and lowest for opera companies (15.7%).

Looking at all corporate sponsorships and private donations as a group, funding in 2012 was relatively most expensive for theatre and music companies, intermediate for dance companies, and least expensive for opera companies — perhaps because of the long experience of operas in raising funds from corporations and other large donors.

Total Funding of each Artform

Chart 5 sums the picture up for each artform. In 2012, music companies raised $21.4m (gross income before deducting direct costs). This included $1.1m as the net outcome of special events, the small category omitted from the main analysis. Music companies thus accounted for 33% of the total funding of major performing arts companies in 2012 ($64.1m). Dance companies accounted for 26% ($16.8m), opera companies for 17.2% ($11.1m), and theatre companies for 23% ($14.8m).

Company Turnover

Corporate Sponsorships

Alt=Table 8
Seven large companies (more than $15m turnover in 2010) received $15.5m in corporate sponsorships in 2012, an average of $2.22m each. Nine medium-sized companies (turnover $8-15m in 2010) received $6.9m, an average of $765,000. The smallest 12 companies received $7.9m, an average of $660,000

. Expressed in constant 2012 dollars, all three averages (and the totals in Table 8), fluctuated around a fairly flat trend. There are some differences, however, including a downward trend in corporate sponsorships received by large companies, especially between 2006 and 2011. It was reversed in 2012 when large companies increased their takings by 11%. The AMPAG report notes (p 24) that the increase in 2012 was primarily due to a single company. Table 6 shows a large increase in corporate sponsorships to opera companies in 2012, the same year Mazda Australia became Opera Australia’s principal sponsor.[11]

Small companies, in contrast to big ones, were on a rising trend from 2007, when they attracted $5.5m of corporate sponsorships, to 2012 when the total was nearly $8m. The increase in corporate sponsorships won by small companies was “relatively widespread” according to the AMPAG report, benefiting eight of the 12 companies (p 26). The remaining four collected less in 2012, illustrating the relative fickleness of private fund raising in Australia from the receiving companies’ viewpoint.

The medium-sized companies seem to have been squeezed in the middle, showing a downward trend in corporate sponsorships since 2004, losing 1% even in the “good” year of 2012. The AMPAG report notes that five of the nine companies reported decreased earnings in 2012 — three substantially so (p 24).

Private Donations

These increased strongly in all three turnover groups, but especially for the small companies (Table 9). The total increase between 2001/2002 and 2011/2012 was 231% as previously noted, but it was 510% for small companies compared with 221% for medium and 172% for large companies. In the year 2001 itself (rather than the average of 2001 and 2002 used elsewhere), large companies accounted for 59.3% of total private donations, medium companies for 28.2% and small companies for 12.5%. By 2012, the share of large corporations had declined a little to 57.1% and for medium companies more substantially to 23.3%. Meanwhile, the share of small companies increased from 12.5% to 19.6%.

The AMPAG report comments (p 25) on the sharp fall in small company receipts of private donations that this was mainly due to normalisation of income levels of four small companies following a “significant” (indeed very large) one-off donation from the owners of a Western Australian mining company in 2011 (reported in a previous section of this report).

Even taking this large donation into account, small companies have gained substantial share of total receipts of private donations since 2001.

Cost of Funding

Alt=Chart 6
Alt=Chart 7
The most remarkable thing to note from Chart 6 is the high cost of attracting corporate sponsorships to medium-sized major performing arts companies in 2012: 44.1% of gross receipts of these sponsorships compared with an average of 31.6% for all companies. For large companies, the average cost ratio was 30.2% and for small companies 23.6%.

The differences were less pronounced for private donations (average cost ratio for all companies 19.3%). The ratio was still slightly higher for medium-sized companies (20.7), about average for large companies (19.5%), and lower for small companies (16.3%).

Total Funding by Size of Turnover

The seven large companies topped the total earnings from sponsorships, donations and events (Chart 7). Large companies accounted for 53.9% in 2012 ($34.6m), medium-sized companies for 23.7% ($15.2m), and small companies for 22.4% ($14.4m).

For corporate sponsorships, 51.1% went to large companies in 2012 ($15.5m), 22.8% to medium-sized companies ($6.9m), and 26.1% to small companies ($7.9m).

For private donations, large companies have a relative edge (57.1%, $17.9m), the share for medium-sized companies was close to the average for all sponsorships (23.3%, $7.3m), and lower for small companies (19.6%, $6.1m).

External Factors

The Global Financial Crisis may have had some effect on the private sector funding of major performing arts companies in Australia. Chart 1 suggests that the total income from corporate sponsorships and private donations hovered around $50m between 2007 and 2009, following growth from 2001 to 2007. Both main funding components went static during these years.

The Western Australian mining boom, depending on continued Chinese economic growth more than anything else, is behind much of the leap in funding in 2011, and maintaining a high level in 2012. Conditions in China and the Australian mining industry are factors in the assessment of future prospects.


Hans Hoegh-Guldberg. Entered on Knowledge Base 10 February 2014. See also Private Funding of Music, an older and more general description by Dick Letts which still maps the activity well.


  1. Orchestra Victoria, founded in 2005, is the performance partner of the Australian Ballet, Opera Australia, and non-AMPAG members Victorian Opera and The Production Company which specialises in musicals.
  2. Musica Viva Australia was founded in 1945 by Romanian-born violinist Richard Goldner, with the aim of bringing chamber music to Australia. Musica Viva was originally a string ensemble performing chamber music to small groups of European immigrants. It is now the largest chamber music presenter in the world, and also runs one of the largest music education programs in Australia, Musica Viva in Schools (Wikipedia).
  3. Applying the index values to the adjusted statistics shown in the tables and charts of the article will restore the data to the original values shown in the AMPAG report. The indicator is the Chain Price Index of Final Consumption Expenditure, All Sectors (households, business and government), converted to average 2012 levels. This general indicator of inflation increased by an average of 3.0% per annum between 2001 and 2012, ranging from an annual maximum rise of 4.7% in 2008 and minimum observations of 2.1% in 2004 and 2012. The total increase over the period was 37.8%.
  4. The AMPAG report poses another caveat: The direct cost information is not audited and differences in what is classified as direct may exist from company to company. Information on direct costs is therefore deemed indicative only. Arguably, however, there is reasonable consistency in the quality and definition of the statistics delivered from each company from year to year.
  5. The WA Ballet, Opera and Symphony Orchestra, and the Black Swan Theatre Company. Donor: Leading WA mining company Fortescue Metals Group shares donated by Andrew and Nicole Forrest. There were other substantial one-off donations including the Australian Chamber Orchestra Instrument Fund.
  6. If the same funds had been raised in 2012 as in 2011, with the lower cost ratio then applying, the cost ratio would have declined from above 19% to less than 18%. But there are too many variables involved with different distributions of companies by state, artform and size to take this further from what the AMPAG reports.
  7. The Australian total is shown in Table 6.
  8. Does the fall in WA private donations represent a leading indicator, reflecting a widespread realisation among donors that the China-based boom can’t last forever? Remember that much private giving is in fact initiated by CEOs as gifts that don’t carry any further expected direct benefits to the corporations concerned.
  9. National totals can be seen in Table 7.
  10. Especially in view of the unexpectedly low number of Victoria-based AMPAG companies.
  11. Mazda’s sponsorship relationship with Opera Australia began in 2005. Its role as Principal Sponsor continued at the time of writing in February 2014.
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