It is very rare that you hear graduates celebrating the value of internships. In fact, until recently I would have been the first to condemn them, especially if they offered low pay or, even worse, no financial remuneration whatsoever. I am, however, a recent convert.
I applied to participate as a Fellow on the Arts Fundraising And Philanthropy Programme and was lucky enough to be invited to attend the assessment day in July 2013 – a challenging but enjoyable day that provided the opportunity to listen to interesting talks and to work with many creative, enthusiastic and ambitious people. Admittedly, I was disappointed when I learned that I hadn’t been successful at this stage but the disappointment fuelled a redoubling of my efforts and I took the plunge.
Deciding that it was high time to get some practical experience under my belt, I was lucky enough to secure an internship at The Roses Theatre – a popular and busy arts centre in Tewkesbury with an eclectic programme of live events, take part activities, exhibitions and festivals.
I am confident that there is a lot for me to learn from the work of an organisation as vibrant and creative as The Roses and Arts Council England thinks so too. In fact, the Arts Council recently recognised the theatre for turning theory into practice in an imaginative way that has not only seen philanthropic donations rise by 6.6% but seen the theatre become ever more firmly embedded in its local community.
In June 2012, The Roses opened its charity shop. This brave move has undoubtedly paid dividends as the shop is currently contributing £20,000 profit per annum to boost The Roses’ finances. Key to this decision was Tewkesbury’s status as a charity shop hotspot – to the extent that busloads of visitors travel to the town specifically to hunt out a bargain. By understanding its market, and choosing to specialise in second hand furniture as opposed to offering masses of small items, The Roses’ charity shop has forged a distinct identity for itself, raising the profile of the theatre in the process.
A catalyst award (the Arts Council’s £100 million culture sector-wide private giving investment scheme aimed at helping cultural organisations diversify their income streams and access more funding from private sources) has allowed The Roses to commission three short films, each of which takes a different approach to seeking donations. The films showcase the variety of The Roses’ programme, demonstrating how it impacts and benefits members of the community. The films emphasise The Roses charitable status, stressing how vital support is to ensure that it can continue with its outreach and educational work.
The implementation of such personal philanthropic schemes have taught me how important it is to know your market and to be aware of what makes your community unique, however big or small the organisation and although still a relatively new addition to the team, I am in no doubt that my time at The Roses will provide a solid foundation on which I can build a successful career.
If we are to be the driving force of the future, it is important that we get the experience we need so that a professional arts fundraising workforce can continue to flourish – an internship is a great start and I am grateful to the Arts Fundraising programme for encouraging me down this route!