Exploring Fundraising Options with Sunderland Family Arts Network

By Maria Thomas on

Kathryn Tye is a Director and Trustee of arts charity Creative Cohesion in Sunderland. Supporting young and emerging creative businesses, the charity also coordinates the Sunderland Family Arts Network (SFAN), a collaboration between multiple arts, cultural, heritage and community organisations, which aims to improve accessibility to arts and creativity in the City. Supported by Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy’s Funding Network Projects 2017.

Sourcing and securing funding is a widely acknowledged challenge in the arts and cultural sector, and with budgets increasingly being squeezed both in organisations and by individuals, traditional forms of income generation are evolving. SFAN members identified a lack of knowledge and experience in crowdfunding methods, and a gap in potential fundraising income via sponsorship. Additionally, the creative sector in Sunderland has been in a state of flux for some time, with four organisations being affected by building closures, budget cuts within the Local Authority, and subsequent merging of services into single venues.

Staff turnover, repositioning of roles within some of the member organisations, and the addition of newer charities and community groups to the Network, meant that the group also felt general training in fundraising approaches would be beneficial. Finally, SFAN itself has been self-sustaining for almost five years, with no income-generating strategy. The Network had reached a ‘make or break’ point, and continuing with the project would require a fresh approach and a strategy to raise funds to secure its future. Open invitations were circulated, and 21 places were booked onto the workshop day on 12th March 2018.

The SFAN fundraising workshop was delivered by Ellie Turner, of Tyne and Wear Community Foundation. On the day 19 people attended, from fifteen different organisations across the North East. These included:

  • Creative Learning Officers in visual and performing arts
  • Learning and Engagement Officers from Local Authority organisations
  • Individual Arts Practitioners who volunteered and worked for arts charities and organisations
  • Project Officers from heritage venues
  • Fundraising and Audience Development Managers in creative writing
  • Education and Training Community Officer
  • Founders of charities and community groups

Having worked with Community Foundations for several years, Ellie’s experience and knowledge of funding practices was welcomed by all attendees on the day. The sessions covered:

  • Applying to Community Foundations for funding or support
  • Top Tips from Funds
  • Introduction to Digital Fundraising
  • Linking Crowdfunding to Corporate Giving
  • How to approach Corporates (towards securing funding or in-kind support)

Throughout the day Ellie included short workshops to help relate the topic to individual projects, providing the opportunity for people to start planning approaches, or a strategy against which they could plan in the future. Having the worksheets to refer back to when required was cited by some of the attendees as being a great benefit of the session. Another popular activity was the sponsorship-match activity, which involved the group identifying which real-life sponsorship opportunities, package values, and sponsors, matched. This exercise was particularly effective in demonstrating how to identify what might be valuable to corporates when thinking about sponsorship options, and how to price packages accordingly.

The biggest take-aways from the session identified by the group were:

  • Ensure funding applications reflect guidelines and answer questions clearly
  • Impact statements delivered by beneficiaries can be more important than you realise (one member shared experience of a beneficiary delivering a speech at an event a potential supporter was attending – they increased their support from £10k to £129k upon hearing her testimony)
  • Digital fundraising requires proper planning and consistent communication with audience
  • Develop clear rewards that appeal to your audience for both individual giving (via crowdfunding for example) or corporate sponsorship
  • Corporates can offer in-kind support, think about projects or opportunities where people-power, facilities, and physical resources are as useful as a cash injection!

From feedback collected after the workshop the overall response was that the session was useful, with most respondents anticipating using their knowledge to fundraise for projects within the next 3-12 months. Crowdfunding was overwhelmingly the most valued topic on the day. Future training sessions on writing fundraising strategy, measuring impact, and bid-writing were identified among respondents as areas of interest.

The workshop held by SFAN, made possible by funding from Arts and Philanthropy via Cause4, will lead to:

  • Development of a fundraising strategy for SFAN itself
  • Implementation of subsequent training sessions as identified by respondents
  • Publication and signposting of fundraising opportunities and training by SFAN for use by creative and cultural organisations across the region
  • Collaboration between organisations who met at the workshop

Watch this space for exciting projects and updates from SFAN members!

Posted by Maria Thomas

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