Q&A with an Arts Board Member | Ian Kew
In our Q&A series, we talk to individuals who sit on the Boards of arts organisations to highlight their approaches to fundraising.
As chair, how have you and the board driven Darwin Festival’s fundraising culture?
The Darwin Festival Board is focussed on revenue growth and financial sustainability – philanthropic support is only one (albeit very important) part of our shared responsibilities.
Philanthropy is embryonic in the Northern Territory. We don’t have a long history or tradition of arts support from multiple benefactors, it is an ongoing challenge to fundraise in this community.
In saying that, our Darwin Festival Board members are very involved in the business community, and capable to seeking to and successfully acquiring support outside of the arts sector, as well as providing insights into how these opportunities might be pursued.
Together with the Darwin Festival Executive, the board is also looking to present a successful program, increase ticket sales, negotiate revenue splits on performances, improve contractual outcomes and maximise revenues from food, beverage and merchandise.
From the expenses side, negotiations, procurement, contract management and supplier relationships also add to the capacity of the small (but effective) Executive team.
Why is it important for board members to be aware of and involved in organisational fundraising?
It is important for the board to be fully aware of all aspects associated with the financial performance of the Festival, including fundraising which is a key component.
Through our selection of our board members and their experience, we greatly enhance the prospects for management to open doors and close deals securing corporate funding support.
At Board meetings, we identify likely targets and during the prospect pipeline process we discuss the roles each individual board member will take working alongside management to progress the sponsorship opportunity to contract closure.
What special skills can board members apply to the fundraising capacity of an organisation?
As mentioned, the strength of our Board is to help open doors and close deals.
We have found the strong combination of Board contacts, together with the Festival management, form a powerful team to progress opportunities and delivery of the broader strategy of the Festival.
Our Board also possesses a skills matrix that is best suited to enhancing the capacity of the Festival, and we strive to always work closely and collaboratively with the Festival management and staff.
Often boards and staff are quite segregated. What’s the best way for staff to encourage board members to get involved in all-of-organisation fundraising?
In many instances, Boards and staff don’t meet regularly enough, particularly if their only interaction is at Board meetings.
This can lead to communication issues and a lack of cohesion between Boards and staff.
Generally speaking, board members need to seek to meet more regularly – not only with staff, but also with key stakeholders, in order to better understand what needs to be done to better progress relationships, encourage fundraising, and engage with the community well.
How can board members leverage their influence to reinforce the all-of-organisation approach in their staff?
It is important for board members and staff to feel that we are all on the same team – not separate, different or better than one another.
The goals of Darwin Festival are the only important views that the board, the management and staff, should seek to express.
Meeting regularly to talk about our challenges, discuss the issues confronting us, celebrating our successes and talking about the future we want to create, is the best way to leverage our different skills and roles to help deliver the best possible festivals in the future.