Arts fundraiser turned fundraising trainer – a lesson in conveying knowledge!

By Amanda Rigali on

LindsayOne of the challenges I’ve faced so far in my Arts Fundraising Fellowship has been finding a useful way to share my learning from the training programme with the seven organisations that I’m working with. I spend most of my time with Dorset County Council Arts Development Service, but my post is also supported by six arts organisations across the county, and I’m also working for the wider benefit of the county-wide Dorset Arts Trust collaboration – so it can be quite a challenge to engage with them all.

I asked the arts organisations how I could help them directly as well as through collaborative work. They came back with several areas of fundraising that they were keen to learn more about, and so I decided to set up a morning of knowledge sharing and fundraising fun!

I was hesitant to call it “training” as such, since I’m definitely no expert (yet!) and I was aware of the huge range of experience and knowledge already in the room. It’s also difficult to tailor an in-depth training session to six diverse organisations – three are venues, one is touring, and two are festivals – so they have very different needs.

Instead, I set three aims for the session:

  1. To give people time and space to focus on fundraising, which is often neglected, and reflect on their current strategy
  2. To inspire and get them excited about fundraising with ideas and case studies
  3. To give them practical actions to take away and implement

I asked the organisations if they would present short sessions on areas that they felt confident in, and combined these with a couple of sessions from myself based on my training (special thanks to National Arts Fundraising School and Howard Lake).

The day covered a whole range of subjects in just four hours – including writing a case for support, major donor fundraising, digital fundraising, outcomes-based commissions and running fundraising events. Having other people contributing worked well; they refreshed the day, gave real insight and honest experiences, and could answer questions – and it was a lot more interesting for me too!

I also gathered feedback through short evaluation forms – this was helpful in seeing what aspects people found useful, what could be improved, and what other topics I could explore with them.

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Some of the feedback:

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A few tips that I found helpful (or could have used before!):

  1. Keep an eye on the time – it’s good to provide a schedule, but only if you stick to it! People will get restless if they’re worried they’re going to miss their afternoon meeting. Maybe ask a colleague to chair the day, especially if you’re less confident in getting everyone to settle after a coffee break.
  2. But have some flexibility built into the timetable – if there’s a topic that people are dying to discuss, make sure that there is room for that e.g. I’d only mentioned one slide about ethical policies, but people had strong feelings and comments to make on it.
  3. Even if you’re presenting on a topic as abstract or long-term as creating a fundraising strategy, try to include some practical actions that people can take away and implement immediately to get the ball rolling.
  4. Try not to rely on Powerpoints – I find it helpful to have a few key words or images on the screen, but long lists or paragraphs distract and bore people.
  5. Make it as interactive as possible – the most helpful insights often come from putting what you’re learning into action or at least discussing it.
  6. Invite a range of people, within your constraints for numbers of course – I asked the directors to invite anyone from their team that they thought might be interested: it was valuable to have input from the trustees, producers and marketers who came, and helps spread the fundraising energy throughout the organisation.
  7. Choose good biscuits!

I’m excited to hear that organisations have reported making changes to their fundraising as a result of the session, and I’ve been asked to do another one in September – it’s great to see fundraising moving towards the fore and gaining momentum in Dorset!

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.

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