Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Fellow Tom Shallaker tells us what it’s like to be a fundraising team of one and how he helped inspire an organisation-wide culture of fundraising.
Just under 9 months ago I moved down to Dorset and started my role as Fundraising Manager at Lighthouse in Poole. Aside from moving to a new part of the country and joining a different company, the biggest new challenge I faced was starting a job where, for the first time in my career, I would be the sole fundraiser in an organisation. Having always worked as part of a fundraising team, it was slightly daunting to think that I wouldn’t have any colleagues to work closely with and share the responsibility of reaching those targets.
Added to this was the fact that I wasn’t replacing anybody – there hadn’t been a dedicated fundraiser at Lighthouse for over 2 years, so I was effectively starting from scratch in an organisation that didn’t really have fundraising as part of its culture. Obviously, this was a really exciting opportunity, but also felt like quite a challenge at the same time.
Engage staff across the organisation
In my first week I reached out to one of my former managers, Deborah Larwood (now Head of Development at Opera North), for some advice. Deborah highlighted to me the need to make sure that I didn’t become a silo working away to try and bring in donations whilst the rest of the organisation carried on maintaining the status quo. At first, I needed to engage with staff across the organisation to determine their appetite for getting involved.
Find some quick wins
As I started in October, the first, fairly simple quick win was to have a Christmas Appeal. I focused this on raising money to support free and discounted tickets for young and disadvantaged people as I thought this was a cause a lot of the team could get behind. The main aim of the appeal was to start to tell our audiences about the charitable work that we do, however, the most notable thing was the way that all our staff engaged with this.
As soon as we announced the appeal internally, one of our senior stewards came to me with her ideas on how we could get the most out of bucket collections – and from there on in the front of house team really took ownership of that. Our box office team started to increase point of sale donations. The comms team designed the whole campaign in a ludicrously short time-frame. The finance team kept on top of the daily income figures so that we could keep our income thermometers around the building up to date. Absolutely every department got behind the appeal and financially it was a huge success – we started out with a target of £10,000 and ended the appeal on over £20,000!
Communicate your case internally
But it wasn’t just about the income. The main piece of learning that I took from the whole process was the importance of communicating your case for support to the whole staff team. The feedback that I got from staff during the appeal was that they really liked having a clear message about what they were taking donations for.
Too often in the past, they had been asked to use collection buckets, or ask for point of sale donations without having a clear understanding of why we are a charity. As my time in my role here at Lighthouse has progressed, and we’ve developed new appeals and completely re-worked the case for support, the whole staff team have become more engaged with fundraising – and this makes the rest of my job so much easier.
Make everyone a fundraiser
Last week we had a fairly big event to raise money for Bright Sparks – our programme of projects designed to encourage young people to experience working in the arts and giving them an opportunity to develop as arts practitioners. I was overwhelmed again by the support that I received from all departments who worked tirelessly to make sure that the event was a success. Because they clearly understood the appeal and believed in the positive effect that Bright Sparks has on people’s lives, everyone who works here was a fundraiser on the night.
So, the main thing to remember is that I’m not actually the sole fundraiser here at Lighthouse. I’ve got a huge team to work with – it’s just my job to help everyone stay aware of the case for support and enable them to show their passion for this organisation to everyone who comes through our doors.
Top tips for being a fundraising team of one
- You’re never really on your own – your whole organisation can be part of the fundraising team
- When it comes to messaging, make sure your colleagues across the company engage with your case for support – if they get behind it, your audiences will too.
- Thank your staff team like you’d thank your donors. If everyone feels appreciated, they’re more likely to support your next project
Tom Shallaker is Fundraising Manager at Lighthouse, Poole's Centre for the Arts.
First published by Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy, July 2019
Part of a series following the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Fellowship Programme.
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