How can arts organisations better utilise individual giving?
Individual giving accounts for 16% of the overall charity sector income however, within arts organisations that figure drops to just 5.9% of income raised from this source. This represents a missed opportunity for arts organisations to generate vital income, in turn building a stronger community of supporters and potential volunteers.
Learning from Arts Emergency’s Christmas Appeal
The key to success is ensuring that your fundraising strategy is right for your cause and the aims of your organisation.
Last Christmas one campaign that really stood out to us was Arts Emergency’s Christmas Appeal. Arts Emergency is a small grass-roots mentoring charity and network that aims to help marginalised young people overcome barriers to participation in higher education and the creative industries. This Christmas saw the charity launch a video appeal with Co-Founder Josie Long.
The campaign was a resounding success, gaining 2,000 new twitter followers, 500 new volunteers and 250 new monthly donors. We spoke to Neil Griffiths, Co-Founder and CEO of Arts Emergency to learn more about the campaign and what other organisations can do to boost donations from individuals.
Frances: Can you tell me how the campaign went?
We don't really have targets for our appeals, because we're a network for young people we are actively seeking to grow all year round - that means volunteers and donations - so it's more about recognising the best times to appeal, and conveying the impact of our work as clearly and personally as possible. In terms of the overall annual target for new donors, we went a long way to achieving that.
Frances: How important are individual donors to your fundraising? How does this income stream factor into the makeup of your wider fundraising strategy?
Neil: We are always up front that we want regular donations that are small and easy for people to sustain. This matters because we're set up to support young people for a longer period of time than most other projects - up to 8 years in some cases with mentoring, and ongoing opportunities and pastoral support. The creative and cultural industries are extremely competitive so the safety net our project provides is critical for people just starting out on the ladder - and having opportunities to increase your network or gain more experience before, during and after higher education really makes a difference.
Individual donations are therefore our main source of income (85% in 2018-19), which again is quite rare for a charity in this field (arts, education, access) but it makes our work super-sustainable and as with most aspects of Arts Emergency, deeply personal.
Frances: What are the best and worst parts of running a fundraising campaign for individual donors?
Neil: It's mainly the odd hours campaigning online. When we're proactively fundraising, we don't rely on scheduled or promoted posts, we will be online early mornings, late nights, over weekends to ensure we're reaching the people most likely to support the next generation into their subject area or industry, refining and adapting the message to what's happening at any given moment.
Frances: What affect did the General Election have on your campaign? Is this something that you had anticipated?
Neil: We knew that the result would influence the contextual tone of this appeal, and as it turned out the boldness, optimism and sense of community that are core to our work and messaging was really what people needed to hear. We launched this particular appeal online a 10.01pm on the 12th December, as soon as we'd seen the exit poll.
It felt important to us to say something as soon as it was clear what was happening, and thankfully that resonated with others and enabled us to increase the support we offer people almost immediately.
Frances: Finally, what do individual donors mean to Arts Emergency and what’s next for the organisation?
Neil: Individual donors are as much part of our community as the young people, the volunteers, the mentors and colleagues around the country. We're all together trying to do something that's both inspiring and hopeful, as well as direct and useful.
This year we hope to raise enough money to set up new projects in Bristol and Merseyside. It is a lot of work but last year over 90% of our mentees applied to university and some of our first graduate students broke into industries like journalism, publishing, and theatre. It's really worth all the effort when you see what happens as a result.
Thank you Neil for sharing insights on the Arts Emergency campaign. If you’d like to learn more about Arts Emergency you can take a look at its work here.
What stands out here is that the campaign’s success is down to a few interconnecting factors; timing, knowing when the key times to give are and using major events such as the election to connect people to your cause; commitment, maintaining that communication with donors outside of core office hours and giving the campaign your time; and resonance, connecting with your donors, making your campaign personal, meaningful and showing clearly the impact that they are having to your cause.
What caught our eye from this campaign was the momentum that was built, primarily through twitter engagement. A real sense of community was conveyed, which is central to the charity’s mission to create a network that can positively influence the next generation. Whilst raising 85% of your organisations income from individuals is certainly unusual, what is clear is that for a charity that is building and supporting communities, and placing individuals at its heart, this type of fundraising is clearly working.
So if this resonates with your arts organisation, and you think you could do more to maximise fundraising from individuals, why not implement some of Arts Emergency’s techniques today?
Do you have any great tips for organisations looking to increase their individual giving? Or any amazing stories of how individual giving has worked for you? Tweet us @artsfundraising