Giving Compass' Take:

• Meredith Betz reports that activists are calling on the National Portrait Gallery and other museums to reject BP's donations the way they have rejected the Sackler's. 

• Should organizations give back tainted money? What obligation do funders have to the nonprofits they support?

• Read about the decision not to give back tainted money

A horde of protesters showed up at London’s National Portrait Gallery to protest BP’s 30-year sponsorship of the Portrait Award. They handed out counterfeit parody programs and painted live portraits of BP executives and climate campaigners from West Papua, Mexico, Samoa, and the US Gulf Coast.

Members of the protest group BP or Not BP? blocked the gallery’s main entrances. Some even chained themselves to doorways and gates to prevent guests from entering. (The museum directed attendees to climb over a wall to attend the ceremony.) Despite escalating protests to the organization’s partnership with BP, the show did go on as planned.

BP or Not BP is a national network of “actor-vists” who are “performing disobedient theater using public forums to take on cultural institutions’ accepting funds from big oil companies.

Museums would say they’re working on the problem. The Portrait Gallery’s 2015 Ethical Fundraising Policy emphasizes their “responsibility to ensure donations are not accepted from questionable or inappropriate sources,” including those “in conflict with the objectives and values of the gallery.” It is possible that next year’s BP sponsorship will be referred to the ethics committee for appraisal by the gallery’s trustees. BP’s contract with the National Portrait Gallery was renewed in 2016 to extend into 2022.

That being said, in March, the museum announced the decision to refuse a $1.1 million donation from the Sackler Trust. In a separate letterto Cullinan, eight artists and former prize winners wrote, “We write to you as former winners, shortlisted artists and exhibitors in the BP Portrait Award. The refusal of the Sackler Trust grant demonstrated that the Gallery is indeed prepared to reject funding when a donor does not share its values. We urge you to apply this ethical rigor to your relationship with BP, and recognize it is a partnership that can no longer be defended.”

Read the full article about tainted money by Meredith Betz at Nonprofit Quarterly.