AIM Success Guides: successful fundraising at museums

AIM Success Guides: successful fundraising at museums



Helen Shone and Judy Niner from Development Partners offer practical advice to improve your fundraising.

This fundraising guide is intended to help museums large and small to understand the current fundraising environment and to provide practical advice on how to kick-start or improve your fundraising activity.

The advice is aimed at all museum staff, since there is a role for everyone in the fundraising process, but it will be particularly relevant for those who have fundraising as their remit, and for senior staff and trustees.

Fundraising today

The recent economic downturn has led to changes in the fundraising environment and in donating habits. Trusts are under pressure from reduced endowment returns and from organisations that seek to replace funding lost from statutory cuts. High-level individual donors are increasingly strategic in their donations, wanting to ensure the greatest impact from their gift. Companies have largely deserted corporate giving, and even sponsorship is on the decline.

This may all sound like bad news, but it is important to be aware of these changes so as to respond to them most effectively. There are few 'quick wins' these days, and to be successful museums need to

  • ensure they are 'fundraising fit'
  • get to know their potential donors
  • ask for support in the right way at the right time

The latest figures from Arts and Business show that in 2010/11 private investment in culture actually increased by 4% from the year before, standing at £686 million. This includes a 10% increase in support from trusts and foundations (despite the reduced endowment returns referred to above) and a 6% increase in individual giving but a 7% decline in business investment. This indicates that people are still giving, and in some sectors are actually giving more. But competition between applicants is intense and many good projects are failing to receive the hoped-for support because others have made stronger applications, or because there is simply a lack of available funding.

It is now more necessary than ever to make sure that fundraising is taken seriously, with appropriate time and resources dedicated to the processes. This may sound intimidating for small museums, but with a strategic approach it needn't be. There is no 'one size fits all' in fundraising, and every museum has a unique and compelling story to tell.

How to be 'fundraising fit'

Before embarking on a fundraising campaign, it is vital that the organisation as a whole is 'fundraising fit'. This means the organisation

  • has clear organisational and project aims
  • can harness the potential of its people
  • communicates effectively with a range of audiences
  • has systems to manage data and finances appropriately

These attributes will support a museum across all activities, not just fundraising, and so it is worth investing time in getting them right.

Download the full guide to read on:
AIM Success Guides: successful fundraising at museums (PDF)

Resource type: Guide/tools | Published: 2017