by Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Fellow Katherine Roberts, Co-ordinator for The Library Presents at Cambridgeshire County Council and Visual Artist Fellow at Digswell Arts Trust.
“But we’re not a charity” is a phrase I felt myself repeating in some frustration when researching options for individual giving in preparation for The Library Presents autumn events season. As an organisation, and a local authority, much of the guidance I found for CIC’s and individuals raising money for personal projects also didn’t quite fit the bill. Here is an overview of the various routes for individual giving and donations that I explored, which I hope will give anyone starting out with individual giving a head-start on choosing the right donations route for them.
The Library Presents is a programme run by Cambridgeshire County Council in partnership with Babylon ARTS that brings quality arts events to communities across our county, usually using libraries as venues.
In response to the events of 2020 we, like many others, created programmes of online events, postal packs and outdoor performances by a variety of creatives. The Library Presents programme is usually ticketed and we aim to keep prices affordable for communities. Attributing a financial value to the arts experience, delivered by professionals, in a welcoming venue, is an important way of communicating the value and quality of the experience. But the drive to respond quickly and provide cultural content to our audiences (as an arts programme that was able to continue while many others had to furlough their staff) resulted in two seasons of free events. In August therefore we started to consider how we might encourage audiences to donate to the programme.
Barriers we faced in setting up a system for donations
- We are not a charity.
- Online payment processing within the Council is limited to specific purposes.
- Large finance systems which can make income processing complex.
- Clarity for donors over where their donations were going and how they would be used.
Income processing and existing donation routes
Cambridgeshire Libraries takes donations in cash (suspended during covid-19) and electronically through the libraries online catalogue system. These donations are received into the library service’s overall budget and it wasn’t clear if this route could be shared with The Library Presents programme. There were some concerns over how clear it would be to the public about where donations would be used, so we looked at alternatives that would be specific to the arts programme.
Our usual ticketing provider was very busy and unable to provide a donation route at the time as we were also not charging for tickets.
We were using Eventbrite for free live online and outdoor events. The Eventbrite donation system allows those booking free tickets to make a donation. It would reach our target group and be clear what the donations would be used for. However, our income processing system works best when payments are regular, predictable or notified in advance. It wasn’t easy to contact Eventbrite customer services team and after speaking with arts sector colleagues using the platform for ticket income and donations it was clear that payments were going to be difficult to trace and track down in our large system where small amounts would come in at irregular intervals with no advance notification.
Online fundraising platforms
For the purposes of this blog, I’m using JustGiving as the main example, but I came across the same or similar barriers on the other main alternatives (listed here). The main platform for fundraising on JustGiving, which collects and allows you access to some donor data, is available only if you have either a charity or gift aid number. Their crowdfunding platform can be used instead but the majority of fundraising happening through this route is for very specific time-bound projects, many individuals or start-ups, and it didn’t feel like a good fit for us. The advantages of this platform are the wider exposure and the controlled ways that any income is paid.
The Philanthropy Foundation
The Philanthropy Foundation manages charitable funds on behalf of third parties, both individual and corporate, to help them develop better programmes of philanthropic giving. They were able to collect donations on our behalf, were able to provide data about donors, and have clear system for accessing and reporting on how donations are spent. They also are able to gift aid donations and manage the tax accounting around your donations. The draw backs were that donations would be through bank transfers and there was not a system in place for easy online electronic payment for donors via the web at the time. There is a flat fee for The Philanthropy Foundation services (which was very reasonable), but not having any recorded existing donor base to communicate with we decided the risk of a flat fee was too high for us at this time, as we may not receive enough donations to get the income benefit.
Back to Basics
Having exhausted alternative routes for individuals to donate to the programme. We revisited the use of the existing library services donation system. Information was provided to the public on Library webpages, informing that for a set period of time donations would go solely to The Library Presents programme. Information was also provided on The Library Presents programme webpages, and through social media. The system is simple and requires only basic information from the donor, making the process easier and quicker for anyone who did decide to donate. The main disadvantage of this route was that we didn’t get the wider visibility a page on one of the main donation platforms or Eventbrite would have given us.
Audiences attending outdoor events in person often expressed a wish to make donations to the programme, the delays in finding and approving a suitable donation route did impact on our ability to collect donations at these events and it’s something we hope to pursue in spring 2021.