Knowledge Centre Blog

How to make fundraising a little less intimidating?

By Andrew Hetherington.

Fundraising can be an intimidating and labour intensive process for arts organisations. We hear all reasons about why fundraising can be so de-motivating… here are some of them:

  • I’ve never done it before
  • I’ve got no time to fundraise
  • It is difficult and embarrassing to ask people for contributions
  • I don’t know any people with significant income that can help support my project/organisation
  • We have a few donors that are already supporting the projects we do and we can’t ask them for more
  • Getting operational support for our organisation is very difficult to source but is what is needed at this time… so why bother!

Taking the learning from participants in the DeVos Ireland programme, here are three simple activities you can do to start fundraising and make it a little easier for you.

Start simply and accept that fundraising requires some extra focus and work from you and your team. You might have to reassess the allocation of the human/technical and other resources of your organisation for a specific period or full-time.

Develop or go back to the game-changers list that you compiled during DeVos Ireland seminars to think about who is most likely to identify with future projects and who is most likely to link you with potential collaborators and/or give you money.

In most cases, the game-changers list is not a large list of people/organisations/funders but it is a list of people you know are engaged in your organisation and its impact. Game-changers don’t necessarily have to be people that give money; they might just be people that can make things happen.

If you’ve not done so already, why not re-assess and add to your list of game-changers regularly to make sure it is up to date. Some organisations meet on a monthly basis to do this. In these meetings you can discuss what you’ve done and will do to engage with game-changers for the next period and allocate a person in the organisation (relationship manager) to be responsible for this engagement.

Test your ideas with your game-changers.

  • Start with a quick call – it need be no more than 5 minutes
  • Say that you’d like to run an idea by them and get their feedback
  • Explain to the game-changer that you are not asking for money. You are just ringing to see if this is something that might interest them
  • This project should be at least eighteen months/two years ahead in terms of the artistic programme – if you’ve been proactive in developing your artistic plan
  • If an opportunity presents itself, be opportunistic and ask if it would fit into their funding guidelines/areas of activity
  • Once you do this, you will usually get a yes/ no answer
  •  If yes, ask what the range of € support is typical for that game-changer for similar projects and who you should talk to about it

Additional Reading

Read through this Case-Study of Project Arts Centre who have developed consistent communications with their funders (game-changers) as a result if DeVos Programme learning.

Read this Huffington Post article ‘Head v’s Heart’ by Michael Kaiser about how good fundraisers “need to be able to listen to donors and determine their interests and needs, to craft the appropriate approach to any given prospect, and to develop a package of projects and perquisites that will engage that particular donor.”


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