Sasha Alsop is Project Manager for Independent Theatre Council (ITC), Fundraisers Forum aims to support Chief Executives, Managers and professional Fundraisers from member companies to share knowledge and skills, hone their practice, access expert advice and keep up to date with developments in the sector. Supported by Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy’s Funding Network Projects 2017.
ITC’s conference on Wednesday 21 February 2018 was entitled ‘Shaking the Tin – Holistic Fundraising for the Independent Theatre Sector’, and marked the launch of the ‘Fundraising Forum’. The Forum will be a quarterly free peer support session where Chief Executives, theatre companies, and professional Fundraisers will come together to share knowledge and skills, access expert advice, and keep up to date with developments in the sector.
146 delegates from 104 different companies attended the day at Canada Water Culture Space, and contributed to the debate. Marking the beginning of dialogues that will happen throughout the year, between producers, theatre companies and funding bodies, the conference opened up new potential avenues for peer learning and generous sharing. The Forum also served to recognise the excellent resourcefulness and creative approaches to fundraising that help the independent theatre sector thrive. The holistic nature of fundraising was explored, with much emphasis being placed on the need for artists to be engaged as equal partners, and funders not to be treated - in the words of Moira Sinclair of Paul Hamlyn - as ‘cash cows’. Clear articulation, collaboration and honest discussion between funders, artists and boards are essential to enable the sector to carry out it’s important vision and promote social change.
The day began with a panel discussion on ‘The Role of the Board in Fundraising’ which saw Vicki Amedume (Upswing), Prue Skene (Clore) and Despina Tsatas (Punchdrunk) discuss the ethics and practicalities of involving board members in getting, giving, contributing to, and supporting their arts organisations’ fundraising efforts. A second panel discussion ignited a heated debate about ‘The Strategic role of Funders’, opened up by introductions from Tarek Iskander (ACE), Tracy Sage (Royal Borough of Greenwich), Moira Sinclair (Paul Hamlyn Foundation) and Louise Venn (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation)
In the first of three afternoon breakout sessions, delegates discussed approaches to fundraising management and strategy with facilitation and insight from Kirsten Burrows (Tiata Fahodzi) and Emma Goad (Blue Canary). The session explored entrepreneurialism, creativity, and how fundraising should be embedded into the fabric of an organisation.
Another breakout session entitled ‘Team Engagement and Morale’ saw Frankie Bridges (Deafinitely Theatre) and Joanna Ridout (Creative Consultant) lead an exploration of the fundraising journey, its effect on all staff within an organisation, and how to identify and celebrate success.
The final session of the day explored the ‘Ethics of Fundraising’ and focussed on GDPR, including expert advice from Michael Edgar of Laytons Solicitors. Delegates had the opportunities to examine their data management structures and approaches to relationships with individual donors. The event provided several opportunities for networking amongst members, where thoughts, ideas and experiences were generously shared and discussed. This culminated in a celebratory drinks reception to close the event, supported by The Albany.
Prior to the launch of the forums and conference, ITC carried out a members survey to gain further insight into the sector’s fundraising experiences. From the research the key findings were:
- 93% of the Independent Theatre Sector rely to some extent of fundraising activities to generate income for their companies.
- The Arts Council England/Wales/ Creative Scotland remain the core frontline funders of actual art production with 63% using Arts Councils project funding and 25% of ITC members consisting of NPOs/RPO
- The most prevalent Trusts and Foundations that respondents engaged with were Esmee Fairbain, City Bridge, Heritage Lottery Fund, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.
- Other Trusts and Foundations referred to included; The Backstage Trust, Garfield Western Foundation, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, John Thaw Foundation, Ragdoll Foundation, True Colours Trust, Tudor Trust, Ashden Trust, Creative Europe and Green Leader.
- Other fundraising activities/sources referred to were Fundraising Events (33%), and Corporate Sponsorship (27%). 22% of respondents raise funds through their Boards/Trustees whilst only 14% target high net worth individuals.
- Over half the respondents said that their most positive funding relationship to date was with Arts Council England with a further 5% citing Arts Council Wales.
The research to date is a snapshot of the landscape of fundraising for the Independent Theatre Sector. The diverse range of funding methods and sources of income offer huge potential for peer to peer learning, and the aim of the upcoming Fundraising Forums is to provide this, deepen the sector’s understanding, and increase engagement both between artists, producers, fundraisers and with funding bodies.
The first of the Fundraising Forums will take place on Thursday 26th April 2018 and will be co-hosted by ITC’s partner and hub member The Albany. The speakers will be Gavin Barlow, CEO of The Albany and Claire Saddleton, Director of Theatre at Arts Council England who will discuss the new National Lottery Project Grants and the ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’ Fund. Please visit www.itc-arts.org for further details.