Dafydd Williams was Arts Fundraising Fellow for Phoenix Dance Theatre until September 2016, and is now Development and Alumni Relations Co-ordinator at Leeds College of Music.
Over the duration of our Fundraising Fellowship, we have learned that it is crucial to tie into larger national campaigns and awareness weeks where possible. This was discussed in detail at our Practical Digital Fundraising training session with Digital Fundraising Entrepreneur, Howard Lake.
One such example of this is Small Charity Week (running from the 13th – 18th June) highlighting the important and groundbreaking work that smaller charities (defined as those with annual turnover of less than £1.5 million) undertake within the wider fundraising ecology.
Lost in the Crowd
However, as recent research suggests, small charities are at risk of missing donations due to the general public being unaware of their campaign. In fact, a staggering 50% of people were quoted as stating that the main reason they do not give towards local charities is because they are unaware of them. Certainly, navigating the funding climate can be extremely difficult for small charities due to lack of opportunities for promotion and profile-raising, particularly if the budget for marketing campaigns is non-existent.
You could say the same for the cultural sector more broadly. As a generalisation it tends to be the larger organisations funded by the government who are successful in receiving significant amounts of voluntary income. Although recent initiatives such as the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy programme have sought to reduce dependence of arts organisations on statutory and local authority funding, there is more work to be done. As a Mission Models Money report suggests:
“Medium sized not for profit organisations are vulnerable during economic downturns, both because they lack adequate reserves but also because the largest organisations tend at these times to increase their share of private sector income.” (Page 4)
Size isn’t Everything
Therefore, as small and medium-sized arts organisations, it is important to think creatively about how we diversify income streams, utilising profile-raising and national awareness campaigns such as Giving Tuesday (See here for Cat Palmer’s excellent blog) and Remember a Charity in your Will Week.
Recently, Phoenix Dance Theatre participated in Small Charity Week. Perhaps use of the word ‘small’ is misleading within this particular context – as Phoenix celebrates the outstanding achievement of becoming the longest standing contemporary dance company outside of London. Whilst the organisation may be small in relation to large national third sector charities, Phoenix remains a crucial and integral part of the contemporary dance sector in the UK. As evidence of this, Phoenix is to move from mid-scale touring to large-scale touring as it celebrates its 35th anniversary and an increase in audiences.
One campaign as part of this week has been an eBay Charity Auction, listing three donated items in an effort to sustain momentum and awareness of our Give 35 for 35 Years fundraising campaign. All funds raised from the sale of these individual items will go directly towards the work of the organisation. In addition, the PayPal Giving Fund has pledged to match the price of the top two items that sell for the most, up to the value of £1,000.
Leverage Your Network
In preparation for this event, it was important to utilise the existing networks that Phoenix has, contacting members of the Board of Trustees, the Chair and our Artistic Director. Additionally, since the launch of the auction, it has been equally important to communicate the items and the reasoning behind it to our loyal community of supporters, who have close affinity with the brand and work of the organisation. At this early stage, it is difficult to see what the impact of participation will be. However, undoubtedly the event presents another opportunity to begin a conversation with our supporters, highlighting the arts as a cause worthy of philanthropic giving (or in return for an exclusive, money can’t buy item!).
Take the (calculated) risk
In summary – digital fundraising initiatives can involve a high degree of risk, often for little return. However, the benefit can sometimes go above and beyond purely financial income. In an age in which small charities fall at risk of missing donations, the profile-raising opportunity presented by some of the campaigns mentioned have the ability to catch the public’s imagination and interest in a particular charitable cause.
To view Phoenix Dance Theatre’s items and to bid on the Small Charity Week auction – click here. Please do bid generously! Bidding closes on 26th June 2016.
How important have you found online fundraising campaigns to be for your organisation? We’d love to hear your thoughts.