As the Arts Council cuts begin to take effect, and with budgets under continuing pressure from all quarters, there is a pressing need for arts organisations to re-evaluate their existing fundraising activity and seek out different and additional revenue streams.
There continues to be a reliance on the traditional three-legged stool of core funding: central and/or local government; self-generated income from ticket sales, food and beverage, and venue hire; and traditional fundraising from trusts and foundations, corporates and individuals.
Within arts organisations, raising money from individuals typically means focusing on moving ticket buyers and existing supporters up the traditional giving ladder (from ticket buyer, to donor, to member, to major donor or legator), with little attention spared on looking at other possibilities.
While these traditional methods can be highly effective, the pressures on arts organisations, and the fact that the average age for donors in the arts is over 50, mean there is also a need for smarter fundraising to draw in more varied and potentially more valuable donors.
Multichannel fundraising has been proven to bring in more money than relying on one channel alone, and while the majority of donations are still made offline, online giving is increasing and is most common among 25-44 year olds (see UK Giving 2011).
Multichannel fundraising has never been more relevant and attracting the sought-after, younger audience is where mobile and social media come to the fore. There is much to be done with these channels, such as using them to communicate with existing supporters as well as for appeals, and increasing interaction by linking to Facebook pages and YouTube clips. Other ideas include adding relevant ‘donate now’ buttons to websites, and introducing text giving.
Think outside the box
One should think laterally too, and test channels and ideas that perhaps have not been considered before. Events fundraising, for example, works well for other not-for-profit organisations yet is not commonly used by the arts. We are starting to see challenge events like ZSL’s Firewalk Challenge in the visitor attraction sector, and there is nothing to stop people raising money for a theatre or museum by taking up a challenge.
These channels provide arts organisations with opportunities to raise more funds and better communicate with supporters. But the pace of development means there is a real need to keep an eye on the ball, to test things out and see what works. No arts organisation can afford to sit still if it is to survive in the current climate of funding cuts; we need to use all the opportunities available to maximise fundraising efforts. The best way to do this is undoubtedly through a multichannel fundraising strategy.
Christopher Goodhart is European MD Arts & Cultural Division at Blackbaud Europe Ltd; Treasurer and Vice Chair at The Albany; and Chairman of the Campaign for Drawing.