On our first ‘An Evening With’, the 2014-15 cohort of London and South West-based Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Fellows had the pleasure of listening to and learning from Hamble Wallace, the newly appointed Deputy Head of Major Gifts and Campaigns at the National Theatre.
In the course of discussing her background in arts fundraising, she spoke enthusiastically about personal generosity, ethical issues, and the pressing need for all arts charities, regardless of size, to collectively work to raise our profiles as just that: charities. An obvious point many would say, although public perception of arts organisations as charities that deserve support for the work that they do is an essential part of successful fundraising.
Speaking from her own experience, Hamble stressed the importance of fundraisers donating money and time to causes that they believe in – including those for which they are currently employed. Hamble remarked that ‘it’s important to know what it feels like to be a donor’ and that doing so strengthens the case we make to others to support our cause. At first this may seem counter-intuitive, seeing as one is being paid to raise funds for an organisation; however doing so can make us, as fundraisers, more aware of the other side of giving, and increases our ties to the cause.
This dovetailed with what Cause4 CEO Michelle Wright had emphasised in an earlier induction session: trustee positions and leadership opportunities abound in charities and as early-career development professionals, securing such voluntary roles only adds to our knowledge of the sector, as well as providing a valuable source of connections and personal satisfaction open to anyone, at any stage. Becoming a Trustee is also a tangible way of offering our support to organisations, perhaps with a focus different to the ones that we work for, in turn providing us with new experiences.
An important part of the fundraiser’s position is to fully inhabit the mindset of the donor. As individuals working for arts charities, it is essential to understand and care about the public perception of fundraising. A central controversy of fundraising can be corporate sponsorship and how it might translate into public consciousness as ‘dirty money’. Hamble encouraged us to think about the ethics behind sponsorship and donations and to make sure that we ‘square things with ourselves’ first and foremost when considering more controversial sources of funding. Research into where money is coming from and why it’s being given is important as we consider how to maximise our profile as charitable organisations.
Hamble concluded with encouraging us to consider the responsibility and role of larger organisations towards smaller ones and their need to help advocate support for them, without being patronising. She also assigned the role of ‘major lobbyist’ to larger organisations to affect change at higher levels and to stop or reverse policies that hurt smaller and medium-sized organisations.
In light of the global economic downturn of recent years, and ever-dwindling resources coupled with an increasing need for challenging programming in public art spaces, Hamble reflected that ‘we’re in a unique time where we’re throwing away the book and thinking up new ways to do things’. As this is a central purpose of the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Programme, it is certainly an inspiring maxim with which to begin our entrepreneurial Fellowship journeys. In the end, elevating one of us elevates us all and encourages the positive public perception of arts charities in the long term.