The Joy of Fundraising

On International Day of Charity, we asked our Head of Development to share advice and insights into a career in fundraising

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A dancer. So, a career in the creative and cultural sector has always been my dream job. I became a professional dancer in 1997 and pursued a successful role in the dance world for the first 5 years of my career. However, my life as a dancer was not to be, and was forced to retire due to injury and illness at 22.

How did you get into fundraising?

I fell in to fundraising I guess through my various roles as a Programme Manager and Director of arts and cultural organisations over the years. Projects would invariably have match funding targets to realise the ambition of work and for the first 5 years my work would concentrate on grant funding applications and sponsorship for events and festivals associated to this work.

Do you think fundraising has changed since you have been involved with it, and how?

Yes, very much so. I have been fundraising in the arts and cultural sector now for over 20 years. Fundraising has become so much more competitive especially in the last 10 years, where austerity has hit even the most essential of services.

What advice would you give to a new fundraiser just starting out?

Building trusted relationships and good communication is key to successful fundraising. My advice to a new fundraiser would be to connect to as many different networks as possible.

Meet your beneficiaries and understand their needs. Connect to existing supporters of the organisation and understand why they donate and fund the work that you do. Moreover, get to know them and how you can connect your supporters and future donors to those beneficiaries. Sounds simple but without it a new fundraiser will be pitching blindly without the mutual understand of needs of both parties.

What advice would you give to organisations applying for grants?

Talk to the funder before applying. Focus on the funder first and what they want to support. Remember, funders are not robots. Grant Managers have a duty to deliver on funders charitable objectives and in some cases the work that they and/or the trustees wish to prioritise. Whilst you may know what it is that you want to fund, ask yourself what is it that they are interested in and is there a mutually beneficial match between the two. Chasing funding is easy, but matching funders desires for investment to the needs of your work is key. If you are changing your work to match the funders priorities, perhaps consider another funder instead, as this will come through your application.

What makes a good corporate partnership?

A good corporate partnership should be about connecting businesses to communities. Crucial to this is CEO driven engagement. Great partnerships are not about publicity or profile of the business partner, but about driving change and outcomes of mutual benefit for the cause and the business. Often this is about the people to which both the charity and business serve. Two of our best Corporate Partnerships to date have been with NatWest Bank and with local social housing corporate EMH homes, based in the region. Both have involved investment based on cross organisational strategies to connect strategic objectives to social impact value and ‘measured by happiness’ (Tod Mc Quilkin, Air IT).

What do you think is the biggest challenge for the sector in the year ahead?

Working better together, to pool resources and expertise to respond the changes Brexit could bring to our sector. Competition for financial support increases every year, yet many of the charities I come across are trying to address the same or similar outcomes. The development of collaborative partnerships is key to securing the finance and outcomes we seek, not just in the next 12 months, but in the next 5-10 years.

Would you like to see more done to support fundraisers - if so, what?

Over the past few years, charities and fundraisers more specifically have made it into the press for the wrong reasons. Much of the sector is doing some amazing work, and there are some real heroes out there delivering significant change for real people and places in most need. This in turn has affected societies opinion, in some cases, on charitable giving and support, with some reluctant to donate as they have before. We know we are seeing a drop in individual donations and corporate support also continues to decline.

A positive focus on the work we do generally would really help us sell the importance of our work, not just in terms of our individual charitable activity but our wider role in delivering social, environmental and economic change for everyday people and places that are otherwise neglected of support.

What’s the best piece of fundraising advice you’ve ever been given?

‘I am not the target market’. Thanks to the National Arts Fundraising School (Dana, Jules & the hero himself Bernard Ross) for that simple yet vital mantra to apply to my work.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

My superpower would have to be Reading Minds. Key to fundraising is understanding the donor or investors motivations to support a cause or campaign. Matching the charities needs to these motivations would be so much easier if I could read the minds of trustees making decisions and the thoughts of our supporters in connecting them to our work.

Tell us a joke.

Its not a joke as such but more a poem called The Joy of Asking

A fundraiser stood at the heavenly gate,

His face was scarred and old.

He stood before the man of fate

For admission to the fold

“What have you done,” Saint Peter said,

“To gain admission here?”

“I’ve been a fundraiser, sir,

“For many and many a year.”

The pearly gates swung open wide,

Saint Peter rang the bell.

“Come in and choose your harp”, he sighed

You’ve had your share of hell!

If you are seeking funding for youth arts-related programmes, join our Funding Support Programme to recieve access to free downloadable resources, funding updates and a programme of fundraising trainining. Find out more and sign up for free today.