Each year, as part of our Fundraising Fellowship programme, we bring together our cohort of fellows for face-to-face training, to explore key issues in the sector and share learning. Here, 2019 Fellow Lynda Jackson, Museum Manager at the Judges Lodgings in Lancaster, shares her thoughts from the recent residential in Newcastle Gateshead.
In June the Fellows in the class of 2019 made their way to Newcastle to learn more about fundraising, development and leadership. It was a golden opportunity to hear about the highs and lows of fundraising in the sector, the theory of business management and the reality of running a venue against constant fundraising targets. It was also a good chance to simply get out the office, see what colleagues are doing elsewhere in the sector and have a look at the cultural offer around the North East.
Here are five top tips for fundraisers from those few days in the sunshine by the Tyne.
1. Watch lots of 1980s films
Nicole Newman, an independent consultant and professional trainer, showed that the art of selling a project to potential funders was to create an opener, give a taster and get the hook. She suitably demonstrated this with the opening credits of 1980s classic film ‘Working Girl’ which set up the story and created drama.
Nicole emphasised creating a visual picture for supporters: offering a wide screen shot (of the organisation), moving to a close up (who do we do this for, what is our impact), creating the ‘journey’ (the problem we are solving) and the happy ending (our vision). She went onto push the importance of making your story relevant to your individual giver and major funders: what is their motivation, their values, their behaviour and their capacity to give. Know your supporters and your future supporters.
2. Tell stories about the place you are in
Almost all of the speakers emphasised the aspect of place-based story telling in our sector. Ray Spencer, Executive Director at The Customs House, South Shields, went so far as to suggest that if he didn’t tell stories with a sense of place, there would be no point in the theatre he produced. While this isn’t the case for everyone, it is important to think about your local community, your connections, your sense of place. If you get this right, you may also find that this is what makes your strongest case to funders.
3. Get out more
Get out of the building and see what else is happening in your community, either locally, in the sector, or both! According to Annabel Turpin, Chief Executive & Artistic Director of ARC, Stockton on Tees, the way to get people in to your venue is to go out and meet them on their home turf. Go to openings, go to other people’s events, meet Head Teachers, sit on the Town Centre Management group and be involved. At the end of the day, it’s all about people and relationships.
4. Do more of what you do well
It may sound obvious but do more of what you do well. Find your unique selling point and focus on what makes you distinct from your competitors. Look at who your competition are, and remember it’s not always other cultural venues. Become a product leader offering something special that audiences, funders and stakeholders can’t get elsewhere. Find your wide ‘blue ocean’ away from the other fish and ensure your team and users buy into your uniqueness.
5. Don’t be afraid to stop
The constant nature of fundraising in our sector means that arts and cultural fundraisers are under a lot of pressure to diversify income streams. My last top tip comes from Michelle Wright, CEO of Cause4 and Programme Director at Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy, who advised us to get rid of those income streams that are resource heavy and unlikely to produce big gains in future. Don’t be afraid to stop doing it or wait until you are in a better position to manage the risk.
So in short, my top tips are to focus on pictures, people, place and priorities.
My extra bonus advice is take a trip to Newcastle and the North East. There’s the Discovery, Dance City, Seven Stories, Theatre Live, the Laing Art Gallery, the Customs House, Theatre Royal, the Sage Gateshead and, if you’re lucky, you can still catch Dippy the Dinosaur on tour from the Natural History Museum at the Great Museum of the North. Reader, you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks to all the speakers, all at Cause4 and Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy, everyone at the School of Performance and Cultural Industries at Leeds University and my other Fellows for such an enlightening residential.
Written by Lynda Jackson, Museum Manager at the Judges Lodgings in Lancaster