Teaching the arts to ask for money

The arts get 2% of charity giving, so free crash courses to learn fundraising are being offered online to tackle the urgent problem of how to fundraise for culture projects. Simon Tait reports

Three e-learning crash courses are to be launched on Monday, March 12, on an urgent mission to raise the level of charity giving to the arts, plus a longer course for trustees, accessible from home computers, laptops and even smart phones advance.cause4.co.uk.

The courses range from 90-minute online programmes for first-time fundraisers to a two-week course for senior leaders.

Cause4, set up nine years ago to support charities, social enterprises and philanthropists, has created a consortium called Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy with the Arts Marketing Association and the University of Leeds, with Arts Council England funding.

“There isn’t a great culture of learning about fundraising in the arts – there are no big budgets, people are having to squeeze days out to go to seminars” says Michelle Wright, CEO of Cause4 http://www.cause4.co.uk. “It’s not prioritised.”

But the reality is that while 24% of adults in Britain have been involved in an arts programme run by a charity and 64% have visited a charity-run gallery, museum or stately home, according to the latest Charities Aid Foundation UK report just 2% of charitable donations was going to arts-based charities – and that is double the figure for 2015. “The arts sector is just not very good at making the case for charitable investment” says Wright.

What is being launched by Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy http://artsfundraising.org.uk/about-the-programme/ is the world’s most comprehensive portfolio of online learning for staff, practitioners and trustees in the cultural and heritage sectors.

It will use “blended” learning in which facts and figures are combined with short powerpoint presentations interspersed with contributions from practitioners  - “it’s important that you hear about what’s happening in fundraising or charitable giving right now” Wright says.

Available will be a two-hour course on the basics of strategy, cultivating relationships, communicating with supporters and managing donation schemes and events. A shorter course for trustees will cover their responsibilities, the regulations around fundraising and how they can boost income generation.  Another course, an hour-and-a-half long, takes trustees through the ethics of fundraising strategy and protecting artistic integrity in the process. They can be done piecemeal in the participants’ own time – “five minutes on the bus to work is useful learning time” Wright suggests. 

The programme is the result of a year-long pilot involving 500 participants who recorded 70% completion rates - some university online programmes have only 5% completion rates - and 90% approval, and what the pilot also showed was the potential for creating a community in which participants could share advice, experience and contacts online

The three short courses will be available until May 4 to encourage participants to complete them. There will then be a pause of six to eight weeks while feedback is analysed and alterations made as a result, before they resume in the summer. A new module is being planned on storytelling – how to make a case – in conjunction with a team of senior journalists. “A lot of problems in fundraising lie in quite lazy communicatons” Wright says.

Leeds University’s FutureLearn department offers a two week course, also from March 12, on diversifying income streams and developing organisational resilience. The courses will be free, though special modules on, for instance, legacy giving, individual giving and corporate sponsorship with the latest data may be offered for a fee.

“Many leaders of arts organisations are time poor and we’ve set up these training courses in bite-sized chunks to fit easily within a busy working day” Wright says. “Being online allows us to update the material as legislation and technical information changes. 

“We’re offering practical advice and helping demystify the fundraising process. Case studies throughout the training modules will help inspire the learners with great examples of new business models and quick wins for the long term and we will combine with micro-learning modules of 3-5 minutes for those practitioners that struggle to fit in learning”.

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