Five takeaways for small to medium fundraisers
Our CEO Fiona Menzies gives us the key takeaways from our recent Conversations in Fundraising events, at which small-to-medium arts organisations from around Australia showcased their strategies and achievements.
Fiona’s five key takeaways from our Conversations in Fundraising events.
Creative Partnerships initiated these panel discussions because we believe arts organisations aren’t necessarily in competition with each other for private funds.
We’re grateful to the 15 organisations on our panels for this series of events for generously sharing their experiences.
While each story was unique, there were many similarities in what each organisation said contributed to their success:
You have to start somewhere.
Making the conscious decision to seek support from donors and other private sector sources wasn’t easy for all the organisations on the panels, and for some it took them a couple of years from recognising its potential to making the time to actually do it.
But once they had experienced success, they could see and feel the benefit of having private sector support, both financially and in other ways.
Prioritise your fundraising-related activities.
Not many small-to-medium organisations have a dedicated development team.
Those that do may have a part-time development manager, others combine development with marketing, and in others it is the CEO/ED/GM who is primarily responsible for fundraising, along with all their other responsibilities.
It is essential to regularly set aside time for fundraising tasks, whether it be planning, implementing a campaign, or engaging with existing or prospective donors.
While it is easy to get waylaid by other seemingly more immediate tasks, the funds simply won’t come if you are not undertaking activities that contribute to your fundraising.
You need the right systems to support you.
Many panelists talked about doing this in a very organised and systematic way (Editor’s note: check out our guide to Using IT in Fundraising).
Data and databases was, of course, discussed, and it was agreed that collecting data and being able to use it was important.
Databases ranged from the quite sophisticated, to the very basic Excel spreadsheet, depending on the size of the organisation, the number of donors it had, and how many years they had been fundraising.
But all agreed that the database is an essential tool for fundraisers, and also means that this information is not just stored in the head of one person who won’t necessarily be with the organisation forever.
One of the most interesting discussions was around engagement with donors. Whether in regional Western Australia or urban Melbourne, panelists whose organisations had been successful in securing and maintaining patrons spent considerable time and effort in finding meaningful ways to engage with them.
This meant listening, as well as talking about what you do, to better understand the patron’s interests and why they support what you do.
The role of the Board.
Finally, the issue of boards came up at each panel and it seems that this is one of the hardest issues for staff to manage. It was agreed that leadership must come from the Chair and that, without that, it is hard for both the staff and for the board members who do believe boards should be involved in fundraising.
It was also acknowledged that not all organisations have this and, if you don’t, you have to find ways to work around it.
There were also differing views about whether or not board members themselves should be donors, although it did seem that those whose board members gave, to their capacity, were from boards with a stronger commitment to the organisation seeking support from the private sector, whether it be donors, trusts/foundations or businesses.
It was seen as a symbolic acknowledgement that if they are asking others to support the organisation, they should also be supporting it.