Knowledge Centre Blog

Centre for Creative Practices – For Impact Learning

Programme Director Monika Sapielak (bottom right) with other Arthur Guinness Fund award winners in 2012.

A year after winning an Arthur Guinness Fund award, Programme Director Monika Sapielak and Communications Director Ian Oliver talk about how since participating in the For Impact Fundraising Training Programme in 2011, they have focused on making the Centre for Creative Practices as self-sustaining as possible.  | Interview by Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan

In 2009, Monika and Ian opened the CFCP, a multidisciplinary creative space, dedicated to integrating and promoting immigrant, experimental and niche artists. In 2012, they were one of the Arthur Guinness Fund award winners. The award raised their profile considerably while creating a partnership with a new funder.

As a small organisation, consisting only of Monika and Ian, they have achieved a great deal in very little time. In only 4 years of they have worked with over 900 migrant and local artists and welcomed over 12,000 audience members to their premises. However, with a small staff they felt they were limited in the amount of new strategies they could implement. This year, they are hiring two new full-time members of staff and feel that this is a step towards achieving more in terms of the organisation’s development, promotion and fundraising.

Regarding their recent success with the Arthur Guinness Fund, Monika feels that “a big part of that success was the For Impact Training, because it helped us to sharpen our message and make it more concise, better formulate the impact of our organisation, and present its benefits to our potential funders.” Monika and Ian are also working on a new online tool for artists and arts organisations that will take their work to a national level, and formulating a simple message for the project is something that they have spent a great deal of time on. They feel that it is an important aspect of not just fundraising but of overall development of every business.

For Monika, the idea of simplicity was very important in terms of presenting an artistic business to non-artistic stakeholders. She finds it very helpful “to be able to integrate and apply proven business and fundraising models to the artistic industry.” Ian agrees, feeling that “there is this notion in the arts that talking about what you do needs to be 5% reality and 95% waffle. It’s better to pull everything back to its most simple idea and communicate your ideas simply but successfully.”

When it comes to sales, the Tom Suddes mantra of ‘you’re in sales, get over it’ was something that Ian really felt was relevant to the business. “Yes, our commodity is creativity, arts, development and integration, but what we sell is the experience of creativity to a wide audience and new professionals skills to the artists. What the For Impact Training did was it made us look at the organisation as an independent business rather than a vulnerable not-for-profit arts organisation.” Though CFCP began with a goal to be self-sustainable, the mindset was not on the same track. Monika says “it wasn’t totally new to us to see us operating as a business, but we were definitely committed to that standard perception of the ‘honourable’ not-for-profit, where money is not supposed to be a priority.” Monica feels that this mentality has definitely changed.

“Being FOR IMPACT suits us much more as artistic and social entrepreneurs and helps us to get our message across, and we are delighted and proud to pass on this message to all artists we work with.” ‘Profitable Artist and Artists as Entrepreneurs’ is a strong focus in the Artistic Professional Development programme that CFCP offers. “The idea is that the artists need to be more professional within their own practice, they need to think about marketing, numbers, and sales,” says Ian. “If arts organisations don’t do those things, how can we expect the artist to? If you follow through on how to behave professionally, it’s easier to go to the artists and say, ‘this is what we’ve done, and this is what you can do as well”.

“Talking about money within the arts and culture is such a big deal,” says Monika, “but it is not possible to ask for investment if you cannot clearly explain your costs, the needs and benefits of your programme in clear, measurable numbers. If you are not clear here it will be difficult to get anybody to invest in your project.” In terms of revenue streams, CFCP has a balance of ticketed and free events, creative space rental to their corporate clients, arts organisations & social entrepreneurs and a membership scheme. With performing artists they split the income from the tickets and through this motivate the artists to push their own marketing. All of these revenue streams combined with funding from state and private sources enables CFCP to remain sustainable while supporting artists.

When it comes to making the Ask, Monika feels that it is important to show how an investment can lead to positive change and benefit the artists, society and therefore also the investor. “It is very difficult to ask just for money. If you instead present the opportunity to someone who has the capacity and can through an investment change something and contribute to the positive development of society, that’s a totally different approach which makes asking and presenting your case much stronger.” In the end, as Ian says, the key is to just “get out and talk to people about what we do and why we do it: I know we are the best ambassadors of our work, nobody can sell it like we can.”


 On 27 September 2013, Business to Arts’ Andrew Hetherington will be talking about funding opportunities at the Centre for Creative Practices. Click here for more information.

Here are some tips from Ian and Monika about making asks and approaching potential investors:

  • When talking about your business, it’s worth the time and effort to formulate a clear and simple message to use consistently.
  • You’re in sales, get over it! Remember that you are a business and that profit is a good thing, it can help your artists and create jobs.
  • When it comes to making an Ask, have a clear message, reliable numbers and keep practicing. Nobody expects you to get it perfect the first time, keep trying.
  • When you want to get your message out and approach potential investors, get out there and talk to people. There is nobody else who can do it better than you for your business.

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