On the 6th April, the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) held a 1-day training course, Musicians as Fundraisers, partly funded by the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy programme, which I coordinate. Musicians from some brilliant orchestras attended the day, and it was great to see so many artists enthused about fundraising.
Musicians are increasingly expected to get involved with their organisation’s fundraising and the obstacles and inhibitions that they and many other artists face are not new or surprising:
They feel as though they have not been given the knowledge or skills to contribute effectively towards fundraising, making them feel underprepared or unqualified to be involved in fundraising
- They are concerned that they will put in an awkward position of having to ask for money
- They understand the importance of fundraising but may not know exactly what the fundraising department does day to day or how they can best help
- There are sometimes organisational divisions between the players and the administrative teams that inhibits fundraising
The good news is that artists can offer huge amounts to support the fundraising in their organisation without needing any special fundraising skills or knowledge.
Artists provide the core reason for their arts organisation’s existence; their work is their organisation’s fundraising assets. Without the artistic excellence they provide, their organisation wouldn’t be attractive to funders in the first instance. Artists are already helping by simply doing what they do best and doing it well.
Meet and greet
Supporters don’t really want to meet the fundraisers, they want to meet the artists.
To a donor, the development office is like Spanx. It may be what makes the entire outfit possible, but we don't want to know it's there.
— The Whiny Donor (@thewhinydonor) January 12, 2016
Musicians have an incredible talent and, to most of us, lead a fascinating career. Just being near that talent, getting behind the scenes and being able to talk about the art with the artist is really exciting. Although it might be the last thing a musician wants to do on the day of a performance, it’s probably the most useful thing they can do for the fundraising team. Both they and your supporters will be incredibly grateful.
Artists don’t need to make the ask
Although fundraising is a shared responsibility throughout the whole organisation, it is (or should be) very rare that an artist is expected to do the asking. The fundraising team is generally best placed, as they’ll know when is the most appropriate time, what an appropriate amount should be and the donors expect this from them.
The only time an artist might be expected to ask for money is when this has been part of the ‘game plan’ all along:
- The artist holds the closest and strongest relationship with the supporter
- The fundraising team is confident that the supporter would feel most comfortable being asked for money by the artist
- And the artist is the most likely person to get a “yes”.
In this situation the fundraising team should talk the situation through with the artist to make sure they feel fully comfortable. Asking for money can feel daunting, but can be done with the right preparation and guidance.
Fundraising can be a uniting and teambuilding activity
As this video for The Hallé shows, doing sponsored fundraising events like marathons and being involved with the fundraising department's work can build unite both the artists and the administration in a shared goal.
And as Caroline Peather, violinist at Manchester Camerata says:
"Helping with any kind of fundraising can help bring everyone together and create a sense of team which is only going to benefits the orchestra, not only financially but in the music making as well. If everyone feels that team spirit then that comes across in concerts, it helps all round."
Thanks to ABO for organising such an inspiring and encouraging day! You can view their other videos here.
Have you got any examples of musicians doing great fundraising? We’d love to hear.