Back in March 2019, arts and culture professionals came together in dynamic gatherings across the country to explore how to be resilient, entrepreneurial and effective with our fundraising and development. Listening to the presentations and conversations at The Stoller Hall (Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy’s Northern Lights Conference) and The Bluecoat (ACE/CCE Boosting Resilience Conference) felt inspiring, energising and motivating, despite the wider political environment. The commitment, drive and creativity was palpable, matched by pragmatism, humour and an enthusiasm to share: the hallmarks of really effective fundraising, and fundraisers.
These experiences and insights set the tone for our own network event - a gathering of colleagues from the programme Building Resilience: Diversity and Entrepreneurship. Delivered for ACE by the School for Social Enterpreneurs, the programme saw 22 cultural leaders develop our personal and organisational resilience over an intensive 18-months. Through action learning, we focused on diversity and entrepreneurism as drivers and catalysts of resilience across our organisations, offers and impact as well as our business models. Selected for our commitment to diversity and entrepreneurism, we are based in a rich variety of locations, contexts and communities across the UK. Our work and our offers encompass multiple art forms, crafts, creativity, socially engaged practice, culture and heritage. As well as working directly to provide and promote the value of arts and cultural engagement, we address a wide range of social needs through our offers: Inclusive and equal access and participation, learning and engagement, health and wellbeing, neighbourhoods and community and the environment all feature strongly in our visions, missions and purpose.
As the programme drew to a close, some of the cohort came together to explore What Now, What Next? with the support of a network grant from Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy. We met at Rosetta Arts in Newham and used an Action Learning Set process - something we find increasingly effective for widening perspectives on a problem or challenge, developing focused actions and being accountable to the group for seeing them through. Inspired by our collective experience on the programme, we explored how to continue our impact individually and as a cohort, what that could look like and how to generate the resources to make this happen.
We discovered that three key drivers for going forward resonated strongly with the conversations that had taken place previously in Manchester and Liverpool. They seemed to sit at the heart of fundraising and provide the Action Questions we will be taking forward to ‘develop our development’:
• Storytelling:how does our purpose connect to the world, how do we tell our story and who do we tell it with/for? Can we describe our value in seven words?
• Value in Partnership: what difference can we make as a cohort that we couldn’t achieve as individuals? how can we directly address the needs of communities?
• Communicating:how are we engaging with our potential funders and donors? what opportunities are we providing for them to feel part of the story?
A development resource pack is being created to support this progress and our next Action Learning Set is in June at The Met, Bury.
There is also a surprise element in the mix. In conversations about resilience, self-care is emerging as a critical factor. We all recognise the increasing demands of leading organisations through change and uncertainty and the correlation between resilient leaders and resilient organisations. In fundraising, self-care has its own reflection in the care of others: our funders, donors and supporters. How we cultivate, relate to and thank our supporters speaks volumes about our organisations, and maybe this is where we can start to make a difference, as much as in the way we ask.
Blog by Jackie Malcolm, with thanks and appreciation to:
Amy Barbor and Kylie Dickenson at School for Social Enterpreneurs
All the ACE/SSE programme participants: Settle Stories, Phoenix Dance Theatre, Theatre Company Blah Blah Blah (Yorkshire); The Met Bury, So It Is, Norton Priory Museum and Gardens, New Writing North (North West/East); Emergency Exit Arts, Theatre Centre, Bold Tendencies, London Music Masters, Rosetta Arts, OperaUpClose, Petersfield Museum, Stopgap Dance Company, Ark-T Centre (London and South East); New Brewery Arts, Circus City, Theatre Bristol, DAISI (South/South West); Soft Touch Arts, Tribe of Doris, Pedestrian, Centrala (Midlands).