As discussed in previous blogs, the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Fellowship Programme has presented Fellows with the chance to share insights, ideas and approaches from across the full range of fundraising practice within their host organisations and beyond.
Over the course of the Fellowship year, I have been involved in a further valuable opportunity to take part in an initiative to which the sharing of fundraising expertise is central – Fundraising for the Arts in Bristol (FAB).
FAB is a new initiative for Bristol that brings together development staff from across the city’s art and heritage organisations at bi-monthly meetings. With a different area of fundraising considered at each meeting, we have discussed a diverse range of areas including individual and legacy giving, capital development projects and community foundations. Providing a platform for the sharing of ideas, strategies, successes, setbacks and learning, the network has established a forum for dialogue around arts fundraising practice for arts organisations of all sizes in the City of Bristol and locally.
For those seeking to form similar networks in their own area, a key learning has been that the discussion of specific topics, identified as being of interest to the group and facilitated by an organisation with expertise in that area, has produced focused and informative meetings. Equally, this not only acts to provide wide-ranging insights into a specific area of fundraising but also creates a great starting point for further discussion and learning.
The emergence of more fundraising networks of this kind raises the interesting question of whether a greater appreciation of the aims, objectives and projects of peer organisations locally will produce a more informed context that engenders increased success for all. Certainly, as a newcomer to both development and Bristol at the beginning of the Fellowship year, participating in the network has been extremely beneficial for me enabling me to gain understanding of both the city's broader funding landscape and the rich array of arts organisations to which it is home.
Having only been established in September 2014, there is considerable potential for FAB to build on the strengths of this joined up approach through bringing the network together with guest speakers, decision-makers and training opportunities. For example, Director for Philanthropy and South West at Arts Council England (ACE), Clare Titley, kindly joined the group’s September meeting to present on current and future ACE investments, share initial learning from ACE’s Catalyst investment programme and answer questions from the group.
What FAB highlights most clearly is that a network of arts fundraisers is extremely well placed to articulate and present the value of the arts in a coherent, consistent and engaging way to those in the city and beyond. A challenge for existing and prospective networks is to consider how they might develop and utilise this potential to best effect within their own locale, and to be as open as possible so we can all learn from each other, at this time when fundraising is more challenging for all arts organisations.
What do you think? We’d love to hear from other arts fundraising networks about what is working best both in terms of sharing information and best practice.