Looking through Arts Council England’s new list of fundees brings mixed feelings. I’m thrilled for new companies coming into their Portfolio, we know the work of those we supported is great – shout out for ACAVA, Barnsley Council and The Lightbox, Woking – and some other brilliant new entrants too. Trepidation for those with cuts or not getting the uplifts they hoped for – we know just how vital these were for their sustained resilience through the challenges to come. Overwhelmingly, though, our sympathies are for those many, many organisations who put so much time and effort into their applications but were not successful and are now facing a very uncertain future.

The Audience Agency (TAA) will still be here to support. Unlike other organisations who won’t get ACE funding, we have at least had time to get over the disappointing news that TAA will no longer be running ACE's funded data service for English NPOs. We found out a while ago that ACE had appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of “the big four” global consulting firms, to run a new service modelled on the Audience Finder one we’ve run as a Sector Support Organisation since 2018.

So, we’ve had time to get ready for Plan B and from this perspective it looks as though, for us, NOT having ACE funding might just make delivering our mission easier and more rewarding. We’ll be able to focus in a more unfettered way on what really matters to our stakeholders - growing their audiences, serving their communities and making a bigger impact.

I’m proud of the legacy of Audience Finder in England: over the past eight years, we have invented and developed a world-first initiative enabling hundreds of different organisations of all different shapes and sizes to share, compare and use audience data, often for the first time. What’s more, we did it on time, on budget and to brief, no mean feat. We adapted and now run the service with Arts Council of Wales and Creative Scotland and their fundees. Last year, a mighty 2,000 organisations across the UK used the service, many of them active members of an established Audience Finder Community of practice.

But I’m also looking forward to the future. We’ve completely redesigned Audience Finder – with and for the cultural sector, to help hard-pressed, time-squeezed organisations take more sure-footed decisions for and about their communities without fighting their way through a lot of graphs and metrics. We launch a German version early in 2023 and are working with other international partners on new iterations, bringing new expertise and knowledge to the Community.

The important point is that English organisations will still be able to benefit from this investment, and the mission critical insights we offer. ACE has already put out news that they are leaving behind the notion of a single mandated service - organisations will be able to choose the one that works for them - and send data to ACE via their chosen aggregator. Over the next few months, we’ll be talking more with the sector about the intel they most need from us right now and going public with some of our new solutions. Please talk to us!

Meanwhile, we still offer a free support service to all NPOs and would like to throw that offer open to anyone who put in a bid and was unsuccessful, whether you are already an Audience Finder user or not. In or out of the next Portfolio, take a look at our latest “Evidence”, use brand new, in-depth Audience Spectrum segments, or email us at hello@theaudienceagency.org for a free session about using data to identify the best new audience opportunities for your organisation or how you can help the under-served communities on your doorstep.