Catalyst news: Getting to grips with arts philanthropy. What have we learnt from the Catalyst project?

Fundraising Consultant Hollie Smith-Charles shares her insight from a recent Catalyst evaluation workshop.

Catalyst is the Arts Council’s major initiative to help the sector get better at raising money through philanthropy.  Create Gloucestershire has been part of this two-year project, working with seven organisations to improve their confidence, skills and systems for generating private donations. 

 Today, I attended a workshop in Manchester which brought together thirty organisations from across England to share experiences, to help us (and the Arts Council) work out what had been a success, what challenges we are facing and where future Arts Council investment could be best targeted.

 The project’s evaluation has identified four areas which require development in order for any creative organisation to succeed at fundraising – regardless of its size, geography or art form.  The key message we took away is that fundraising shouldn’t be your starting point, it will be the outcome of your investment in these four areas:

 1)  Mission and vision: It’s critical to have clarity of thinking about what your story is and why you matter. If you (and your trustees, volunteers, staff…) can’t explain how you fit into the arts / charity sphere, then how can you engage and excite potential donors?

 2)  Governance and internal communications: Everyone needs to be aware of your core messages and the importance of fundraising for it to be successful.  I liked the example today of a Sheffield theatre which held a fundraising quiz for all staff and trustees to see how much they knew about their funders.

 3)  Marketing and external communications: Create Gloucestershire was used as an example today of how marketing and fundraising are on the same spectrum.  From segmenting your database for targeted mail-outs, to community events and sheep-shaped donations boxes, we talked about how we’ve been trying to make it as easy as possible for art-lovers in Gloucestershire to donate. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

4)  Innovation: Here we explored how new givers might be reached through new technology (e.g. crowd-funding), new networks and collaborative working.  For example, we heard today from a new consortium of six arts organisations in Stoke-on-Trent, called Art City, who are working together to promote the creative events that are happening in the city and draw in cross-over audiences.

 The first public report of the Catalyst evaluation will be released later this year by BOP Consulting.  If you’d like to find out more in the meantime, do get in touch with Create Gloucestershire’s Catalyst project lead, Hollie Smith-Charles.