Knowledge Centre Blog

Theatre Lovett – For Impact Learning

Louis Lovett and Muireann Ahern Lovett

Currently on their US Tour of The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly, Theatre Lovett is bringing their unique theatrical work to new investors and stakeholders outside of Ireland. Co-Artistic Directors Muireann Ahern Lovett and Louis Lovett talk about how For Impact has helped them connect with new investors and further develop their business.

Theatre Lovett produces theatre for family audiences. The company creates adventurous, absurd and poignant works for children, but are enjoyed by audience members of all ages.Though both Muireann and Louis each have 20 years experience in the field of theatre for young audiences, Theatre Lovett is a very young theatre company, having only started in 2010, and took part in the For Impact programme during the early stages of the company. In 2012 they won the David Manley Emerging Entrepreneur Award. The combination of business mentoring from the Award and their For Impact training has helped cultivate their fundraising strategy over the years.

As a small company, Theatre Lovett faces some challenges in terms of implementing what they have learnt from For Impact. Recently, with the help of the David Manley Award cash prize (10k) the company engaged a part-time General Manager Jeanine MacQuarrie. However prior to her arrival, the entire company consisted of Louis Lovett and Muireann Ahern Lovett, in addition to the creatives contracted for every show. The disadvantage they have, due to their size, is that they “are the product and the administrative team as well,” says Louis. However despite their size and the challenges they have encountered, the company has achieved an enormous amount of success and recognition, and with Jeanine’s help they can focus on further implementing their For Impact learnings.

“The most important thing for us is for people to see and experience our work” says Muireann. Touring their shows, which are the face of the company, are Theatre Lovett’s most efficient way of attracting not only a new audience but new potential investors. “We make work for young audiences, so do a million other people, and they’ll talk about the impact on children’s culture…but that’s all words until people actually see the product, and that’s why our main legwork is trying to get the right people into the theatre.” In addition to the shows, both Muireann and Louis feel that it is very important that they themselves are the ones who take the next step and make the ask from investors. “It’s all about people”, Louis says, remembering advice from For Impact Director Tom Suddes, “and we are the right people to be in the room with the prospect.” Muireann adds, “It’s absolutely essential that Louis and I are the faces of the company, because we would be able to make explicit to investors what we do.”

Regarding the idea of ‘presenting an opportunity’ to investors, Louis feels that “For Impact gave us a different mindset, it absolutely made us turn towards the potential of a whole other world of donors who want to give, it’s in their benefit to give and want to feel good about giving.” After realising this, Muireann and Louis have been strategising about how to tap into an investor’s desire to give. “How can we bridge what we do to what their aspirations are, and make them feel like they’re contributing?” is the question, says Louis.

Muireann and Louis have been creating relationships that will lead to long-lasting partnerships. A key part of creating these partnerships is targeting the right people. “We have been trying to identify the prospects, identify our champions, and identity the opportunities where our product would be on display” says Louis. An example of this implementation is the work being done on their US tour: “We are putting in the legwork to make sure we have American prospects seeing our work.”

As a young company, Theatre Lovett had only just started when they initially participated in For Impact training. One of the key points they learned is to “know your figures”, says Louis. Not only do they feel that it’s necessary just in order to keep operating and knowing how much it costs, but in terms of fundraising “when someone asks you how much money you need, you can then tell them how much you need and exactly what you need it for.” As Muireann says, “It comes down to putting a value on what you do” and putting a cost on their own and other people’s time, and in kind support.

Muireann and Louis have found that it is vitally important to speak the same language as their audience and investors. “Business is not a dirty word,” said Muireann. “We are a business. The more we recognise that and act as businesses, the better.” After winning the Business to Arts David Manley Award in 2012, they created a business plan for their company, and found that along with For Impact training they learnt a great deal about using the right language. “Business and arts seem like completely different worlds, but they aren’t as different as they seem”.

Once a fundraising campaign has led to the company diversifying their income stream, Louis and Muireann feel that it is vitally important to use it in the correct way. “There should be an integrity in how the money is going to be spent”, says Muireann, “and how it impacts the lives of children…I do think that at the end of the day, your integrity will make a difference to the person sitting in front of you.”

Here are some useful tips from Muireann and Louis for other small, new organisations that are starting to fundraise:

  • Making an initial investment of time and resources for fundraising, it pays off in the long run!
  • Always focus on the art first, otherwise you don’t have a product.
  • When talking to others about your organisation, know your figures.
  • Remember to put a value on what you do.
  • It all boils down to having a good business plan.
  • After attending a course like For Impact, be in a position to start implementing your learnings immediately.

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