Fundraising – it’s a Long Game

Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy has financially supported the London 21 consortium through their networks funding programme. Valerie Synmoie, Executive Director of Tamasha Theatre, and London 21 consortium lead writes about our training event. 

When I saw that the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy programme was offering small grants for fundraising training I immediately started drafting an application for the London 21 consortium.

London 21 is a group of five diverse performing arts companies – Tamasha (where I am the Executive Director), Border Crossings, Ice&Fire, Company of Angels, and CASA Festival. The consortium was established in 2013 when we successfully applied for one of the Arts Council’s Tier 3 Catalyst programme grants. With support from Catalyst over 2 years we were able to make significant in-roads into building individual and collective capacity and expertise in fundraising for our organisations, which has had a marked impact on all of us. At the end of the grant period one of the most rewarding outcomes was that all of the companies felt we had hugely benefited from the experience of collaborating and we agreed to continue meeting as a consortium to provide a level of peer support in relation to our individual fundraising ambitions.

The Arts Fundraising opportunity came at a really good time for London 21, we had been meeting regularly during 2015 and had begun to get a much better sense of the gaps in our understanding and knowledge. A key area for all of us was gaining a better sense of how to access so-called ‘high net worth’ individuals (or HNW’s for those in the know) – seemingly the “holy grail” to small organisations such as ours. We were especially keen to find ways to connect to the growing numbers of young diverse entrepreneurs and business people, who might find our work of particular interest. Alongside that we wanted to get a better sense of innovation in fundraising techniques – beyond the cultivation events and galas, which again can be quite challenging for smaller companies which don’t have dedicated development staff.

With the Arts Fundraising grant we commissioned fundraising consultant Adam Gallacher, who came highly recommended and seemed a good fit for our needs, given his work with cultural organisations that operate outside of the ‘mainstream’ (ie. ChickenShed and Cardboard Citizens). We also opened out the training opportunity to a range of other diverse companies – to share the learning and ensure others could benefit.

There were representatives from 10 companies in the end – the five London 21 companies, plus Tara, Kali, Yellow Earth, Theatre Témon, and Paper Gang. Adam did a great job in weaving together an interactive and accessible workshop for the whole group – we covered all the key bases of effective fundraising and looked in detail at ways to reach and engage new potential donors in creative ways.

The benefit of widening out participation was that we were able to share thinking and exchange ideas with a greater number of diverse / BAME-led companies which was really useful and enlightening. The downside however was that it did lead to a slight watering down of the focus to accommodate a larger and more diverse set of needs. That aside however, it was a hugely constructive day and we all took something away from it.

Perhaps for me the single most important thing for me was in reality something I already kind of knew – that there is no magic bullet for fundraising. It’s about setting a clear and focused strategy and meticulously following that through. There aren’t many quick wins – you have to be in it for the long game. And it’s important to be realistic – for example chasing HNW’s may not in fact be the best tactic for many smaller companies – instead we might be better to focus on our core supporters and consider how to cultivate low level regular giving across a broader group, which might in the end achieve the same end goal.

Thanks again to Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy for awarding us the training grant – it has benefitted 10 diverse organisations, which is fantastic!

This blog post was originally posted on http://artsfundraising.org.uk/ on 16th August, 2016.

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