Earlier this month the third cohort of Fundraising Fellows have joined their host organisations. With additional support from Arts Council England, the Arts Fundraising Fellowship finds itself hugely encouraged and now able to support five Fellows in each of the five CE areas. As the 2015/16 Fellows have already passed two eventful weeks in their new role, I thought that it would be an ideal moment to take a step back and reflect on the past days that have set the beginning of a significant year for us all.
Starting a new job is always an exciting time. From my conversations, I know that each of the twenty-five Fellows was keen to start off on the right foot. Not only is it important to make a good first impression and connect with colleagues, but also the early weeks in a new job are crucial to develop an understanding of the organisation in its internal and external context. Fundraising is a multidimensional process that builds on the organisation’s case for support and that requires us to identify and balance internal requirements. The fundraiser then needs to project the core organisational aims and values externally in order to build meaningful relationships with donors and further stakeholders. The voluntary sector’s 160,000 charities undertake a huge range of activities and services, across the UK and abroad. To be competitive within this dense and complex market, arts fundraisers need to know exactly what makes their organisation stand out and how this can best be communicated. In order to tackle this challenge, the Fellows have already gone through a number of meetings with Senior Management, Marketing, Participation and Outreach and others, and accessed key documents such as the latest Annual Report, the Communications Strategy or the Fundraising Strategy. This initiated an on-going process of reflection.
Following the induction within our host organisations, we were invited to attend the National Arts Fundraising School, a six-day intensive fundraising training programme designed exclusively for the arts and cultural sector held in the idyllic setting of East Sussex. While this was an excellent opportunity for the newly arrived Fellows to gather and share their first impressions, it also allowed us to reflect on the insights we had so far into the ways our organisations structure their fundraising. Following a practice-based method of teaching, the training also provided us with useful tools for a more strategic approach to fundraising in arts and cultural organisations.
In particular, we were introduced to the seven stage strategic model which allows organisations to develop a more planned and professional approach to fundraising. The Management Centre derived this model from its work with cultural organisations and NGOs worldwide.
The stages are:
- Make the Case: be clear about your cause, why it’s important, why donors should identify with it and why they should commit their money to it.
- Analyse and Plan: assess your situation and draw up fundraising targets based on an understanding of your context and competitors.
- Structure: create an appropriate way to organise in a legal and staff way that makes fundraising possible.
- Research: identify appropriate key sources and their potential to give you money.
- Package: shape and match your needs to donor interests and their ability to contribute.
- Make the Ask: choose an appropriate medium and person to make the ask – and be prepared to ask.
- Maintain the Relationship: thank the donor for their support appropriately and work to keep them interested and involved.
This flexible and adaptable model provides fundraisers in organisations of different size and legal structures with guidance, and raises awareness for various aspects that are essential to fundraising success, i.e. packaging the organisation’s needs with respect to a donor’s ability to give. It also serves as a practical tool to analyse fundraising when joining a new organisation and it stimulates critical thinking and ideas in organisations that want to review their strategy.
A professional approach of this kind is urgently needed within the cultural sector, which is experiencing a fundraising climate that is transforming rapidly, enforcing the competition for an increasingly limited pool of resources. With this in mind, I think I can speak for all of the 2015/16 Fellows when I say that we will take the opportunity to advocate fundraising that promotes an entrepreneurial ethos and is in harmony with the artistic and social ambitions of our host organisations.
Looking forward to a great year ahead!