Lessons from Culture Business 2018
In November, creative development professionals from Australia and around the world gathered together for the Culture Business Canberra 2018 conference.
Across three days of workshops, discussions and presentations, they shared their experiences and the latest fundraising strategies. What emerged was an evolving picture of arts fundraising which incorporates fresh initiatives, deeper connection with supporters, a whole-of-organisation approach, and cross-sector collaboration.
New avenues to raise funds are gaining strength. Collective giving and donor circles are strong trends, which continue to prove successful in building stronger networks, generating more consistent donations, and providing donors with a sense of personal investment in arts organisations.
Membership programs remain important. Will Dallimore, Director of Public Engagement for the Royal Academy of Arts in London, notes that while their organisation only charges £125 per annum, they have 90,000 members – £11 million annually from a single revenue stream.
There was also a trend toward providing fresh opportunities for engagement with the arts through one-of-a-kind experiences with the artists and highly-interactive dialogues between the audience and the organisation, such as the Australian Theatre for Young People’s celebrity script readings or the hands-on educational initiatives of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Better understanding and engaging donors and partners proves paramount to sustainable fundraising.
Kenneth Watkins, Director of Philanthropy at The Australian Ballet, and Alecia Benzie, Executive Manager, Philanthropy at the West Australian Symphony Orchestra stressed the importance of maintaining up-to-date databases of patrons and members, and drawing on that data for new opportunities to help progress donors through their journey.
Deepening corporate partnerships was also a common theme. Will Cary, Senior Director for Annual and Corporate Giving from the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, presented a framework for engaging all employees at their partner organisations, including providing free family activities and tailor-made exhibitions.
Fiona Poletti, Executive Director External Engagement at the Arts Centre Melbourne, and James Van Smeerdijk of PricewaterhouseCoopers, outlined a comprehensive, decade-spanning model of corporate partnership, featuring widely collaborative skills-sharing and long-term development.
Knowing your business
An ongoing mantra centred around the whole-of-organisation approach. Fundraising must be embedded across the organisation and integral to decision-making, from the Chair of the Board through to the volunteers.
From Bell Shakespeare, Fiona Hulton, Head of Marketing, and Debra Reineke, Head of Development explained the mutual benefit of bringing their departments closer together.
Nick Mitzevich, Director of the National Gallery of Australia, encouraged arts organisations to better know their business and understand how fundraising needs to embedded in strategy. Financial transparency is key in securing philanthropic support and corporate partnerships.
There were frequent calls for arts organisations to assess their complete creative capital – not just in programs and artists but in experience, skillsets, networks and physical spaces.
As evidenced by the keen networking on display, Culture Business demonstrated the need for arts organisations and artists to share their insights and pool resources.
Sheena Boughen, Life Ambassador at Four Winds, revealed the remarkable success in reaching out for advice, seeking collaboration and requesting pro bono services. As did Deborah Cullinan, CEO of San Francisco’s cross-sectoral, community-centric Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, with its commitment to turning capital into broad social value.
Development in the arts is often under-resourced, hence the best route for sustainable fundraising is to empower the entire organisation to deeply engage individuals, communities and the private sector.