Arts Fundraising Mentorship Program + Melbourne Writers Festival
In 2017 we offered 12 arts fundraising mentorships for Australian arts organisations. Successful art organisations were matched with an experienced arts fundraiser and worked on their fundraising strategy for 10 months.
Melbourne Writers Festival brings together the best writers, thinkers and performers from Australia and around the world to revel in the power of words to unite and inspire the community.
We talked to Shona Barrett, CEO of Melbourne Writers Festival, about their involvement in the mentorship program.
Aims for the program
The Arts Fundraising Mentorship Program has been extremely valuable in building Melbourne Writers Festival’s capacity around the six key goals we identified at the start of the project, which included making specific gains against some of our partnership KPIs, assessing how staff and board work together the maximise their expertise in fundraising, developing new approaches in cultivating and soliciting support, and testing some new initiatives through our 2018 festival cycle.
Through this program, I was paired with Dilshani Weerasinghe, Executive Director of Queensland Ballet, as my mentor.
This was a fantastic pairing: Dilshani and I clicked quickly, and I was excited to work with her; Dilshani is a real inspiration, not only for the significant fundraising success that she has achieved in her career, but in the warm and authentic style that she brings to the task of nurturing engaged relationships around her vision.
We were able to quickly establish a common language around personal values and approaches, which lead positive personal and professional development outcomes that I hadn’t anticipated at the start of the program.
As an annual festival, our work can become entrenched in cyclic practices, deeply embedded in the annual cycle of festival development and delivery.
In the past, this has impacted our fundraising practice; we have found that our fundraising can be overly tied to annual outcomes, which can limit flexibility and growth.
If I were to draw a common thread through the various outcomes that we saw against our goals over the course of this mentorship program, I would say that it was about revealing the ways in which we could shift our methods and practice to a longer-term, values-driven approach tied to an ambitious artistic vision.
In my experience, the program struck a perfect balance between practical tools and big-picture thinking.
Across a series of mentoring meetings, a productive round-table session with the MWF board, and the wonderful two-day intensive workshop with other mentees and mentors, I gained significant insight, ideas and inspiration.
MWF has concluded this program with fresh approaches to the strong, values-driven fundraising that is key to us building our capacity and long-term impact in the sector.
We are grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this program.
Find out about more of our mentorship programs here.