Learning about Fundraising Fundamentals in Non-Urban Areas

By Maria Thomas on

The National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) works strategically with partners to develop a nationwide programme that delivers high quality artistic work and cultural experiences, broadens and deepens audience engagement and strengthens rural and other communities. Written by David Porter, Company Secretary for NRTF. Supported by Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy’s Funding Network Projects 2017.

I was delighted to join the NRTF Being Bold conference at Nottingham University on Thursday afternoon 29 June 2017, along with 94 delegates from 55 organisations to discuss and share ideas about fundraising fundamentals in non-urban areas.

Fundraising and philanthropy is an area under achieved by organisations and individuals working in rural and non-urban areas. This is due to the sector being made up of small scale, isolated organisations mostly with under 5 employees (and many part-time) as well as the unique reliance upon voluntary promoters at village level. We agreed the following important areas for improvement and support in fundraising were: making and maintaining successful relationships; helping people to invest their money wisely in inspirational projects that have lasting effects; listening and responding to what people are looking for and selling something we believe in.

The day opened with our expert fundraising professionals, Jake Orr, Cate Birch and Helen Jenkins, superbly guided by Joanna Ridout, exploring ‘what is fundraising’ before splitting into smaller group sessions. Looking at fundraising habits, we felt that we must make sure fundraising is not an add-on and that we should make our investors important as key partners and even audience members. We should look after them and they’ll look after us. Joanna signalled the 5 Ps of fundraising: Passion, Proposal, Preparation, Persuasion and Persistence.

Fundraisers and organisations need to know what we’re selling and the difference that our organisation can make with our range of ‘products’. We should have details of our work, audiences, context, key facts, figures and good stories at our fingertips! It was great to get a list of contacts and organisations, publications & tools that NRTF can place on the website in their resources section.

The group sessions comprised of: Online Fundraising with Jake Orr, Trusts and foundations with Cate Birch and Individual Giving with Helen Jenkins. Jake Orr’s session on online fundraising and planning discussed understanding where that money is going, why should it come to us and what is our cause? We discussed how to be human when communicating online – be friendly, unique and ourselves!

Helen Jenkins looked at fundraising from individuals and sponsors with delegates discussing their current drawbacks from visibility, time and capacity to finding the donors and crucially how to make the ask relevant. We need to understand and play to our strengths and not worry about things we cannot change like not being based in London or a large organisation and put ourselves in the shoes of potential sponsors – what do they want to get out of the arrangement?

Cate Birch guided us through her top tips in approaching Trusts and Foundations. Often they are very small groups of people, so a bid needs to be engaging, define USP’s and set the context of our work quickly and to the point. Getting across the magic of our work in a concise way is key. By researching carefully and focussing on fewer, better written and researched bids instead of lots of little ones will be more effective. And most importantly, look after the donor until the next ask!

After the breakout groups, we all came back together to feedback and share our overall learning, guided by Joanna. Feedback included the following key points:

  • We should clearly define what we are doing and our purpose before someone else does
  • Take time to work out who we are and what we have to offer
  • Plan further in advance than we currently think (ideally at least a year ahead for fundraising)
  • We shouldn’t try to do everything – don’t ‘spray & pray’ in fundraising, it’s inefficient and can be counter-productive
  • We must think about our capacity for ongoing, strategic and realistic fundraising and focus on areas that suit us and our work.

Feedback from delegates was positive with 56% of delegates rating the event Excellent or Very good. Clearly this is an area for NRTF to continue to focus on in the future.

 “I thoroughly enjoyed the session on Trusts and Foundations delivered by the wonderful and informative Catherine Birch.  A meaty subject to be covered in such a short time but much knowledge was imparted and shared in a fun and informal workshop session. Thank you.”

Since the conference, NRTF has set up a members’ resource forum on our website where members can carry on discussing and sharing their successes and experiences and help each other with the unique challenges which face this sector. In addition, NRTF has set up a special fundraising page in our resources section of the website. All the presentation follow up notes, tips and success stories are available to download here.

Posted by Maria Thomas

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