Set in the idyllic Sussex countryside, the Deans Place Hotel opened its arms last week to welcome an eclectic mix of arts fundraisers to live and breathe fundraising for six challenging days. A week at the National Arts Fundraising School (NAFS), delivered by The Management Centre, is a completely immersive experience.
For an industry famous for its imagination, I can hear you say “innovative ideas to fundraise should be easy!” and NAFS is the ideal place to grow those ideas.
With participants travelling the length and breadth of the UK, as well as from different countries, to take part in the school you learn as much from your fellow fundraisers as you do from the school tutors. The participants varied hugely in experience and background with all positions represented, from the four South West Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Fellows, to Marketing Officers, Development Managers , Directors and Chief Executives in addition to representation from both the Arts and British Councils.
The days were intensive as we covered sessions on strategy writing, corporate engagement and individual giving; legacies, digital fundraising and trusts and foundations; EU funding, presentation skills -the list is seemingly endless and so are the possibilities to generate income. Underpinning the learning was an interactive element that meant that every participant had the opportunity to test their new skills, through a corporate pitching exercise, with a receptive audience and constructive feedback before putting it into practice in the real world, without the safety net of The Management Centre’s excellent support.
Personally, NAFS reiterated the importance for me of how fundraisers need to be fully integrated within an organisation. A fundraiser must have all the knowledge to be able to answer any question thrown at them and have the connections within an organisation to find a solution to any problem. The school teaches you both where to look and how to ask while providing you with ideas you can take away and implement immediately.
I came away with three golden fundraising rules of the week:
- Be ready! You never know when an opportunity may arise and you need to accept it immediately.
- Be confident! You have a moral responsibility for where the money goes; each and every donor must have trust in you.
- Be communicative! Why should this money be given to you?
Fundraising for the arts has never been more vital to the future of the cultural sector. We need to work to grow what we have by looking at the positives rather than the negatives, and be unafraid of trying a new approach.
If an organisation approaches fundraising from looking at its strengths, the sky really is the limit.