Record donor numbers for the Esplanade despite fall in total giving

The Esplanade noted in its annual report released on Friday (Sept 29) that the number of donors and sponsors had increased to 117 in the last financial year, compared with 67 the year before.
The Esplanade noted in its annual report released on Friday (Sept 29) that the number of donors and sponsors had increased to 117 in the last financial year, compared with 67 the year before.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Esplanade, Singapore's national performing arts centre, reported record donor numbers in the last financial year, although total giving fell from the previous year.

The arts venue, which turns 15 this year, noted in its annual report released on Friday (Sept 29) that the number of donors and sponsors had increased to 117 in the last financial year, compared with 67 the year before.

It had 71 donors, the highest number since it opened in 2002.

Sponsors give in expectation of benefits such as brand placement, while donors enjoy tax exemptions for their contributions.

Despite this, total donations and sponsorships to the Esplanade fell to $3.93 million from $6.22 million in the previous financial year.

According to the Esplanade, this was largely due to an "unprecedented" cash donation of $2 million in the previous financial year from a single donor, as well as more cautious giving this year due to economic uncertainties.

The Esplanade said in the report that while it expects arts spending and support to compete for priority against other needs in the current lacklustre economy, it plans to use advanced marketing tools to reach patrons more effectively.

"As such, Esplanade will continue to engage our communities through our programmes and, with the support of our donors and sponsors, ensure that those who are underserved and in greater need can benefit from the arts," the report said.

It closed the financial year with a surplus of $9.4 million, a drop from about $10million the year before.

Its programmes had a total attendance of more than 2 million, with more than 454,500 attendees for ticketed programmes and close to 1.6 million for non-ticketed ones.

These programmes included the return of blockbuster musical Les Miserables to Singapore after 20 years, as well as Matthew Bourne's ballet Sleeping Beauty and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra's presentation of Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble.

It also launched new community outreach initiatives such as JOYears, a free membership programme for those aged 55 and above that was started in June last year.

The Esplanade said in the report that moving ahead, it hopes that its new 550-seat waterfront theatre, slated to open in 2021, will help further its content and artistic development, and improve audience engagement in the next 10 to 15 years. It currently lacks a mid-sized venue of this capacity.

It noted that this would require significant investments in time and resources, and said it has started putting in place plans to raise funds for the $30 million venue, as well as preparing programmes suitable for the new space.

"With this new theatre, we will be able to present a greater diversity of leading artists and productions to inspire our artists and audiences in Singapore," said the arts centre's chief executive officer Benson Puah.