Fundraising for Circus Arts

By Amanda Rigali on

Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy wants to support professional networks of fundraisers in the UK. In January 2016 we gave financial support to the Fundraising For Circus network. Kerrin Tatman, Funding and Marketing Manager for Circus Central, shares his thoughts on the day.

kerrin-mugshot-3On the 4th April 2016, fifteen circus fundraisers gathered at the National Centre for Circus Arts, made possible through funding from the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy programme. No one really knew what to expect, including the NCCA, as nothing quite like it had been organised before. Representing eight organisations, as well as two freelance producers, the room shared ideas, successes, problems, and discussed challenging questions.

The first task required us to workshop: “Who do you consider your peer organisations, and why?” This exploration into benchmarking proved complex for many, as although we all work in circus, there are huge differences between organisations and it became clear that we were all unique in what we bring to the table.

It seemed impossible to directly match yourself with another organisation, even when key similarities could be drawn. This is a testament to the diversity in UK contemporary circus and something, as fundraisers, we can perhaps use to our advantage. Distinctiveness if key to persuading funders to support.

Circomedia’s Robin Peters led the second part of the session – a role-play between a panel of funders with a varied set of backgrounds, and two teams of project pitchers. One team focused on a social circus project, the other on a commercial performance event.


We were required to think fast, work together and come up with strategies on how to appeal to the panel based on their personal interests and investments, alongside promoting our project with its core ethos in mind. Fundraising is a balancing game – it is important to know which boxes to tick whilst sticking to your guns.

Becky Chapman (Executive Producer, Diverse City), another attendee, reflects:

“The Circus Fundraising event was a stimulating meeting that excited ideas and discussion. An excellent balance between practical group work and round table discussion, it has prompted some new thoughts for Diverse City. For example we have started to connect more proactively with Circomedia in Bristol over collaborative fundraising and we are aiming to hold a corporate event around our show Extraordinary Bodies in September in Bristol.

“We have also been encouraged to think more about the precise USP of circus in relation to funders and how participation in fundraising networks can help us to not only to share expertise and experience, but also to create a shared ethos. We look forward to the next.”

From this response alone we can begin to gauge the potential legacy of the day. Personally, it was inspirational and essential to my development as a circus fundraiser due to the rich knowledge contributed by the room, but also by meeting others in a similar role.

It can seem quite daunting and isolating working from a small office in Newcastle behind a pile of funding applications, with all odds of resourcing against you and with the closest circuses being Edinburgh and Sheffield – but by meeting industry peers who share the same challenges and ambitions, no matter on what scale, I am driven more than ever to develop Circus Central and myself within the sector. Not only was the gathering an incredible resource, it also felt like we had collectively climbed another rung on the ladder to bring the national circus sector together.

The week following my trip to the NCCA, Circus Central hosted the North East Circus Sector Annual Meeting. One of the key points raised was the lack of knowledge of how funding works and how individual circus artists can tap into what’s available. I felt confident to feedback what I had learnt, giving legacy to the Fundraising for Circus network and putting discussion into practice.  Thank you Arts Fundraising!

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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