Returning to Academic Study with Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Professional Fellowship

Returning to Academic Study with Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Professional Fellowship

Lorna Clayton - was the Fundraising Manager at CAST in Doncaster whilst 2017 Professional Fellow on the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Fellowship Programme.

I have a confession… It has been 10 years since I was last a formal NUS card holding student and the prospect of starting that journey again made me slightly nervous. It has been so long that The Arts Institute at Bournemouth where I studied for my BA has become the Arts University Bournemouth and although I continue to work in the arts and culture sector, I have (quite unsurprisingly) less need for my BA (hons) in Costume for Screen and Stage in the world of day to day fundraising. This notable change in career was the primary reason I applied to be part of the Arts and Philanthropy Fellowship and when asked at the interview how I felt about returning to academic study, though I honestly can’t recall my answer, I do remember a feeling, one of excitement.

The arts and cultural industries acceptance of people’s ability to change career paths is something that should, I feel, be celebrated and what learning opportunities that are therefore presented, embraced. During the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Summer School I was inspired by hearing my fellow fellows and independent student’s stories about their routes into the arts and cultural industries and specifically into fundraising. I realised that swapping costume for fundraising was unusual, yes, but that I was by no means alone in my diversification of role. During the week, the wealth of knowledge from other career pathways was being embraced as a shared learning experience.

Not just How but Why.

My significant shift in career path means that I have had to read widely on the subject of how, including books and articles on all income streams to update my knowledge on subjects as wide as VAT implications on memberships or establishing a comprehensive prospect pipeline. The Summer School highlighted for me however, that in my efforts to learn how, I may not have looked so closely at the why. What I would have done so naturally whilst at university, had stopped and I was now often unconsciously overlooking theory in favour of practice.

It was the recommendation of The Art of Living by Knell (2007), available through Culture Hive, which most influenced my thinking regarding the pressing issues of sustainability and resilience within the arts and culture sector. What had started as wider reading to inform and strengthen the arguments in my first formal essay in over 10 years, I found relevance and inspiration far beyond that from the invaluable books regarding the ‘nuts and bolts’ of fundraising which helped to shape my work over the past four years.

When meeting with colleagues at Cast about planned applications to trusts and foundations for new projects and existing work, I found myself recommending The Art of Living and speaking about the changes it recommends in the way organisations should be viewing long term relationships with funders, the reliance on trust and foundation giving and the momentum towards mixed income streams. Although the paper is now over 10 years old and so much has changed in that time, with the financial crisis, years of austerity and the UK preparing to leave the EU, its in-depth look at our funding system and suggested changes for organisations and funders alike, when compared to the outcomes of fundraising investment from the Arts Council England Evaluation of Catalyst Year 3 from 2017, are as relevant as ever.

Throughout this process of returning to academic study, which is just beginning, it is fair to say that for me every day has been, and shall continue to be, a school day.

Find out more about Cast:


Knell, J. 2007. The Art of Living: A provocation paper available from Culture Hive:

BOP Consulting. 2017. Evaluation of Catalyst Year 3. Available from: