When it comes to fundraising, it’s tempting to copy the people who appear to be doing it properly. But what is the ‘proper way’? We captured some thoughts from the second Catalyst learning day of 2017, led by BOP Consulting.
Arts Council England launched Catalyst Evolve to support organisations with a limited track record in fundraising to attract more private giving. The fund is part of a wider ambition to create a more sustainable and resilient arts and culture sector.
Nearly a year into their projects, Catalyst Evolve participants gathered in Bristol to share their learning so far. A few themes, in particular, captured my imagination.
Unleash the fun in fundraising
When you’re just starting out at something or trying to develop new initiatives, you may gravitate towards the ‘proper way’ of doing things. It might lead you to adopt traditional methods or follow the lead of successful fundraising organisations. If you’ve ever held a lavish drinks reception because you believe that’s what donors expect then you’re certainly not alone. But what do those traditional events say about your organisation?
Catalyst grantees were reminded that some of the most successful fundraising campaigns are by organisations that have broken free of the ‘proper way’. Instead they’ve enjoyed the process of creating distinctive campaigns that truly reflect their organisation’s personality. When you enjoy creating something, the end result is far more likely to be fun and engaging.
The Museum of East Anglian Life’s Heritage Farm campaign is a great example with its beautiful animal illustrations and adopt a piggy bank initiative. The campaign is centred around the founders’ vision for the museum and provides fun and engaging ways for visitors to fundraise for the project.
Build a fundraising party
Following the theme of fun, discussion turned to identifying what people can bring to the fundraising party. A key strand throughout all the Catalyst programmes has been organisational change and the transition from lone fundraisers to whole team fundraising. Conversations at the learning day frequently turned to board engagement but there was also an acknowledgement of the broad range of roles wider teams could play.
Within your team, you might have talented performers that your audience would respond to or love to engage with. You might have a board sitting on useful fundraising contacts. Perhaps you have skilled designers and craftspeople who would willingly put their creativity to work for fundraising purposes.
The brief case study of Scottish Opera’s stewardship approach in Innovation in Fundraising by Kathryn Welch illustrates the valuable contribution wider teams can make to fundraising without having to make the ask. They use the skills of their team to create ‘money-can’t-buy’ mementos for major supporters, such as ladies’ scarves crafted from off-cuts of costume materials.
Being involved in fundraising doesn’t have to mean asking people for money. Every member of your team will have skills or contacts that could be turned into fundraising assets. If you haven’t already, maybe it’s time to ask what your team could bring to the fundraising party.
Be creative in telling your story
The final talking point that captured my imagination was the need for creative storytelling. Again, when focusing on doing things properly, it’s all too easy to forget our creativity but as a sector we have amazing stories to tell.
One Catalyst grantee spoke enthusiastically about The National Trust’s Five Amazing Things Members Do. She praised the emotional quality of the stories and said her organisation is now aspiring to share its work in a similarly emotional way. The language is simple and the stories bring The National Trust’s work to life on a human level.
Think about the stories your organisation has to tell and the medium through which you could tell them. The Courtyard’s Emcees award-winning I Heart CY individual giving campaign used video effectively to bring its community work to life.
The key takeaways:
Be distinctive — look to others for inspiration and best practice but always approach fundraising in your own way that showcases your organisation’s unique personality.
Enjoy fundraising — don’t be afraid to have fun with your campaigns and make them enjoyable for your organisation and your donors.
Identify fundraising assets — have open conversations with your board and wider staff team about what they can do to support fundraising. It doesn’t have to be asking for money.
Use your creativity — we are a creative sector and that could be our greatest fundraising asset. Find imaginative and emotional ways of telling your story.
Speak to current donors — understanding why they give will help you find the right stories and communicate them in a way that connects to people on a human level.