The Wunderbar Foundation


With Ilana Mitchell, Rachael Wiseman, The Integrity Project


Should the arts be publicly or privately funded?

The Wunderbar Foundation is the fundraising ‘arm’ of Wunderbar.

It has two main aims. These are:

– to raise money for the making of Wunderbar projects. 
– to ensure all profit from any Wunderbar endeavours are ploughed back into making new Wunderbar projects.

As it works towards its aims, it also functions as a creative research space to explore the ethics of fundraising and philanthropy.

Ilana Mitchell, Wunderbar’s Artistic Director, has been exploring these ideas with our Philosopher in Residence, Rachael Wiseman. 


Here’s Ilana’s explanation of how the Wunderbar Foundation came about.

Like many folk in the funding-reliant world, I’m no fan of money. And, in particular, no fan of asking for it. However it’s dressed, there is always somewhere along the line a point where the thing you are passionately tied to – independently and personally – becomes subject to the decisions of others. 


So, why this new Foundation? 

Well, the recent and current climate of funding around the sector I work in – the arts – being subject to massive government funding cuts, it’s been a pretty big focus. 

The intention from the government that came into power in the UK in 2010 was to begin a new wave of philanthropy in the arts. Well, I say new wave, new ideology really. One that took US arts philanthropy as its benchmark. 

For the record, I’m not just grumpy ‘cos I haven’t yet found a wealthy benefactor. The ‘Golden Age’ of public funding for the arts, under ‘new labour’ was the ten years in which I grew up my career – you could say I was lucky. 

But this doesn’t in any way mean I took the ethics, or the structure, lightly. I just learned, and by doing it, got good at, playing that game. Now, by necessity, I’m having to diversify my portfolio of moneyraising tricks.



A few years back Arts Council England gave groups of small arts organisations and makers a pot of money (called ‘Catalyst’) to spend learning about different ways to fundraise – in particular focussing on individuals, rather than funding bodies. 

I’ve been taking part in group learning about this for the last two years. It’s been fascinating and I’ve learnt lots about the ‘games’ and how to play them. And I’ve been having fun inventing new ways to ensure there is still some money around for being inquisitive. The idea for Wunderbiz and the Wunderbar Foundation came out of that work. 

With the Foundation, I’m investigating ways to create a new donor initiative; open to those with cash they are able to give away, to donate to the Wunderbar cause. For the last few months I have been working with Wunderbar’s Philosopher in Residence Rachael Wiseman, philosopher and instigator of the Integrity Project. We’ve been getting to grips with some of the ethics and philosophies of private giving.

We are considering whether it is possible to create a situation in which we can play with the power dynamics inherent in being a giver, or a recipient, of money. We’ve done lots of thinking, and we are starting to now talk about it – watch this space (and this video)! 


Important Legal NB!

There is a reason why I chose to call the project “The Wunderbar Foundation.” It’s a new fundraising initiative, yes, and it needs a name, yes. In the UK – unlike in the US, or Finland, or many other countries – the term ‘Foundation’ has no legal definition. That doesn’t mean it isn’t used in the way we mean it – The Roddick Foundation, set up originally by Anita Roddick of The Body Shop, or The British Heart Foundation are good examples. But here in the UK, there are no laws (yet) on the term. 

Here in the UK we have trusts – which do have a legal definition and in particular, charitable trusts – charities. Highly regulated. The British Heart Foundation is a charitable trust. It just has Foundation in its name. The Wunderbar Foundation is not a charitable trust. It just has ‘Foundation’ in its name 

And it is an experiment, an art project if you like, that is creating an equivalent of a philanthropic body, able to, at its own whim and discretion, collect and allocate money without rules. It isn’t a charity with a governing document. Or in fact, any sort of organisation, though Wunderbar is. In other words, it’s an alternative name for our bank account.