Jessica Hilton, Arts Fundraising Fellow, Hull Truck Theatre, shares her Top 5 tips for starting out in fundraising

Jessica Hilton, Arts Fundraising Fellow, Hull Truck Theatre, shares her Top 5 tips for starting out in fundraising

You know that you work at an exciting place when you nip to make a brew and bump into Macbeth, his witches and Julius Caesar in the corridor. That really sums up my first month at Hull Truck - the building feels alive and busy, whether its schools taking part in the Shakespeare Schools Festival, the cast of the Lyric Hammersmith’s Secret Theatre sat in our Green Room, or comedian Mark Watson having a pre-performance coffee in our cafe. As a newbie to Hull, I can sense this bustling sense of excitement spread across the city as it builds towards its landmark status as 2017 City of Culture.

It’s also been an exciting first month for me as I delve head-first into the world of fundraising. Having started the month quite naively, I’ve found the whole month a whirlwind of information and experience, and I always leave the office in an evening feeling another ‘lightbulb’ has lit up inside my head. The Northern Fellows had two great days in Newcastle earlier in the month; we had informative conversations with the Development Department at Sage Gateshead, and a chance to contextualise our learning against the ‘bigger picture’ with a meeting at the Arts Council Offices in Newcastle, all whilst taking in the gorgeous sights of Sage Gateshead and the Baltic along the quayside!

Following my first forays into the world of fundraising, I’ve come up with five ‘top tips’ for anyone new to fundraising to ease the transition;

1. Don’t panic about the jargon. Fundraising can often feel like it has its own language, and that’s only after everyone has stopped talking in a range of acronyms and abbreviations. Once you’ve muddled your way through the CIC’s, the NFP’s and SEI’s you’ve then got to battle through working out if you’ve got a A4A, or funding from a GMT (all when you were secretly quite pleased you knew the meaning of an NPO). My tip here is not to panic, a quick Google or LinkedIn post will help with most queries, and NAVCA (obviously an acronym itself) has a great guide to what all the abbreviations mean on its website. (

2. Talk to everyone in your organisation – and I mean everyone. Whilst few in your organisation will necessarily have a background in fundraising; they will hold a lot of information. They can probably fill you in about how your organisation has grown and changed whilst they’ve been there, give an in-depth picture of the local area, and even previous fundraising ideas they’ve found most exciting. I’ve also found staff are happy to discuss fundraising initiatives at previous organisations too, so you can really build up a wide map of inside information. Don’t discount anyone in this respect; I received the most vital piece of information from one of our building maintenance staff who had got the ethos and vision of the organisation absolutely spot on. Ask away!

3. Try to remember that everybody you meet is JUST HUMAN. This advice was given by Ruth Jarratt at the AFP (there I go again with the acronyms!) training day last month in Writing Strong Funding Applications, something she explains in detail in this blog post; In the context of the training day Ruth’s advice was to remember that the person reading your application at the ‘other end’ is just human, with emotive responses and understanding, and not somebody to be feared or out-witted. I think Ruth’s advice can extend across the board.  For me the initial fear was the thought of meeting corporate contacts – would I come across correctly? Would I jeopardise the organisation’s chances of securing essential funding? Reminding yourself that they are ‘just people’, and coming across as naturally as possible, is essential.

4. Following on from the ‘fear factor’, try to do the thing you’re most scared of first. For some it is a dread of networking at events, for others it’s submitting a funding application and fearing a rejection. For me personally, it was making the first ‘ask’. Granted, it was for a pair of sparkly trainers for our Christmas production, but it was something I’d always feared; was I being rude? Was it cheeky to make this ask? I decided to make that phone call early on, instead of dreading it and pushing it to the bottom of my ‘To Do’ list. And you know what? It wasn’t half as terrifying as I imagined.

5. Tip number five is the most important in my opinion.  Remind yourself of your cause, continually. This extends across the whole charity sector. As fundraisers we need to keep connected to our cause, whether it’s seeing and enjoying the art, main stage productions or exhibitions, or popping along to see how your Youth Theatre are getting on. It’s very easy to get lost in a sea of targets, spreadsheets and grant reports, but remember why you wanted to become an arts fundraiser.

So that’s how I’ll end - remind yourself of your cause and your passion to make a difference.