A friend or membership scheme is a type of annual subscription created by an arts organisation which provides a small number of benefits for an individual or corporate in return for their subscription; thus making the friend or member a sort of preferred customer.
In recent years, friends and membership schemes have been a popular way for arts organisations to raise funds and develop loyalty with their audiences by offering benefits such as regular programmes/newsletters, access to special events or discounts on tickets or entrance fees. In some cases, where the arts organisation is an eligible charity and the subscription is above the relevant threshold, the friend or member can be entitled to tax relief under Section 848a of the Taxes Consolidation Act.
From the outset of New Stream in 2009, increasing the level of individual giving to the arts, including giving through friends and membership schemes, has been a priority of the programme. Research undertaken by Business to Arts in 2008, identified:
- The relatively low level of individual giving to the arts during the relevant time period (€2.6 million)
- That large individual donations are mostly aimed at capital campaigns
- The level of individual giving to arts organisations fluctuates year on year
- There is a clear opportunity to develop individual giving in the arts in Ireland