Fundraising across Three Continents and Two and a Half Languages

Fundraising across Three Continents and Two and a Half Languages

Jonathan Mace Profile

Jonathan Mace was Arts Fundraising Fellow for the Royal Shakespeare Company until September 2016, and now works as Development Manager at Hampstead Theatre.

It’s incredibly important to have a consistent organisational image and style. In fact, I refer to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s ‘Style Guide’ at least twice a day. I’ve learned that production titles are always in italics, numbers are written in words up to nine but in figures from 10 upwards, and Arial is our house font for all external communications.

But it all gets slightly more complicated when you have to make sure that these things work in America for our regular RSC visits to New York, and even more mind-boggling when we’re touring three productions - Henry IV Parts I & II and Henry V as part of the King and Country Cycle - to China next February.

What is the spoken language in China? And is that the same as Hong Kong?

The answer to these questions was just one of the things I clarified to our nearly 20-strong fundraising team last week: They speak Mandarin in Mainland China and Cantonese in Hong Kong, but the written form is Traditional in Hong Kong and Simplified/Modern in the rest of China. (Please feel free to correct me in the comments below!)

Royal Shakespeare Company production of HENRY V by William Shakespeare directed by Gregory Doran. Photo by Keith Pattison © RSC.
Royal Shakespeare Company production of HENRY V by William Shakespeare directed by Gregory Doran. Photo by Keith Pattison © RSC.

So how does our approach to fundraising differ across the three continents that we’re currently dealing with?

In the US, philanthropy is well established compared to its relatively new arrival in China. In fact in 2013 China’s top 100 philanthropists donated $890 million to charitable causes whereas the top 50 US donors gave away $7.7 billion. Mark Zuckerberg alone gave away more than China’s top 100 philanthropists with just under $1 billion in donations. Total Chinese charitable donations in 2012 were $13.2 billion, just 4% of the US total. Some of the US’s most high profile philanthropists – including Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet and Tim Cook - have signed up to Bill Gates’ giving pledge of giving away 50% of their wealth to charities, whereas high net worth individuals in China have in the past been perceived to actively avoid philanthropy.

Understanding the historic and economic backgrounds of China and the US helps to explain these differences, especially in relation to Arts funding. The traditional lack of government funding for the Arts in the US means that Arts fundraising is by necessity significantly better established. Fundraising is often deemed to be more “in-your-face” in the US with more mail shots and phone calls per year to individuals than in the UK. The fact that every citizen in the US files an end of year tax return may also create an additional incentive for individuals to reduce this tax bill through charitable giving. It is not uncommon for US Fundraising Galas to start their ticket prices at $500 or higher with a well-oiled process for filling these events to capacity. With this in mind, the RSC’s regular tours to America since the first Stratford Player’s tour in 1913 have the opportunity to be more than just artistic endeavours and an opportunity to engage with US supporters.

RSC Audience July 2015 at the RSC, Stratford upon Avon on the 30/07/2015. Photo: David Tett © RSC
RSC Audience July 2015, Stratford upon Avon. Photo: David Tett © RSC

Chinese philanthropy on the other hand, has only started taking off since the economic boom of 2001 when China entered into an agreement with the World Trade Organisation. It is often focused on local causes and relief from natural disasters, rather than the Arts. The Chinese economic and political environment is also very tricky for potential philanthropists with charitable giving still not universally tax deductible. The figures from the latest Coutts Million Dollar Report show no donations of over $1 million going to the Arts in China, compared to 102 gifts totalling $555 million to the Arts in the US. Chinese philanthropy is also currently very corporate-driven compared to the individual nature of the US model.

A turning point in Chinese Philanthropy has long been predicted and with the Chinese government calling for “an increased role for private, corporate and institutional giving” it is a crucial time for the RSC to be strengthening ties with this rising super power, not just artistically but also from a fundraising perspective.

The primary objective for our tour of the King and Country Cycle to China and America is of course to share our artistic excellence with a wider audience. However, it also provides incredible opportunities to fortify our relationship with our US supporters and explore the possibilities of developing new opportunities with potential supporters in China.

What are your views? Do you have tips to share for dealing with fundraising internationally? We’d love to hear from you.