Let’s Talk: 10 pieces of advice for new fundraisers

By Amanda Rigali on

Lucy Newton ProfileOne month into our new roles as Year 3 Arts Fundraising Fellows, our heart rates are just starting to feel a little more settled. Following the excitable madness of The National Arts Fundraising School (see Nadja’s blog), we have now had a few weeks to digest crucial information, such as a fundraiser’s three Golden Rules (be ready, be confident & be communicative), and to focus on our own host organisations’ fundraising strategies. Working for Bristol Music Trust based in the heart of Bristol at Colston Hall, my own experience has seen a whirlwind of activity with a lot of new information to take on board, and I have loved every minute of it.

Last week, the 15 London, South East and South West Fellows were lucky enough to meet the Southern Year 2 Fellows cohort at the home of Artsadmin in Toynbee Studios, London. Over an afternoon, we were treated to their presentations on key learning points and highlights from the past year, followed by a series of questions and fascinating discussions.

I’m sure that I can say on behalf of the new Year 3 Fellows that the experience was invaluable, and we all appreciated the opportunity to pick their brains about day-to-day activities, as well as wider topics such as personal journeys and the importance of a robust strategy.

From this session, here are the top 10 essential nuggets of advice for new fundraisers

  1. Manage your time appropriately: Always ask yourself the question; ‘where is my time best spent?’ Do not over commit to campaigns that are likely to have a low return on investment.
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Although we might already like to think of ourselves as arts fundraising gurus (technical term), one fellow pointed out that at some point over the coming year we will undoubtedly feel overwhelmed. We must remember to ask for support from colleagues when necessary and occasionally take a break!
  1. Be open to new experiences: Say yes to everything (within reason perhaps…) and throw yourself out of your comfort zone as you never know what you may discover.
  1. Share your learning: Within this current climate, it is paramount that we work together across the industry by sharing our successes (and failures!) for mutual benefit. This blog is a wonderful example, as is Lindsay’s training at the Dorset Arts Trust and the established Arts Fundraising Network in Bristol. Sharing is caring. On a similar note…
  1. Collaboration is key: This is relevant both externally and internally for any organisation, but many fellows placed emphasis on the importance of internal communication with regards to the organisation’s fundraising strategy. It is down to us to convey the message that everyone is (in part) a fundraiser and accountable for the organisation’s stability. A practical example of achieving this could be to share Development goals and successes in staff meetings, or to train Box Office/Front of House staff.
  1. You will have more failures than successes: Perhaps a slightly sombre message to take on board, it is nevertheless vital to remember that there is no guaranteed solution for success and we should get used to hearing the word ‘no’. Often, the answer ‘no’ can be more beneficial than a positive response if accompanied with honest feedback. Now pick yourself up and try again.
  1. Take your donors on a journey: To ensure maximum engagement from individual donors at all levels we need to give them a unique experience and create ‘insider moments’ that will leave a lasting impression. Plus, it always helps to talk with conviction and smile. This proved particularly successful for us at Colston Hall just last weekend when we held a Patrons lunch event at our Chairman’s house, creating an enjoyable and intimate atmosphere.
  1. Never stop having new ideas: Always be curious and do not be afraid to question standing processes or new concepts, your idea could be the solution to an ongoing issue. Listen to your gut instinct.
  1. Consider your own personal ‘Case for Support’: We are all walking advocates for the work that our organisations carry out and in order to convey passion about what we are fundraising for, we must fundamentally believe in it. Take some time to ask yourself why your organisation deserves to be supported and, on a wider scale, why you believe in the power of the arts.
  1. Fundraising is all about the people: Do not forget this ever-important mantra. From those that participate in arts activities, to the audience members, to your admin staff and to your supporters, all are involved in helping an organisation run. Stimulate discussion by reaching out to supporters via social media or other means and never underestimate the power of a good story. After all, people are just people.

So, whether you’re an experienced fundraiser or a keen novice, perhaps take a moment to consider these 10 ideas – we’d love to hear your views. I, for one, am filled with enthusiasm to take on the challenge of the next 11 months as an Arts Fundraising Fellow.

Posted by Amanda Rigali

Amanda is Director of Strategic Development at Cause4, and Head of the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Programme. As well as running the Programme, Amanda runs fundraising training sessions for cultural professionals across England and offers intensive strategy support to a range of charities.

One comment

  1. Great to have succinct and thoughtful comments from someone so new to the arena – and so wise! We need to hold in our heads that it IS all about people and how lives can be changed or modified by the Arts, AND we want to hear individual stories – real life testimonials that witness the change.

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