The 2014 Arts Fundraising Fellows had been anticipating this session with a vengeance – an intense fundraising low-down, led by Head of Programme Amanda Rigali, that would explain to us our exact function within our various arts organisations, as well as provide us with a picture of fundraising and the charitable sector in general and its necessity in the UK.
The majority of us had been with our organisations for almost two weeks by this first session, and the opportunity to step back and gain some clarity and focus on fundraising objectives and the sector as a whole was a welcome one. Based on my experiences so far at the Bush Theatre, I came to the introductory session, my mind buzzing with half-memorised facts about the Bush – history, staff, current programme, development targets and fundraising strategy – along with a few less useful factoids (the names of our two office cats, and the fact that the loos are papered with old Bush playtexts – so chic.)
Before getting started, we all swapped details about our organisations, a pretty fascinating preliminary exercise. Some of us are the only fundraiser in our organisations for example, whilst others are working within an established Development Team of four or more. Most of us work for just one organisation, while a couple of people are placed with umbrella organisations that incorporate a large number of smaller arts groups. As this session involved both the London and the South West cohort, there was inevitably some discussion about the disparities in funding between London and the regions, and what our individual perspectives on this were.
Having all this in mind when we began the training session was useful, particularly when we were shown some statistical breakdowns of NPO incomes in London and the South West and were asked to consider what our organisation’s income profile would look like. Having since created many a glorious technicolour pie chart, it’s been an interesting exercise to compare the Bush’s profile with the overall London averages, and again with the South West, and it provides a broad strokes picture (very helpful at this stage) of the shape of the sector and, importantly, where our energies as fundraisers needs to be focussed.
The rest of the session took us through the main strands of fundraising, including Trusts and Foundations, Corporates, and Individual Giving. These were all streams that, for most of us, our short time in our organisations had already made us aware of – now we were introduced to the detail of what each strand specifically involved, and how best to approach them from a fundraising perspective. Again, this was a good opportunity to share some of the knowledge from our various organisations, and to hear some of the strategies that were in place, and what our role was to be in supporting these.
I was particularly struck by Amanda’s discussion of the ‘Elevator Pitch’; the one-minute presentation that every member of an organisation, from Artistic Director to the bar staff, should be able to give to anyone at the drop of a hat, explaining what their organisation is, what it does, and what its objectives are. One of the main things I took from this session is the importance of being able, as a fundraiser, to tailor your approach to the individual donor, or the Trust, or the corporate member – or the person who wanders in off the street and wants to know what this is all about. ‘Fundraiser’ can sound, to some ears, too blunt, but over the course of this session I realised how incredibly nuanced a role it actually is. The style of your communication and your language is key, as is the timing of your approach, and the ability to be realistic about what opportunities to go for. This is where the real creativity of the job comes in.
I think we all, being ardent arts enthusiasts, were happy to know that we would have ample opportunity to flex our creative muscles.