The Belfast Charitable Society in conjunction with the Heritage Project at Queen’s University came together to deliver the Heritage & Philanthropy event as part of Philanthropy Fortnight. Due to ongoing building work at Clifton House and in a bid to showcase some of the wonderful heritage venues in North Belfast we decided to hold our event in the former St Patrick’s National School on Donegall Street.
The first part of the morning was dedicated to looking at philanthropy in the past. Dr Alice Johnson (Belfast Metropolitan College) examined the emerging town Belfast and how problems of poverty and ill-health were a significant concern to the people of the town. She also spoke about the new middle-classes and how they contributed to assisting those in need. Robyn Atcheson (QUB) discussed the Belfast Charitable Society as a case-study of how philanthropy was utilised during the 18th and 19th centuries in Belfast. Dr Paddy Fitzgerald (Mellon Centre for Migration Studies) spoke about the response to poverty in 17th Ireland and explained the philanthropy of the Mellon family in setting up the Ulster American Folk Park and the Centre for Migration Studies.
For the second part of the session Neil Irwin took the helm. Neil is the chair of the Institute of Fundraisers and the Northern Ireland Trusts. He had plenty of advice and suggestions as to how heritage venues and collections could make themselves more attractive to potential donors. Una Duffy from the Heritage Lottery Fund was also in attendance and her advice was to remember, “Its’ all about the pitch.” Both Una and Neil agreed that it was vital for all heritage projects to have a plan in place as to how to spend a donation or a grant. Solid frameworks were essential to give the donor or funder confidence in the work which would be completed.