Ahead of their Agile Fundraising session Asking for Money led by Bernard Ross, Dance UK's Fern Potter argues that the arts sector needs to get smarter about making the case and escape what she calls the L’Oreal Syndrome...
Those of us working in the arts have long argued that we should exist simply because of what we do – because we wow audiences, create sublime work (sometimes moving people to tears), and engage children in transformational projects that develop their confidence and creativity.
Many would argue this should be enough to demonstrate our merits to the public and our politicians. But it isn’t. We seem to be stuck in what I’ll call the L’Oreal Syndrome – the notion that we should just attract support ‘because we’re worth it’. ‘Because we’re worth it’ simply doesn’t cut the mustard, especially in this time of squeezed public funds and competition for private support.
The sector needs to get smarter about making the case and providing evidence of our impact if we are to survive and thrive into the future. We need to do this if we are to compete with those working in health, social and education charities that do make the case and show evidence of the impact of their work.
I’m going to suggest a few ideas that I picked up a few years ago from the FirstGiving blog site that may help to get us started.
Let’s begin with Aristotle….
Aristotle believed that an effective argument should encompass three critical components – ethos, logos and pathos.
Whilst you may not be arguing with anyone about your work, thinking externally and about how you can make your case actually means thinking about how you can be persuasive in stating your case.
Let’s start with ethos. This is about your credibility and WHY you do what you do. In order to convince someone about your work, you need to instil trust that you can deliver on what you say you do and bring your brand values to life (each one of us has a personal brand). Your track record will do wonders for your credibility so use it!
Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why believes we should communicate our mission from the inside out – starting with WHY you exist, before saying WHAT you do. WHY is where feelings like trust and loyalty are born. However, most of us do the opposite and (in our ‘because we’re worth it’ mode), simply state WHAT we do and, eventually, possibly say WHY. Though it’s the WHY that really makes the case for why you’re so important.
Here might be possible answers to WHY dance….
• it is my pulse, my heartbeat, my breathing – the rhythm of my life and the one thing that brings a smile on my face
• it’s an expression in time and movement, in happiness, joy, sadness and envy
• it’s good for my health and fitness and relaxes me when I’m stressed
• it gives me the opportunity to express how I feel
• it helps build my self-esteem to meet others and feel more confident as a person overall
These messages pull on our ‘gut’ feelings and appeal to our inner brains. They fire up our emotions to believe in what you believe in and none have mentioned HOW you achieve these feelings.
To explain HOW you need to engage logos.
According to Aristotle, logos is the most important means of persuasion of the three elements.Logos appeals to our logical side with cold, hard, empirical facts that no one can dispute. Your statistics will really make a difference.
This is where HOW comes to the fore – the process. Logos appeals to our rational level where language is rooted and where logic stems. In deference to Aristotle, the process must be embedded with evidence.
For example, use a quote based on a study to back your statement about WHY you feel dance improves your overall health and well-being:
"Dance can decrease anxiety and boost mood more than other physical outlets (Leste and Rust, 1990/1984). When patients with anxiety disorders were given time in one of four settings: a dance class, an exercise class, a music class, or a math class, only the dance class significantly reduced anxiety." (source: Christina Devereaux, Ph.D, BC-DMT, Why Should We Dance? Examining the power of body expression, May 16, 2013).
This is a powerful statement and is a fact. The research shows HOW dance can achieve what we say it will do. You can decide to use as many other factual statements depending upon what you wish to say and to whom. Social media tools, such as photographs and film can extend your message even further.
Once we’ve built our ethos and gained trust, we can develop our logos, our core evidence, to convey HOW we use dance and WHY it’s important. To really convey our worth we need to tell stories that include pathos.
Pathos is the softer, yet powerful, emotional stories that pull at the heart strings. Research by Standford Business’ Center for Social Innovation found that sympathy and giving are often ‘irrational’. Feelings drive donations not analytical thinking and interestingly, it is far more effective to tell a single story rather than trying to communicate about more general activities.
The Center found time and again, that if you want to raise money, you must appeal to the heart rather than the head. Here in the UK, a number of studies concur with this idea and philanthropists are more apt to respond to specific needs and more inclined to give if they know their donations will help to problem-solve rather than just giving without an explanation of how the money will be used or spent.
Stories go viral – not statistics. The dance sector has a bank of stories that will help you express why you’re worth it. These are the tools that will help us overcome the L’Oreal Syndrome and enthuse the wider public about why dance is ‘worth it’.
Fern Potter, September 2014
Part of Dance UK’s Business of Dance training programme, Agile Fundraising is a new programme designed to unmask techniques to attract individual donors and help you become more confident in raising funds. The programme is supported by Arts Council England’s Catalyst scheme and Cause4’s Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy and includes six training sessions over 10 months plus an extra, final session to pitch for up to £1,000 (Dragon’s Den-style) to a panel of wealthy donors. Each session includes input and advice from Fern Potter, Head of Development & Strategy for Dance UK, ADAD and Youth Dance England.
The sessions are available to attend in person or online and you can book for the whole package or for single sessions. For full information and booking visit Dance UK Agile Fundraising