Fundraising Fellowship, Ireland – Thoughts From Gill Fenton, Marketing Development Manager, Lime Tree Theatre
I’m fortunate to work at Lime Tree Theatre, which is a purpose-built, 510 seat venue based in Limerick. It is designed to host major touring companies and large-scale productions. From the outset, the organisation set out to attract touring Irish companies back to Limerick after a long absence. As part of our official opening in October 2012, our first success was to host the Abbey’s production of The Plough and the Stars. Securing this production sent a strong, positive message to all the venue stakeholders and potential audiences in the mid-west.
Over the last eight years in operation, we have presented the best of what is available in the performing arts in Ireland. Companies like the Abbey, Druid, Rough Magic, Ballet Ireland, Irish National Opera and many independent companies have performed regularly on our stage. The Lime Tree Theatre has been a cultural game changer for Limerick city and the mid-west region and audiences have come out in force to welcome the work that we present.
In 2014, Limerick City and County Council requested that the Lime Tree Theatre Board and Executive team also curate and manage the 220-seat, city centre Belltable venue. Once Limerick’s year as national City of Culture 2014 was complete that arrangement was formalised. In 2016, we signed a Service Level Agreement for the Belltable for a further five years. As a result of this dual venue status, our organisation is in a unique position to attract an even broader range of touring companies to the city. It also gave us the opportunity to connect with a wide range of local performance/community groups to use our venues. We offer a high-quality, richly varied programme in the performing arts to Limerick audiences across two venues.
The Lime Tree Theatre is approaching its tenth anniversary in 2022. Our participation in the Fundraising Fellowship, Ireland programme has come at a pivotal time for the organisation. Now that we have a solid marketing department and set of processes in place, I am excited to transition into the newly established role of Marketing Development Manager. As we began the Fellowship, I believe the two year programme will be instrumental in helping to improve all aspects of fundraising activities for the organisation.
Although we actively worked on fundraising events in the past, our approach was less formalised and didn’t operate within a well-defined fundraising strategy. The Fellowship has supported us in creating a fundraising plan to ensure we have clear objectives and realistic targets. Since July, I have presented various aspects of our organisation: the structure, our board, our brand, the type of programmes we present, fundraising targets and goals, opportunities for other income streams, and marketing plans. The feedback from the sessions helps me to hone and define ‘our story’ in a more strategic way to ensure we reach our future goals. The Fellowship seminars are a fantastic resource and include guest speakers who provide valuable insights into fundraising strategies, corporate sponsorship, prospecting and governance.
Our current strategic plan reaches its conclusion in December 2020. Work has already started on our new five year plan which will directly inform both our fundraising and marketing plans. The Fellowship has already resulted in a significant shift in the way we strategically think about our organisation.
Looking to 2021/2022, our key strategic objectives are to further develop our fundraising skills and focus on key areas. Through the Limerick Fund for Theatre (LiFT) our goal is to create a sponsorship and execution framework for long-term cultural growth. We will continue with our ambitious strategy to build our “Friends” patron network. By drawing upon the talents of our highest profile artistic partners, we are also working towards the realisation of an unforgettable 10th anniversary celebration throughout the month of September 2022.
Due to the current pandemic, we have a number of tough challenges ahead. While it is difficult to plan with recent closures, we are optimistic and opportunities are already revealing themselves. We are hugely encouraged by the support and goodwill we have received in 2020. We hope to continue to build the Lime Tree Theatre organisation and ensure we remain a central part of the vibrant cultural landscape in both Limerick and the mid-west.
Marketing & Development Manager
Fundraising Fellowship, Ireland is a partnership between Business to Arts and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.