Knowledge Centre Blog

Fundraising Fellowship, Ireland – Thoughts From Catherine Hearn, Development Officer, Music Network

Catherine Hearne

After joining Music Network in June 2020, I began the Fundraising Fellowship, Ireland programme in July in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis. It has been an interesting experience so far, as I began my role remotely and have not met my colleagues in person.

The structure of the Fellowship has been fantastic, as both an anchor during these uncertain times and in helping to illuminate a path forward. For the first seminar, we were required to give an overview of our organisations, which gave me the space to do a real deep dive into Music Network’s structure, history and mission. This laid the foundation for my work, and every seminar since has built upon it, encouraging me to set both personal and organisational goals and KPIs. Having another Fellow on the journey has been another big plus. It’s great to be able to connect with Gill (at the Lime Tree Theatre) each week, to chat about our challenges and celebrate our victories!

Having never worked full time in fundraising before, the Fellowship has been a steep learning curve, but in the best possible way. I have learned about strategy, communication, networking, and the importance of setting ambitious yet achievable targets. At each monthly seminar, we are tasked with presenting a defined aspect of our organisation – the structure, the board, the strategic plan, the marketing strategy etc. We are encouraged to think about how these pieces fit together to form a cohesive vision for the organisation, and how we can use the tools at our disposal to tell our story and to begin conversations around fundraising and partnerships. On a more personal level, these sessions are growing my own confidence enormously, as I become more sure of myself and my abilities.

The creation of my role within Music Network has granted the organisation more time and space to focus on development separate to other communications and audience development activities. It also encourages us to think about how best to integrate the two. Music Network is very well established as a touring and resource organisation, but perhaps less so as a charity with our own distinct fundraising needs. The Fellowship has been instrumental in shaping our fundraising strategy and activities. It has also prompted us to think about how we can best reach new audiences and other stakeholders.
Shadowing this whole process has been the ongoing global pandemic and more specifically, the challenges that it presents for arts and live entertainment. The Irish arts sector as a whole has met these challenges with resilience and increasingly innovative programming, and it is so heartening to see the amazing ways organisations have adapted. For example, have a look at Music Network’s ‘Butterfly Sessions’, an online performance series featuring 24 commissioned musicians and composers to premiere new music.

As a fundraiser, I’ve also witnessed a huge wave of support from the public during this time. We’ve seen growth in our Friends programme over the last few months, and received great encouragement from supporters and stakeholders as we continue to navigate our way back to live performance.
Among our key development priorities for 2021 will be our Instrument Bank for Older People and the replacement of the Music Network Touring Van. We’re also seeking to expand our Learning and Participation Programme exploring how we can adapt it for digital platforms. We hope to grow support for these projects through our Friends programme and through corporate partnerships, as well as by engaging the public through innovative and uplifting fundraising campaigns.

The next few months will be both challenging and rewarding. I’m looking forward to working with Business to Arts, learning each step of the way from Andrew and Michelle, and from the brilliant guest speakers and industry experts that they connect us with. I’m excited to see what the next 18 months bring, and immensely grateful for the experience thus far.

Catherine Hearn

Development Officer


Fundraising Fellowship, Ireland is a partnership between Business to Arts and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

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