Introduction to the Third Sector and Social Enterprise

Introduction to the Third Sector and Social Enterprise

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Most of the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Fellows have been in post only a couple of weeks now and whilst it has been an exciting time, it has also been a challenge to quickly get to grips with our place within our Host organisations. As a new member of staff there is a lot to contend with, not least the ins and outs of your unique Host, as well as gaining an understanding of your place within the organisation as a whole. But this is just the beginning of our journey. A session titled ‘Introduction to the Third Sector and Social Enterprise’ revealed that it is time widen our scope and see our organisations in the context of the third sector with a little help from Michelle Wright, Chief Executive at Cause4.

After a wonderful tour of Sadler’s Wells which included back stage access and close proximity to some dancers from the Birmingham Royal Ballet, we retired to the Fonteyn room for our session. We began with a discussion of charities, which many arts organisations are, often for historic reasons. My Host the Whitechapel Gallery is a charity dating established in 1901. The benefits of this model include the potential to fundraise from a traditional set of sources. Michelle felt that many arts organisations could do more to advertise the fact that they are charities, as this 'quality mark' is important to funders.

We went on to contrast charities with social enterprises; businesses with social objectives that want to use their profits for the public good. Community Interest Companies (CICs) are the most common social enterprise model and Charitable Incorporated Organisations (CIOs) are an incorporated form of charity which is not a company – a set up somewhere between a charity and a CIC.  The detail of this was new territory for many of us. It was interesting to understand that both CICs and CIOs offer alternative set ups for newer organisations who might not have the weight of history behind them, and for whom setting up a charity is a daunting prospect. But the multiple permutations involved make this a complex area and Michelle stressed the need for us to have clear definitions of all these types of entities in our minds. Cue further reading!

We also discussed the importance of the vision, mission and values statements of an organisation, and how these should be living documents which provide clarity and purpose, as well as playing an active role in fundraising. Moving beyond our organisations we considered the need to clarify our place in the wider environment. We reflected on what the trends are now and what will be happening in 3 years, as well as the need to balance this with our responsibilities to our beneficiaries.

Despite widening our scope it is clear that beneficiaries must remain firmly at the heart of our programmes and hence our fundraising efforts. This balancing act requires a far-reaching understanding of the sector and beyond that all of us Fellows are striving to achieve in a short time. Sharing experiences and views is one of key aspects of the Fellowship, and having the opportunity to hear from each other is a wonderful compliment to Michelle’s  experience in her sector which she generously shared and coloured with real-world examples.

This session was a very useful exercise in gaining context – giving us the tools to understand our Host organisation’s place within the arts sector, and its position in the wider world. It offered much to consider in order to help us to shape and drive an effective fundraising function in support of our organisations, the need for which was put into stark perspective when Michelle reminded us that only 1 per cent of charitable giving comes to the arts according to the latest figures from NCVO.

The Fellows generally agreed that the session was a jumping off point for more learning about the third sector and all its complexity. Now that we have found our feet at our organisations it is time to start placing ourselves in the context of the arts sector and the wider world, and to use this to benefit our fundraising functions. Having been in the midst of the Frieze Art Fair this week, and all the frenzied activity this entailed at the Gallery, this session was a well-timed opportunity to remind me to consider how my Host fits into the arts sector and beyond, and how this must inform our fundraising endeavours.