Wirp Workshop Developing International Partnerships

Working Internationally Regional Project

WIRP Workshop: Developing International Partnerships

WIRP Workshop: Developing International Partnerships
The WIRP Workshop: Developing International Partnerships took place at the Horniman Museum & Gardens on 5 October 2016.

Click HERE to download the workshop programme.

Click HERE to download the list of speakers and their biographies and abstracts.

You can find case studies, guidance articles, and a list of useful organisations for working internationally on the Resources pages of the ICOM UK website.




Lucy Marder, Cultural Partnerships Officer, South East Museum Development (Hampshire Solent)

Understanding Partnerships


Anikó Miszné Korenchy, Director of the Foundation for Museums & Visitors (Hungary) and Learning Manager at the Hungarian Museum of Trade & Tourism

The International Perspective


Bill Griffiths, Head of Programmes, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Case study drawing on international skill sharing & training partnerships


Helen Ball, Chief Executive, The Civic, Barnsley and Celia Joicey, Head of Fashion & Textile Museum

Case study on UK collaboration to deliver international touring exhibitions


Tim Corum, Director of Curatorial and Public Engagement, Horniman Museum & Gardens
Case study based on creative programming and community engagement with international partners

Tullie House Goes East: Bringing the Romans to China


Since 2013 Tullie House has been working with the Zhou family, owners and operators of the Imperial Decree Museum (IDM) in Xuzhou and the No. 1 Scholar Museum in Suzhou, both in Jiangsu Province, China.  The parallels between the Roman collection at Tullie House and objects relating to the Han Dynasty at IDM were a key link between the two museums.

Object handling with officials

Object handling with officials. Photo courtesy of Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery

After a visit to Tullie House by Mr Zhou the Executive Director and his team in October 2014, engagement was identified as an area of museum practice that IDM wanted to explore further. This resulted in a personnel exchange in June 2015, with Andrew Mackay (Head of Collections & Programming) and Anna Smalley (Learning & Engagement Manager) visiting IDM.  We felt it was important to deliver something tangible that was of practical benefit to both organisations, so we chose to deliver a handling session that demonstrated how objects can be used to educate and inspire. For IDM and the No. 1 Scholar Museum it would provide an insight into engagement and learning techniques developed at a major regional museum; for Tullie House it would provide the opportunity to use our collection in a completely new and innovative way, as well as gauge the interest of a new audience in a key area of our collection.

We delivered our first workshop in Xuzhou with 21 local primary school children aged 10-11, selected for their language ability and interest in history. We created the session based on the MLA’s Inspiring Learning for All framework, focussing on building the pupil’s knowledge of Roman history but also encouraging them to find enjoyment, creativity and inspiration in the object handling process.

As part of the session the children took part in a range of activities, including handling objects such as pottery, jewellery, coins and glassware. The children also explored Latin and Roman writing using real and replica wooden writing tablets, and had a go at writing in Latin and comparing the results with English and Chinese characters. Lastly the children investigated Roman costume, handling real Roman footwear and dressing up in replica costume. The pupils then created their own role play about daily life in Roman Carlisle using the objects they had handled during the session as inspiration.

The children found the experience of object handling incredibly inspiring: none of the pupils had ever handled genuine historical artefacts before, and the added factor of them being from a country thousands of miles away was of considerable excitement. We adopted the same object handling techniques as we would in our primary school workshops in Carlisle, stressing to the children not to worry about giving wrong answers: we wanted their ideas and to know how they felt about the objects. They responded well to this approach, offering a range of very creative ideas about what the objects were used for and what they were made from. We encouraged them to use their senses, looking closely with magnifying glasses, feeling for different textures and even smelling the objects.

Feedback from children, teachers and staff at IDM was universally positive.  The teachers were very impressed with the session and were keen to take part in workshops like this at IDM on a regular basis.  This was the first time museum staff had seen this kind of engagement activity and observing it directly was an invaluable experience for them as this is something they are now developing at their own venue.  The session attracted considerable interest from Chinese media, with local newspapers and TV crews documenting the whole process, highlighting the unusual and innovative nature of this type of experience in China.

Xuzhou Primary School Children after workshop at Imperial Decree Museum_Photo courtesy of Tullie House Museum

Xuzhou Primary School Children after workshop at Imperial Decree Museum.  Photo courtesy of Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery

We also delivered presentations to Museology and Tourism students at Jiangsu Normal University. My presentation focussed on our engagement activities with children, young people, families and community groups. After the presentations we delivered a short object handling session with the students. As with the primary school children, their amazement at being able to hold and interact with artefacts cannot be overstated! They particularly enjoyed handling the glass jug and the writing tablets.

In the No. 1 Scholar Museum in Suzhou we delivered an adapted version of the Roman workshop, with the added element of comparisons with Han Dynasty technology and costume. The students were a mixture of members of Suzhou University’s English Club and students from Singapore with strong English and an interest in history.  Once again the object handling was the most popular activity: the students loved wearing the gloves and handling the objects directly, and were particularly impressed by the jewellery.

Tullie House_Chinese Newspaper

As in Xuzhou the event attracted considerable media interest, with local TV crews and newspaper journalists staying for the duration of the event. Staff at the No. 1 Scholar Museum were very pleased with the event, and found that seeing us deliver something so successfully has given them the confidence to pursue this line of activity going forward, as well as develop deeper engagement activity for students.

The trip really cemented the partnership between Tullie House and the Zhou family, and we are now planning to further develop this with a children’s art work exchange and the loan of collections. In 2017 we are hoping to display a selection of artefacts from the IDM’s collection alongside a Chinese New Year Festival and engagement programme for adults and children.


As part of their joint cooperation, Tullie House signed an MOU with the Xuzhou Guishan Hill Scenic Area, which you can download for reference HERE.


Anna Smalley, Learning & Engagement Manager, Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery

WIRP Workshop: Working with India



Samarjit (Sam) Guha, Head of Programmes, British Council India


The WIRP Workshop: Working with India took place at the Imperial War Museum in London on 9 November 2015.  Below you can find a selection of presentations from the workshop to download.

Click HERE to download the workshop programme.

Click HERE to download the list of speakers and their biographies and abstracts.

Click HERE to download the British Council India Matters report.

Click HERE to download Re-Imagine – Museums & Galleries: UK-India Opportunities & Partnerships


You can find case studies, guidance articles, and a list of useful organisations and links for working with India on the Resources pages of the ICOM UK website.



Indian Museums & Galleries: UK-India Opportunities and Partnerships, Sam Guha, Head of Programmes, British Council India


The Fabric of India, Olivia Oldroyd, Exhibitions Manager, Victoria & Albert Museum


Developing Contacts and Networks in India, Emma Sumner, Artist, Curator and Writer


Supporting Museum Sectors: The British Museum’s International Training Programme (ITP), Claire Messenger, Manager of the ITP, The British Museum


Glasgow Museums and India, Dr Martin Bellamy, Head of Research, Glasgow Life


Digital and Indian Museums: Incredible opportunities waiting to happen, Carolyn Royston, Director of Digital at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, USA


Ancient House in India, Karen Emma White, Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life, Norfolk Museums


Connections to India and the First World War, Jody East, Creative Programme Curator, Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove


WIRP Workshop: Working with China



(L-R) Alex Gao, Director of the Today Art Museum; Zhang Zikang, Deputy Director of the National Art Museum of China; Luo Yi, Curator & Museum Design Consultant at Urban Energy)


The WIRP Workshop: Working with China took place at the Hospitium at York Museums Trust on 14 October 2015.  Below you can find a selection of presentations from the workshop to download.


Click HERE to download the workshop programme.

Click HERE to download the list of speakers and their biographies and abstracts.

You can find case studies, guidance articles, and a list of useful organisations and links for working with China on the Resources pages of the ICOM UK website.


Zhang Zikang, Deputy Director, National Art Museum of China (NAMOC)


Alex Gao, Director, Today Art Museum


Andrew Mackay, Head of Collections and Programming, Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery and Sophie Liu, UK Representative for Xuzhou Decree Museum


Rui Pang, International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology (ICCHA) at University College London (UCL)



Working with China: Opportunities, Challenges, Solutions, Linda Rosen, Business Development Manager, China-Britain Business Council (CBBC)


Shipping to and from China: How to Avoid Hitting a Great Wall, Julie Prance, Head of Exhibitions Coordination, Momart


Ying Tan, Curator, Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art (CFCCA) 


ICOM UK and the WIRP would like to thank Urban Energy, Vastari, and the British Council for their facilitation and support to bring the international speakers to this workshop.

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WIRP Workshop: International Touring Exhibitions & Loans


The WIRP Workshop: International Touring Exhibitions & Loans took place at MShed in Bristol on Tuesday 22 September 2015.  Below you can find a selection of presentations from the workshop to download.

Click HERE to download the workshop programme.

Click HERE to download the list of speakers and their biographies and abstracts.

Don’t forget that the Resources pages of the ICOM UK website contain a wealth of information on working internationally, including useful links and contacts, case studies, guidance articles, and information on potential sources of funding.


Strategies for Venue Finding, Alice Lobb, Exhibitions Manager, Barbican Art Gallery


3D Printing: A new Virtual Model for International Touring, Gemma Levett, Head of Touring Exhibitions, Science Museum Group


How to Suceed Overseas: 31 Quick Lessons from the National Football Museum, Dr Kevin Moore, Director


United Exhibits Group (UEG), Carolyn Routledge, Chief Curator


How We Do International Loans, David Packer, Registrar, Fitzwilliam Museum


International Spotlight Loans, Andrew Mackay, Head of Collections and Programming, Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery

Applying for Immunity from Seizure for International Loans In


Have you been asked for Immunity from Seizure?


With an increase in international lenders asking for Immunity from Seizure, many museums and galleries find out too late that they should have begun the application process several months earlier


Does your museum need to be able to offer immunity from seizure?

Many international lenders are now asking for Immunity from Seizure for their loans. This is a legal guarantee that their objects will be protected from court-ordered seizure, for a limited period of time, while in the UK. The result is that many UK museums are being caught out when suddenly asked for immunity as a condition of loan. Preparations are often far advanced when the lender asks for immunity and there may be no time to go through the process of applying for Approved Status.

You may never have borrowed from abroad but it’s a good idea to consider if you might be doing an international loan in the future. If so, you should consider obtaining Approved Status now.


Why is this happening?

In many countries, the Immunity from Seizure process is straight forward and quick to obtain. For example, simply registering the loans with the Department for Culture gives an automatic guarantee. Because lenders do not realise that the UK process is more rigorous, they tend to ask for proof of immunity at the last minute and just before the loans are due to leave.

More and more UK museums are borrowing from abroad, entering into international partnerships and exchanges and taking part in touring exhibitions. They may suddenly find themselves faced with an unexpected demand for immunity from seizure with no knowledge of how to obtain it.

They often approach the DCMS with only a few weeks before the objects enter the country. By this time it is usually too late. The UK process can take 2-3 months. The applying museum must prove that it has all the necessary processes in place and has been applying due diligence procedures for some time.


Why are so many lenders asking for immunity?

Many lenders are now asking for immunity as a matter of course. Some countries offer immunity along with government indemnity and expect to receive the same in the UK. Most lenders in Russia and in the USA automatically ask for immunity and will not lend without it.

Many museums in the USA and Europe have been subject to claims from descendants whose property was seized by the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s or confiscated by the state after 1946 by Iron Curtain countries. There are also frequent claims from governments claiming that archaeological, historical or ethnographic items were stolen and illegally exported from their countries.

In several countries, notably Russia, there may be outstanding claims against the state for failing to pay for goods and services. The claimants may attempt to seize goods owned by the state while they are out of the country in order to satisfy outstanding debts.


What is immunity from seizure?

Immunity from seizure is a legal guarantee that items lent from abroad for temporary exhibition will be returned to the lender at the end of the loan and will not be handed over to a claimant who says they are the rightful owner. Certain terms and conditions apply.

Immunity from Seizure was introduced into the UK in 2008 because many international lenders were refusing to lend without it. Since that time, 27 museums and galleries have obtained Approved Status – the certification that allows them to offer immunity from seizure for loans from abroad.

In order to obtain Approved Status, the organisation must be able to demonstrate that it is an ethical organisation following due diligence processes for examining the history of loans in and that they will not borrow items if there is any suspicion that they were stolen, looted or illegally obtained.

Once Approved Status has been granted, the museum or gallery can simply list the works on its website with details of the loan and of the exhibition and immunity will be automatic. Reports must be provided. The Regulations are listed on the website (see below).


What should you do if you might be asked for immunity?

You might be asked for immunity if you intend to borrow from Russia, the USA or any country that has been subject to war, looting, occupation or boundary changes within historical memory. Begin by looking at your internal processes and procedures to make sure they are up-to-date and appropriate for loans from abroad.

Loans policy: check that your loans policy states that you are an ethical organisation and that you do not borrow items that may have been stolen, looted or illegally exported. You may wish to state on your website that you accord with the various national and international codes of ethics regarding loans, e.g., the ICOM and Museums Association’s Codes of Ethics.

Due diligence: Verify that staff are, as a matter of course, already undertaking provenance research into the history of object. They must be able to prove that there are no alarming gaps in ownership and that there is no possibility that the items were stolen, looted, transferred under duress, illegally excavated, exported or smuggled. There should be a written process for examining provenance history and noting down the evidence.

Museums and galleries receiving Government Indemnity for exhibitions should already be carrying out provenance research as a condition of that indemnity. It doesn’t look good on the application to say that you have never carried out provenance checks because you have never been asked for immunity from seizure before.

Loan forms:  ensure that your loan form asks the lender to guarantee that they are the legal owner (or the owner’s agent) and that they know of no previous, current, or potential claims for the object from a third party.

Knowledge: find out if exhibition staff understand the meaning and implications of immunity from seizure. If not, get expert advice or consult colleagues in other organisations to ask for help.

Management: due diligence is not just the job of the exhibition curator. It must be an integral part of the organisation and adopted by the director and the board of trustees. Make sure they are aware of the implications and ask if they will lead an application for Approved Status should you decide to go ahead.

If you have all these procedures in place, you can approach the DCMS to say that you intend to apply for Approved Status. Information on how to apply is on the DCMS website. DCMS staff are happy to receive enquiries, to offer advice on how to apply and to answer any questions. The process usually takes at least 2-3 months so begin well before you expect the loans to enter the UK


How do I apply for Approved Status?

The application process consists of a questionnaire about due diligence and your procedures for provenance research. This is submitted with examples of your exhibitions policy, loan form and case studies of a recent exhibition with examples of provenance research undertaken. If the museum cannot provide this supporting material and can’t supply supporting documentation to demonstrate how it undertakes provenance research, Approved Status cannot be granted.

So think ahead. If your museum already has good professional practices which include researching object history and looking for any suspicious gaps in provenance, if your loan forms are adequate and your staff trained in due diligence practices, you can go ahead and apply for Approved Status. If not, get these professional practices in place now before a lender suddenly asks for immunity and you find that an important loan can no longer take place.


Information is available on the DCMS website www.culture.gov.uk or by contacting Mark Caldon mark.caldon@culture.gov.uk or Andrew Calnan andrew.calnan@culture.gov.uk


Freda Matassa

Freda Matassa is Director of Matassa Toffolo Ltd, providing collections management advice to museums and galleries as well as private collections. Former Head of Collections Management at Tate Galleries, she is one of the Advisers to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on Approved Status applications. She is the author of Museum Collections Management: A Handbook (Facet Publishing 2012) and Organizing Exhibitions: A Handbook for museums, libraries and archives (Facet Publishing 2014)



  • Case Studies

    A collection of case studies that highlight the variety of international work taking place across museums and galleries, and which also provide useful advice and a valuable insight for museum and galleries embarking on international work.

    Case Studies

  • Guidance Articles

    Covering a wide variety of topics related to working internationally, this collection of guidance articles provides advice and top tips for museums and galleries embarking on international work.

    Guidance Articles

  • Useful Contacts


    A list of UK and international organisations who can provide information and support on working internationally.

    Useful Contacts

  • Funding

    Information on the WIRP International Travel Grant Scheme, and other potential sources of funding for working internationally.


  • International Touring Exhibitions


    Resources and information on international touring exhibitions produced in collaboration with the British Council.

    International Touring Exhibitions

    The Working Internationally Regional Project (WIRP) was funded by Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Fund. It was led by ICOM UK in partnership with the National Museum Directors’ Council (NMDC), the British Council, and Heritage Without Borders (HWB).

    The aim of the WIRP was to develop the long-term capacity for regional and local museums and galleries to work internationally.  This was achieved through supporting museum professionals to develop the necessary skills, knowledge, and confidence when embarking on international work.

    These resources are a legacy of the Working Internationally Regional Project (2014-17).


International Loans In

David Packer, Museum Registrar at The Fitzwilliam Museum provides some useful pointers as well as guiding us through the process of borrowing work from international collections.

  • Try to allow a minimum notice period of one year when submitting loan requests. Allow much longer if your exhibition is marking a major anniversary, as other projects may be looking to display the same objects. When the formal request is submitted, you should be precise, citing object accession numbers, describing how these objects will fit into the exhibition narrative, and giving the exact dates of the display.
  • If the exhibition curator is visiting international collections for research, encourage them to take a tape measure and digital camera so that they can obtain detailed physical descriptions and materials information from the outset.
  • Compile a list of your staff with second language skills and their level. Over time you will become familiar with key phrases, for example in insurance policies.
  • Start the appointment process for a transport agent as soon as you have a workable and stable object list. Although there will be many changes, set out when you need the objects as a basis for the negotiations. This will put you in control of your installation schedule.f the exhibition curator is visiting international collections for research, encourage them to take a tape measure and digital camera so that they can obtain detailed physical descriptions and materials information from the outset.
  • It is expected that the borrower will appoint the shipping agent: it is best to stick with Artim or ICEFAT members in the first instance, but the lender will retain a veto. It is advisable to appoint an art agent rather than attempting to navigate the complexities of customs, import VAT, etc. yourself. Ensure that the agent has airside access in order to supervise the shipment properly during palletisation and loading.
  • Transporting international loans is expensive! Ask for the costs up front or as early in the process as you can: if a ‘loan fee’ is being charged, ask what this includes: is it admin only? If conservation work incurs extra cost, ask what measures will be taken to make the object safe to travel. Try to separate this from purely aesthetic improvements – you can make a decision about those if your budget allows. Expect to pay for conservation and condition reporting, the transport agent, construction of crates, packing labour, mounts and stock frames, courier travel, hotel and per diem.
  • If you have approved immunity from seizure status, set deadlines for the publication of the object details, including images, in order to secure immunity on entry to the UK. The objects must be published online four weeks before entry, so ensure that those lenders know what information they need to provide and by when: if they don’t provide the information, immunity will not be in place. Don’t forget that UK immunity is still subordinate to the UK’s obligations under international treaties such as the 1970 UNESCO Convention and CITES regulations.
  • Check dates of public holidays in different countries. Most work desk diaries have a table of these, if not look online. It is useful to know when your counterparts in overseas institutions are not going to be there, and when transport might be affected. If you are going to be shipping on public holidays, bear in mind that a lot of shops might be shut, other facilities not available, key staff not at work, and that the transport will cost a lot more because the crew are on double-time. Also, be aware that in some places very many people are away from their desks for much of August.

International Loans Out

David Packer, Museum Registrar at The Fitzwilliam Museum provides some useful pointers as well as guiding us through the process of lending objects internationally.

  • When approached by prospective international borrowers, outline a clear process and timetable for securing loans.
  • Ask the borrower to complete the URKG or AAM facilities reports, irrespective of whether they have provided their own report in a different format. This will ensure you have all the information that you need.
  • On receipt of a formal loan request, alert the relevant parts of your organisation as soon as possible, to set the consideration of the loan in motion.
  • If the loan is agreed, the borrower should put measures in place through their nominated transport agent for the customs formalities to be completed. However, as lender, you will need to provide, in good time, information on materials, whether the object falls under CITES regulations, and the provenance for export licences, if required. Also, you should be clear about special handling or packing requirements and specifications, for example, transporting unfixed pastels.
  • Be aware that your object might require an export license, depending on where it is travelling to, how old it is, and the type of object it is, e.g. archaeological material. The transport agent should flag this up and assist with paperwork.
  • Decide as an institution whether you wish to have immunity in all eligible territories. If so, be open about the release of images and provenance information, and assist the borrower in meeting their application deadlines. If you have doubts about the provenance of an object, or reason to believe that it has dubious episodes in its past, then ask yourself whether you should be lending it.
  • Some state indemnity and immunity schemes have very long lead times, so be aware that some information, such as values and provenance, will need to be sent early in the loan process. If there is no state indemnity scheme in place, the borrower will normally take out a local policy; however, they should send the policy terms to you in advance for approval, particularly the exclusion clauses. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification of the interpretation of some clauses, e.g. ‘wrongful act’ or ‘theft by staff’. If you are still unclear, inform the borrower that you will seek advice from a fine art insurer and that you will expect them to pay the premium, OR nominate two or three acceptable providers to them.
  • Contact the borrower promptly when you need further information on facilities or transport. Similarly, if your object needs specialist equipment to move and install it, communicate this to the borrower as soon as you can. Remember, equipment and materials have different names in different countries.
  • If there are preparation costs, communicate these and what they are for to the borrower as soon as possible. Similarly, if you intend to send a courier, let the borrower know the level of accommodation and subsistence costs expected. You can specify that the hotel is close to the venue, at least 3 or 4 star, and has en-suite facilities, to ensure that your courier has a reasonable standard of accommodation. You can also specify a minimum per diem, using the FCO worldwide subsistence guidelines to provide a benchmark rate for employee travel costs.

  • If you do send a courier, try to name them as soon as you can and identify the likely period of travel and installation. Brief them thoroughly on the trip and enable them to physically see the objects before or during packing.
  • You might be able to re-charge your courier’s visa fees or the ESTA cost for visa-waived entry to the US. The courier will probably have to make the arrangements to obtain visas – and any vaccinations required – themselves, so make sure the courier knows this. And also make sure their passport is not about to expire!

Managing Risk to Reputation

Jim Broughton, Head of International Engagement at the Natural History Museum, gives some useful advice on how to manage potentially difficult situations or questions that could put yours and your institution’s reputations at risk.

Q. What do I do when local events threaten to overwhelm my partnership programme?

A: Keep things in perspective. You may have worked on a project for months, but bigger issues can emerge that demand your partners’ immediate attention. These might range from the extreme – natural disasters, civil unrest, etc. – to very local matters, such as the unexpected arrival of dignitaries or the disappearance of your key contacts at the behest of their seniors. It is almost impossible to be too sympathetic in these circumstances. Of course, you might reasonably have different expectations from long-established peers, so do balance this with a little assertiveness if you feel that advantage is being taken of your good nature!

Q: I don’t want to be photographed with this person/talk about this issue on camera, etc. How can I get out of this?

A: Be prepared to think on your feet…Should you end up being put in a situation with which you know you shouldn’t be institutionally associated, then you might need to be creative. Feeling faint can give you a moment’s pause, your phone might ring with an urgent call, etc. and this can avoid you making a scene.

Q: I’m not authorised to speak on behalf of my museum, etc. What do I do?

A: Know which hat you’re wearing. Consider carefully who you are representing each time you work internationally – is it yourself, your institution, your sector, or your country? Consider carefully the messages you provide in advance – think about the content of biographies, conference abstracts, etc. so you don’t end up being an inadvertent spokesperson for something beyond your remit. If necessary, ensure you have had media training, and remember it’s OK to admit when something is outside your specialism and to offer to make connections to the right colleagues back at base.

Q: How can we stop our name being taken in vain?

A: Be clear what you’re bringing to any partnership. Think about what your partners’ drivers are, and don’t assume they are the same as your own. Do they – for example – want professional services, to share knowledge/collections, or to use your association with them to grow their own credibility? Joint initiatives do not immediately confer the right to joint publicity, or to legitimise other activities beyond the scope of the immediate partnership. Quite often, misunderstandings arise out of naivety more than by design, but it is always essential to set the terms of reference in advance.

Q: How can I explain that we can’t help with funding/provide free training courses, etc.?

A: Be honest. It’s quite reasonable to expect partners to think your institutional circumstances are the same as their own. The fact that many prominent institutions in the UK don’t receive full state funding or charge admission fees often comes as a surprise in parts of the world where museums are still closely linked to central government. If partners understand that your intentions are not philanthropic, then it can help build their confidence that yours is a relationship of equals.