Young People in the Arts: Fundraising Network

Young People in the Arts: Fundraising Network

The Arts Fundraising& Philanthropy Programme supports fundraisers networks, including Young People in the Arts. They have kindly written a blog on their recent event: "
Fundraising in the Arts: What Now and Next" in partnership with Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy. Matthew Ross, Events Manager at Young People in the Arts writes

On January 27th, over ninety young fundraisers gathered in the Foundling Museum’s Picture Gallery for a panel discussion on fundraising in the arts. The event was the brainchild of Young People in the Arts, in partnership with the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Programme and the Institute of Fundraising Cultural Sector Network.

We fundraisers had assembled to hear the insights of four experts in the field: Michelle Wright (Chief Executive, Cause4), Layla Moosavi (Fundraising consultant and trainer), Matthew Bowcock, CBE (Arts Council England and Hazelhurst Trust) and Sarah Gee (Co-founder, Indigo Ltd) who took the chair. Their 45-minute discussion was followed by a Q&A with the audience, and the conversation continued over networking drinks nearby at the New Bloombury Set.

Watched over by Hogarth’s portrait of the sea captain and philanthropist Thomas Coram, we were in the birthplace of cultural philanthropy. In 1739, Coram established the Foundling Hospital to protect newborns at risk of abandonment, and so created the first public charity and art gallery. Its standing amongst society’s wealthy philanthropists was in large part secured by artists and musicians. Hogarth donated his portrait of Coram for display in the Hospital, and persuaded his famous peers – Reynolds, Ramsey and Gainsborough – to donate works of their own. Handel wrote and conducted his Foundling Hospital Anthem for the Hospital’s first benefit concert in 1749. The concert was such a success that the following year another was given; this time it was Handel’s Messiah, under the composer’s baton. A tradition was born. Handel conducted Messiah to raise funds for the Hospital every year until his death in 1759, and annual benefit performances continued well into the 1770s.

Taking on the mantle of Thomas Coram, we wanted to discuss the pressing questions in cultural philanthropy in the 21st century. Our organisations increasingly depend on philanthropy for their future success. So what role will fundraisers play in delivering their organisations’ visions? What will our organisations need from us as they increasingly rely on philanthropic support? What skills and knowledge do we fundraisers need, and how might these skills change in future? Judging by the wealth of questions that followed the panel’s discussion, our expert speakers could have spoken for far more than their allotted 45 minutes, and still have had more to discuss.

Passion and knowledge are qualities which the philathropist Matthew Bowcock finds most persuasive. Nothing can match a thorough knowledge of your art form and institution. A suave cultivation strategy is all well and good, but success ultimately comes when the basics are right and the donor is enthused. Matthew also shared an insight from his fellow donors: many philanthropists see their gifts not as financial transactions but as social acts. Fine tune your attena to understand why donors, especially the biggest donors, give. Make them feel that they have a stake in your organisation, as this is a key to their ongoing support.

For Layla Moosavi, arts organisations are the perfect corporate partners. They offer ‘money can’t buy’ experiences and values that corporate donors prize. So look at yourself, grasp what you do and know what it costs you before you approach a potential sponsor. And have confidence: know what you offer, and engage a corporate partner as an equal.

People, place, partnership, positioning: for Michelle Wright, these are the four ‘P’s of successful fundraising. They are also the key to that rare phenomenon: genuinely innovative fundraising. To achieve this, do simple things well. People: look after your relationships. Place: understand what the needs are in your community and be sure you target them. Partnerships: take care of them. Positioning: brilliant fundraising has a simple and distinctive message, so be defined.

Sarah Gee
, who deftly steered the discussion as Chair, also shared insights from her career. Fundraising is too important to be left to fundraisers alone. Involve your trustees. Ask them to help you in the right way for them. Ensure your colleagues understand how all members of an organisation play their own parts in fundraising. And involve your artists and performers. They can be exceptional ambassadors for your cause and are worth a fortune to your organisation. So take equal care with them as with your supporters. Train them, and help them feel comfortable engaging with donors.

The event also took cultural philanthropy to the multitudes on social media. Tweets about the event reached almost 10,000 Twitter feeds, a Facebook event was viewed by over 400 people, and YPIA’s e-newsletters featuring the event reached over 1,750 subcribers.

What next? For early-career arts fundraisers, such opportunities for early-career arts fundraisers to meet, hear industry leaders speak and network are still limited. This event launched a new network to meet this need. With your support, we are planning the next steps to make this happen. Several of you have already expressed your interest in getting involved, and we would love to hear from more of you. Simply email Fanny Guesdon ( and Matthew Ross ( to find out more. And look out for future events, networking drinks and more. When you hear the word, join us. We need to support each other, now and for the future.