Our Voice is worth hearing - where are young/diverse voices in Arts and Cultural Fundraising?

Our Voice is worth hearing - where are young/diverse voices in Arts and Cultural Fundraising?

91% of fundraisers in the UK are white with an average age of 39 (Institute of Fundraising data, Culture Hive, 2020). There is no doubt that the sector is made up of committed and passionate fundraisers who support incredible work to happen across the charity sector in the UK, but it’s important that the fundraising sector is as diverse and reflective of the communities it serves. If the same people continue to dominate these spaces, this lack of diversity will continue to limit fundraising potential with the Institute of Fundraising showing that this is affecting the sector’s ability to raise money. A more representative workforce coupled with new ways of engaging young people is essential to better reflect, represent, understand and meet the needs of the communities we serve.


Birmingham is one of the youngest and most diverse cities in Europe – with 40% of the city under 25 and more than double the national average global majority residents at 68% (Birmingham Community Cohesion Strategy, 2018). 


On consulting with young people in Birmingham, they had the following to say: 


“Young people’s voices are important in shaping the future because as we emerge from the pandemic, it provides us with a chance to address the problems that have existed within arts and cultural organisations…[otherwise] there is a strong possibility that young people could be even more underrepresented in years to come. (Beth, 23)


As young people “we should be encouraged to express our opinion without fear of being judged” (Harley, 16)


“The opinions of young people have such a powerful impact…our voices are vital in shaping the future of Arts and Cultural organisations” (Aadil, 18)


“It is vital for young people’s voices to be heard, especially post-pandemic, in order to help shape a future in which jobs within the arts sector are accessible and seem a tangible career path rather than just a dream. Young voices can bring fresh perspective with a combination of passion and strive for factors that should always be at the forefront of conversations…including diversity, accessibility and opportunity” (Annabel, 22)


What is Birmingham Hippodrome doing to ensure young people’s voice is central to our fundraising?


Since the start of the pandemic, the world has changed, and Birmingham Hippodrome made a commitment to adapt and change to reflect this. We started by working with the young people of our city to reflect, reimagine and reinvent so that we can rebuild in a new way that is more relevant - with young people at the very heart of that. We made a commitment to ensure that young people would be at the decision-making tables co-designing with us, to make sure we are truly serving them. 


This began with meeting young people from across the city to understand their needs coming out of the pandemic as well as reimagine what the future might look like with their vision central to decision making. We then worked with them to shape a strategy and case for support for this work to happen. This included consulting with young people on the content and shaping a narrative for Trusts and Foundations which incorporated their voice and made space to pilot new programmes both now and in the future. We want young people to speak for themselves and to shape what comes next.


In January this year we launched a Young Advocates programme - a space for young people in Birmingham to start shaping these ideas to share at TedxYouth@Brum -  coupled with a commitment from our staff and Board to come together to hear from and let young people drive what comes next feeding into both our fundraising strategy and the future vision for the organisation.


There is no doubt that there is still work to do – where next?


Longer term, the ambition is to go further – for this to be one of the platforms through which we are investing in young people with future potential – including mentoring, training, exposure to the organisation and the industry, with a key focus on breaking down barriers to young people seeing working with or for us as a viable option, and in turn changing the face of our workforce to better reflect the diversity of Birmingham. We also want to see these young people sitting on our Board and included in regional and national conversations about the future.


On asking young people what they thought about the demographic of fundraisers in UK, and what they thought would need to happen to change this, to better reflect the communities they serve they had the following to say: 


“Those already well established in their career seem to make up the majority of those involved in the arts and cultural fundraising, and in order for this to change, more entry level roles and training would need to be provided - targeted at a younger age group and with an important push for welcoming people to apply regardless of their background or experience” (Annabel, 22)


“I think this highlights the problem with finding out about and actually getting entry into the sector and the inability to use transferable skills…What needs to change is that there needs to be more entry level positions that focus on core skills and not lots of experience – again along the theme of recognising what young people bring to the table…identifying where young people are falling through the cracks in how you reach and tell them about fundraising is really important in diversifying and gaining a younger average age” (Beth, 23) 


Young people across the board felt that industry is being dominated by the same kind of voices telling the same kind of stories…


It’s clear to me that young people’s inclusion in building forward is essential. Post pandemic, young people want to come back fighting and see this as a moment to reset, recover and do things differently. We need to empower and pave the way for new generations of young and diverse fundraisers. We know that it’s getting more difficult to attract fundraisers to the profession than ever before and only by taking bold actions will we see change for generations to come. Ultimately, we need to ensure that fundraisers represent the communities they are asking for money from and for. Only then will the sector prosper…


Here at Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy we're passionate about helping young people start their careers in fundraising. We are delighted this year to be launching a brand new Arts Fundraising Apprenticeship in partnership with Bauer Academy. You can find out more information and sign up to keep up with updates here.