Lorna Clayton-Rawle is the Fundraising Manager at CAST in Doncaster and 2017 Professional Fellow on the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Fellowship Programme.
This year, for the first time, Cast ran a Christmas Appeal to support our work with children, young people and communities across Doncaster. Theatre Christmas appeals are nothing new, but this was a really important moment for Cast, as not only was it the first of its kind, but it saw all corners of the theatre come together to rally behind one cohesive charitable message. From the Box Office Team tailoring the Point of Sale donation ask; the FOH team working like fundraising ninjas distributing and collecting tinsel- and fairy light-bedecked collection buckets for over 30 panto performances; to the Dame and the technical department recording specific ask messages for before the show and on the box office phone line, this was a truly cross organisational approach. This year all staff also took part in a Christmas joke-athon for #GivingTuesday, submitting their favourite Christmas jokes to help raise awareness of the Christmas Appeal. From the Board of Trustees to the Box Office team, they didn’t let me down. This was also the first chance I had to use some of the digital fundraising skills that we, as Fellows, had been introduced to at our intensive training in November.
And it really worked. The Cast Christmas Appeal raised over £7,500 with £4748.38 from bucket collections alone. Thanks to being part of the Arts Council Catalyst programme, all those donation are also eligible to be matched, making the total even more impressive. We could not have done this without the amazing generosity of the people of Doncaster. It is a great example of small donations really making a big difference. When you donate that £1, it can sometimes feel like it is a drop in the ocean for a cause, but when over 5,000 people join you, the results can be amazing.
According to Arts Professional, “the average percentage of online ticketing transactions that included donations was 15% last year, while only 3% who booked tickets over the counter or on the phone added a donation to their transactions” (Romer, 2016). During the Christmas Appeal, between November and end of December, just over 30% of all transactions made on the phone or at the counter included a donation, and online it was an average of 26%, which is considerably higher than the UK average. Over the past year, myself and the Box Office Manager have worked with the team to listen to the fears of staff when it comes to ‘the ask’, and tried to address those fears openly via honest conversations and feedback, to show what fundraising means to Cast, and how they really are vital in frontline fundraising.
We always say thank you to our donors – they are the ones making the difference – but do we remember to say thank you to all the people that make ‘the ask’ for us? As the only dedicated fundraiser within Cast, my colleagues also look at fundraising as part of their responsibility. We call it the “cross organisational fundraising framework” and it sets out clearly defined roles for all those involved directly in fundraising activity. Making decisions about fundraising collaboratively does sometimes create challenges, but we see it as essential for a team with only one dedicated fundraiser.
A few weeks ago I joined the all front line staff training session after work and I got to meet a lot of people that I don’t always get the chance to get to know. Ushers, Catering Team staff and Box Office teams all sat together, talking about ways to help each other, and I was inspired. When it came to reporting on the Christmas Appeal, I had no problem at all thanking the people who had inspired others to give and in some cases had given themselves. They all clapped at the total and then gave each other an encouraging round of applause. Some of them might not see themselves as fundraisers, but as I pointed out at the meeting, of the vast majority of the people that came to the Pantomime, over 25,000 of them would have seen them as the fundraising face of Cast. They were the smile behind the bucket collection, and the thank you after the Point of Sale donation. This type of interaction with donors really is so important.
I could not have been prouder of a group of people working together to achieve a fundraising goal. #OneTeam.