How to Recognise your Fundraising Assets

By Amanda Rigali on

Phoebe Wild Profile

Phoebe Wild was Arts Fundraising Fellow for Nuffield Theatre Southampton until September 2016, and is now Development Coordinator at Dartington Hall Trust.

In a recent training session on ‘Planning a Fundraising Strategy’ Ruth Jarratt recommended identifying an organization’s ‘Assets’ and ‘Constraints’ suggesting that determining these will help structure a fundraising strategy.

Assets: your work; your people; your physical location.

Constraints: lack of certain skills; lack of people power; lack of recognition.

During this activity I noticed that people:

  • Found it hard to ‘take a step back’ from their organization to analyse clearly their assets and constraints
  • Focused mostly on the building and the people
  • Struggled to focus on the creative work of the organization – ‘the mission’

Being so close to the work day to day, it is easy to lose track of the amazing and inspiring aspects of your organization.

Experiment intro

Experiment is Nuffield’s quarterly scratch performance night. Photo by Oli Crump

Recently I read through a small charity’s draft funding application. This charity has grown due to demand from the people in the town they serve; their work directly improves people’s lives on the ground. Although it is clear that the staff are focused, passionate and committed to their charity and cause, the application seemed confused. It wasn’t clear about the specific work that they were doing, who it was supporting and how it was impacting their lives.

After I suggested that they clarified what their assets and constraints were, the result led to a stronger application.

It was clear that the charity knew in their heart what was important about the work that they did but had possibly not identified what these areas were specifically, a common challenge I have noticed for not-for-profit organizations.

What are ‘assets’ when it comes to the arts?

When thinking about assets, physical resources are often the first things that come to mind. However within arts organizations the most valuable ‘assets’ are the inspiring work that they do, the creativity and inventiveness. These are the things that people will buy into even though there is nothing to buy.

Patrick Towell discusses this in his recent blog: “Understanding the creative components of your content or skills, as well as the creative aspirations of your users, customers and audiences, is the magic that makes what you do stand out from the crowd.”

Once identified these assets can be used in many elements of fundraising, including:

  • The case for support
  • Fundraising strategy
  • An elevator pitch
  • Funding applications

Julie Finch Chief Executive of the Cheltenham Trust said when talking about arts organizations recently, “we are not marketing ourselves enough generally, not showing off our product”. This is a real and complex problem; but if we worked on these things more would this improve the situation?

Experiment @ Nuffield

Experiment is Nuffield’s quarterly scratch performance night. Photo by Oli Crump

I would suggest to keep reminding yourself of the organization’s mission and vision – what do you and everyone else involved do to try and reach this everyday? Also look at what others do – what are their assets? How do they represent and value these?

Regularly seek viewpoints about the organization from as many areas as possible – what do people outside the organization think of it? This could be audiences, industry contacts and locals. Finally, brainstorm what your assets and constraints are with your colleagues – and compare these to the views you’ve received from outsiders.

How does your organization stay fresh and excited about the inspiring work it does?

We’d love to hear.

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.

One comment

  1. Thanks Phoebe this is good advice – thinking in terms of assets and constraints will be a helpful way for us to stand back and see what’s going on. We have asked ourselves before now what our funders find attractive about our organisation. Our greatest asset is that we are creative thinkers and artists, our biggest constraint is our lack of business experience. However, we are learning fast! We had some very good advice when we first formed as a Community Interest Company – ‘start with your mission statement’. We were already functioning as a group and so we wrote this together – everyone in the group at the time had their say. This has been a crucial document that we return to again and again. Thanks again!

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