The co-working group is a network of non-profit art organisations coming together with the desire to boost our respective fundraising activities. In particular we share an interest in exploring private sources of funding and therefore we are always looking for new ways to learn how to best approach and engage with potential supporters. Written by Bianca Baroni, Curator for FormContent
Thanks to the support of Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy, the co-working group had the opportunity to invite May Calil Consultants to hold two formative workshops intended to improve the group’s current fundraising strategies. May Calil Consultants is a company working in the creative sector, it offers its clients advice on their positioning, fundraising and giving. The organisation is a partnership between two fundraising experts - May Calil and Dani Burrows.
Before the training sessions took place, May has asked each organisation to provide documentation of recent fundraising activities. These materials included budgets, grants applications, relevant communications with funders/supporters and funding reports.
As such May and her partner could quickly assess the status quo of our respective fundraising activities and tailor the content of the workshops around our specific needs. We started the first session by sharing our respective experiences and the problems we are dealing with as we work to make our respective programmes financially sustainable. I believe this first part of the discussion was already extremely useful for all of us. We were able to verbalise and share our preoccupations as small-scale art organisations striving for sustainability.
Secondly we were encouraged to map out our respective stakeholders. I believe this was a very important exercise because it truly helped us becoming more conscious of the valuable relations we have in place and how we should turn them into an effective resources. Also we were able to identify those connections/relations that yet would need to be activated, therefore spotting potential new partners and supporters in line with the nature of our projects.
May and Dani also encouraged us to re-organise our on-line presence so to become an appealing platform for corporate and private business supporters. In this regard we have focused a significant part of our debate on how to systematise our online communication and content production via social networks and other platforms.
I believe that there were a number of important outcomes from the workshop that we would like to pass on to others:
- Know who you are talking to - we received important tips about how to identify subjects - individuals and organisations - that could be interested in supporting our activities. We need to tailor approaches and always think about ‘what’s in it for them’, not to start with our needs in mind.
- Speak the right language - developing an appropriate language and strategies to establish an effective dialogue with supporters is vital, we need to tailor and speak the language of the people we are engaging with.
- Start from home - we learned how to make the most of the network we have created through The Co-working group. In particular we identified a series of activities and initiatives that would help us leverage our respective strengths to compensate for one another’s shortcomings. In general, when thinking of fundraising we realised that it is all too easy to forget what you already have in place!
Thank you to Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy for supporting these valuable workshops.