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The Art of Fundraising

19 July 16 -- Anonymous
image of conference room

For our first event in our Fundraising and Philanthropy series this year we teamed up with a cohort of early-career fundraisers from the Arts Fundraising Fellowship Programme.  With changes to public funding structures and access to funding streams becoming more competitive cultural organisations are finding the need to diversify is more important than ever. Over 35 fundraising professionals from arts organisations, museums and cultural organisations gathered in the Ashmolean’s Headley Lecture Theatre on Friday 14 June to hear from leading industry professionals and share ideas while 9 of the Fellows, working in areas as diverse as literature, theatre, art and history led group discussions throughout the day.

Fiona Gourley, Head of Development (Gardens and Museums) here at Oxford University opened the day for us by asking the delegates to really think about what their organisation does and what its purpose is. Fiona explained how focussing in on the core purpose of the organisation is key to understanding where the best sources of funding are and how to go about securing donations.

Embedding a fundraising culture throughout the organisation is more easily achievable when everyone is involved and Fiona highlighted the importance of including volunteers in fundraising efforts; the enthusiasm and dedication of volunteers is a great way of showing why you deserve support.  Additionally, building relationships with donors, at all levels, is also an important step in developing long-term fundraising connections.

“Start friend-raising before fundraising,” Fiona Gourley, Head of Development (Gardens and Museums) University of Oxford.

Fiona talked about a wide range of fundraising sources from visitor donations up to the ‘big league’ of lottery, trusts and foundations and corporates. Fiona spoke about the wide range of possibilities that are available though not every funding source will be applicable to all organisations.

Amanda Rigali, Head of Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy, and Director of Strategic Development at Cause4 talked about the ‘entrepreneurial fundraiser’ and how cultural organisations have to be innovative as the old ventures and ideas aren’t working as well as they used to. Amanda feels that strategy should lead process rather than the other way around and that to take time out to plan your strategy – and allow for reflection – is important. Building on this, her presentation showed that just having financial targets stops you from developing relationships and those relationships and partnerships are useful ways of bringing in additional funding.

Amanda shared her thoughts on the importance of influencing internally within your organisation to encourage everyone to be involved in fundraising initiatives. This skill will help develop entrepreneurial approaches to fundraising that involve many different areas of the organisation. Amanda shared case studies of ways organisations have taken this approach including the Mary Rose on Tour, and the Bulldog Trust’s Two Temple Place. As is always the case in museums, fundraising enables us to support our collections and new ways of curation is one way the collections themselves can attract new supporters. 

Another key point in Amanda’s presentation was the importance fundraising for the long term when possible as having a forward thinking outlook offers some stability in a changing economic environment. 

After lunch Emma Maclellan talked to us about her experiences during her fundraising career and drew on key points from her current role as the Head of Fundraising for Culture Coventry.

Emma explained how Culture Coventry has a very small fundraising team and they have had to think outside the box to deliver on their goals. They have used local businesses as sponsors and developed good working relationships to support long-term fundraising efforts.

Culture Coventry sees the benefit of the personal touch in their fundraising and Emma writes to each gift aid donor to thank them for their donation. Emma explained how going that little extra step for donors can help generate further donations and make the experience more rewarding for both fundraisers and donors.

Ariana Musiol closed the day for us, sharing the key challenges she has come across as a graduate of the Arts Fundraising Fellowship Programme.

One of these challenges was around how best to communicate a case for support and finding the balance between promoting the work of the institution but also advocating for the sector as a whole. Ariana found the challenge of countering an existing culture of high-stakes low-reward fundraising, such as events which are staff-intensive, another important factor.

A key outcome of the fellowship for Ariana was her interest in ethical fundraising and her belief in countering fundraising fads with strong ethical positions. Case studies of her time on the Fellowship Programme helped to illustrate her comments and really highlighted the benefit of the programme to the participants and to the fundraising sector as a whole.

Discussion sessions spread throughout the day gave delegates the opportunity to address a particular issue or share key experiences. Each topic was facilitated by the fundraising fellows and focussed on a specific aim of fundraising e.g. Trusts and Foundations, Major Gifts, and Crowdfunding. The depth and variety of the discussions showed the benefits coming together across the sector can bring and we hope all the participants took some useful points back with them to their organisations. We’ll be holding more events in our Fundraising and Philanthropy series later in the year. Full details will be on the events page of our website.


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