Training at The National Arts Fundraising School

By Amanda Rigali on

HannahLast week all 15 Arts Fundraising Fellows were together at The National Arts Fundraising School, it was a chance to learn, challenge ourselves and put ideas into action, everyone who attended was a real inspiration. The week was led by Bernard Ross and Philly Graham at the Management Centre.

On our way home, the fellows were discussing the highlights, whilst falling in and out of consciousness from the long week (not the Karaoke the night before).  It was decided it would not be possible to get one week of training into one blog but instead here’s some of my thoughts below:

There are now  over 180,000 registered charities in England and Wales, and as an arts charity, so how do we make ourselves stand out? This is not about how our causes compete with other charities but how and what we are saying to get the message across…

It seems obvious, but a proposal should always be simple and very easy to read, it’s not about mentioning everything you are as an organisation or even what you personally value. In the words of Bernard Ross ‘You are not the target market’. Dialogue is so important, ask yourself who you’re communicating with and what do they value? Speak to people and find out why you’re special to them and in doing so you will find out their motivation for support.

Whatever we’re presenting in person or on paper keep it simple… a quick task for any organisation/charity: You’ve got 30 seconds to tell me about you and 30 seconds about a project you’re working on… now think about these three things below when doing it.

  • Can what you say be Echoed (can someone remember what you’ve just said). Test this out and ask people what sticks out and if nothing does – why.
  • Photocopy (does it sound like the arts organisation down the road from you?) if you’re promoting the same thing as someone else then think about how you can make yourself stand out, there is something you’re offering that others are not so make sure you tell us!
  • Peacock, who is endorsing you and why, how can you use this to help get others on side? For example; An artist, another business or a local hero/ celebrity who loves your work, get them to say something that supports what your offering- ‘well run business’ or ‘great to be involved with’.

And to the part of the course we were all dreading; ‘pitching to corporates’,  I’m not a big public speaker and the thought of having to pitch to someone who might not even know or like what I do fills me with dread. But what was great about being made to do something you hate is you find out it’s not as bad as you first thought. We had six minutes to present an idea in groups of six. What this taught us was how much key information you can get out there in six minutes, again the tendency is to fill time, but by having a minute to say something it forces you to plan and condense. Ask yourself if you had the money what would make you give and why? I could say an awful lot about what I learnt about myself when pitching but I’m aware I’ve spoken already about being brief and concise, so here’s a few bullet points:

  • PLAN: Go into the pitch feeling confident and that you know your stuff (because you do)
  • Body language: Stand up straight in parallel, arms by your side.
  • Breathe! (It helps you to talk clearly and feel relaxed)
  • Use gestures to emphasise a point and don’t be afraid to pause to think what to say next
  • Think about how you say something (if it’s important emphasise it, repeat it!)
  • Make sure you clearly ASK for the money (you’re pitching for a reason, so ask for the money and do it early on in the pitch)
  • Think CSM (Cause Related Marketing) and or CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) if it fits then say loud and clear “our project fits your company’s CSR because…”
  • Anything that’s original/different: show it off
  • Be professional but creative: we all love what we do but make sure other people get it too.

There’s a lot more to say about this so maybe get in touch if you want to know more… But finally before pitching Bernard told us about Muhammad Ali and how he would imagine himself step by step winning a fight, every part from walking into the ring to the roars from the crowd. The point being, go in believing you can do something and that’s half the battle, it’s so easy to pick up on the things we do wrong, but try not to, try to focus on what you did right, we were told always to start with three things you did right, then three you could improve on. I’ve started to apply this when approaching my own feedback to myself and to others, you should try it!

So next time you pitch think of Ali and his famous quote “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.


Posted by Amanda Rigali

Amanda is Director of Strategic Development at Cause4, and Head of the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Programme. As well as running the Programme, Amanda runs fundraising training sessions for cultural professionals across England and offers intensive strategy support to a range of charities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *