Deputy Director Sarah Read shares how learning from experts, involving staff and board members and laying strong foundations helped transform Impressions Gallery’s capacity and ability to fundraise.
Impressions Gallery is a charity that helps people to understand the world through photography. Based in Bradford, we bring the best of contemporary photography to a wide and culturally diverse audience.
Like many arts organisations in recent years, we identified the need to diversify our income streams in addition to public funding.
We applied for Catalyst funding from Arts Council England in 2013 to build our fundraising capacity. We are now part way through our second Catalyst-funded project (Catalyst Evolve).
By learning from experts, involving staff and board members and laying strong foundations, we are transforming our capacity and ability to fundraise.
During our first Catalyst project, our consortium of northern photography organisations appointed Helen Jenkins (117 Consulting) to facilitate training sessions for the group. She understood the nuances of the arts and wider charity sector, which we felt was important.
We chose to work with Helen again on Catalyst Evolve because she already understood our context and fundraising history.
Through various training sessions, we have explored specific forms of fundraising and how to raise awareness of our charity status. In particular, we worked on our ‘elevator pitch’ to make the charitable worth of the organisation more explicit.
Members of the Board, our Director and wider staff team participated in training and mentoring. As a result fundraising is now embedded more widely across the organisation.
The training helped us identify our current strengths and potential income streams that would suit our organisation. We’ve used that insight to develop fundraising priorities and refine our fundraising strategy.
Shift in communication
An important step in improving our fundraising has been to position ourselves more clearly as a charity. We haven’t changed our activity or vision but we now communicate it differently to demonstrate our charitable worth.
One of the first things we did was to purchase a donations box, which helped to signal that we are a charity. We also invite people to make a donation when they book onto free events at the gallery, and use this opportunity to explain how the gallery is funded.
The involvement of the staff in training has helped everyone to talk about the gallery as a charity and raised confidence in asking for donations. Fundraising duties have also been included in job descriptions and induction processes for new staff.
We also created a publication about our work to use as an advocacy tool with potential partners and sponsors.
Download the case study to read on:
Impressions Gallery: embedding charitable messaging (PDF)