I’ve been thinking about the job titles ‘fundraiser’ and ‘grants officer’ and ‘corporates manager’ and ‘development director’. And I’ve come to the conclusion that they are a bit of a misnomer. Or rather, they should be. If someone’s sole raison d’être in an organisation is to bring in money, I wonder just how successful they can be without a broader brief.
At Free Word we are a small team and, as such, our roles are quite fluid. Don’t get me wrong, we each have different responsibilities and we hold different budgets – communications, digital, development, programming, building etc. But none of us works in isolation. So I think we need to focus on the relationship between programming and fundraising.
Without exciting programming, it is impossible to raise funds. Without funding, it is impossible to deliver exciting programming. The two are inextricably linked and the further through the arts fundraising fellowship that I get, the greater responsibility I have for shaping programme content.
Why? Because I’m starting to understand what funders are looking for and their parameters. And I understand how Free Word programmes and our financial capacity. I am also building relationships on both sides of the funder/recipient divide. This alchemy of knowledge and relationships puts the ‘fundraiser’ in a powerful position. But only if there is space within the organisation for those with fundraising responsibilities to inform programming decisions. Luckily at Free Word, there is.
I think arts fundraising should emerge from the programming in a kind of dance. It should be agile, responsive and creative. And the best fundraisers are the ones who don’t just know their programme, but have experienced it, helped shape it and can take some ownership for it.
I’m not on this fellowship so that in six months’ time I can call myself a grants officer. I want to help make great art happen and I realise that fundraising is one of a gamut of skills that are needed in order to produce strong, creative programming. I’ve learnt a lot over the last eight months and I want to take that knowledge with me into a post that is about more than the money. If, in six months’ time, my job title is (junior) artistic programmer, I’ll be over the moon!