Kata Gyöngyösi is Head of Revenue Funding at Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival and supports The Our Future City Fundraising Network. Supported by Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy’s Funding Network Projects 2017.
This question was raised at the Our Future City (OFC) Fundraising Network event held last month in Brighton. Where better to ask the question and provoke opinions than at a gathering of 48 people representing 35 organisations, about to discuss partnership fundraising. Our Future City is Brighton & Hove's collective programme for a creative and resilient future and it's also one of England's Local Cultural Education Partnerships. Fundraisers in the city started the OFC Fundraising Network at the end of 2016 to identify where to form consortia, upscale, connect, prioritise, combine, champion and maximise funding for the five OFC goals:
- #BeCreative: grow creativity – supporting children and young people to develop high-order creativity, thinking and behavioural skills
- #BeWell: improve well-being – realising the potential of culture to help them build resilience and improve their wellbeing
- #BeDigital: develop digital skillfulness – encouraging competencies, behaviours and practices to enhance their lives
- #BeSkilled: enable routes into employment – growing a world-class creative learning environment with clear learning and employment pathways
- #BeCollective: sustain collective action and impact – establishing a new civic alliance across professional fields and sectors
This was the first #BeCollective event specifically for fundraisers and the funding received from Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy and Brighton & Hove City Council made it possible. Around 40 attendees came to the event which included a free GDPR training on offer and a panel of funders and fundraising experts coming from many backgrounds - from a local trust through a crowdfunding platform to the local chamber of commerce. After a very useful GDPR session by Apollo Fundraising, we started our discussion by asking what the challenges and the benefits of partnership fundraising were, and how we could best connect resources and knowledge to enhance the lives of young people in the city.
Some of us agreed that a collective allowed you to gain access to funding that we might not be able to access as a single organisation. We were inspired by international examples raised by the panel, such as Consortium for Street Children. We could develop joint bids and bring a mix of skills, sectors and different strengths. Our experience shows that funders see value in collaboration.
Others are more skeptical, hence the title of this post. They think that whether you're collaborating with another organisation is secondary to ensuring that you know the need of the prospective donor. Fair point. Look at your partnerships through the eyes of the donor. What motivates people to give? If they're a socially responsible business, for example, do their staff or clients want to get involved with the project directly? How do you coordinate this within a collaborative activity? Or are you better off on your own?
But fundraising collaboration can also be simply a joint funding application, for example by a large and a small organisation working together to increase their chances of trust & foundation income. Share capacity – know what you’ve got between you. Funders also collaborate; think of match-funding for a crowdfunding campaign by corporates, Arts Council England, other grant-makers, The Big Give etc. It might sound obvious but mustn't be underestimated: being an active member of a collective, at the very least, means access to more information about prospective funding – in collaboration or not. Some of the OFC Network organisations have already secured funding that they otherwise wouldn't have known about.
"Cross-sector working is happening but still seeking funding", says one of the #BeCollective event feedback forms. Others are already - separately - working with several schools in the city towards the abovementioned OFC goals.
I’m pleased to see that the conversation is continuing after the event and suspect it is never-ending, with lots of questions on the way to delivering collaborative projects, submitting joint funding applications or organising joint fundraising training. Partnership is not the only answer to a more sustainable fundraising strategy but "we almost always work in partnership with other organisations and really enjoy this", to quote from another feedback form. So no, partnership fundraising isn't a terrible idea, it's a no-brainer, really. Let's keep talking to each other about the what, who, when, where ... and the how much!
If you are a Brighton & Hove organisation working towards the above five goals and your fundraiser would like to join our Network, please email email@example.com.