Trustee leadership in arts fundraising – food for thought

By Amanda Rigali on

Amanda-150On Tuesday 29th October the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Programme ran our inaugural Governance Training Seminar. Participants were a mixture of executive leaders and trustees from leading arts organisations, and the session was led by the Chair of the Philanthropy Review –  Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett.

Everyone who attended, including the panel members Matthew Bowcock, Sir Peter Bazalgette, Sir Vernon Ellis and Jane Marriott, contributed to the informed, intensive and sometimes provocative discussion.  Trustee leadership is a tricky area, as we’re all both mindful of the expectations we are placing upon our volunteers but also looking to them to set the leadership culture for the whole organisation.

We’re going to consider what participants told us on the day and use this to develop the future Seminars we’re running across the country.  However, there were some key points that we think it’s worth sharing more widely now.

  • The word ‘fundraising’ can be off-putting – instead, ask trustees to help you by giving them specific tasks.  Could they introduce you to someone, host an event, source a gift for an auction, lead a sponsored event?
  • All trustees should give to, or deliver for, their organisation – this isn’t necessarily about giving large donations, but about being an ambassador for their cause and demonstrating that fundraising is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Trustees should re-consider how much their organisation is investing in fundraising.  The common measure is that you should spend no more than 30p in order to raise £1.  But it may be worth investing more to drive certain opportunities and to really put an entrepreneurial drive at the front of activities.
  • This takes us onto the next point – trustees shouldn’t be afraid of taking strategic risks in order to increase income for their charity.  In the current climate, taking no risks, and making no changes, can in itself be the most dangerous option.
  • There are lots of potential ‘major donors’ out there – HMRC defines a ‘major donor’ as an individual who gives £100 a month or more.  There is a huge opportunity to grow the number of people giving to the arts at the level of £500 per year and above, through friends’ schemes, sponsorship, etc.
  • ‘Engage, engage, engage’ people who give to your organisation at whatever level – they are your shareholders.  Make their experience enjoyable, and whatever you do, always say ‘thank you’.

How many ‘thank you’ letters have you written recently, or been asked to write by your team?  Sir Peter Bazalgette has offered to write a ‘thank you’ letter to two people per year who have made a difference for any Arts Council England partner organisation.  A small gesture, but one of the most powerful.

We’re grateful to everyone who joined us for this Seminar.  We hope that they were able to take back to their boards some new ideas, knowledge, and energy for change.  We want to find out what happens next with them, and are really looking forward to talking with the participants at our future Seminars.  We hope you’ll join us in this great and timely debate.  You can find more information here.

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.

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