A postcard from the future of fundraising…by Wendy Smithers

Following her Insight Session at this year’s #OneDayer, the hub’s Wendy Smithers gives us her top tips for fundraising for the future.

So yes…afraid it is going to get tougher…but there is still money out there
Where are all those supposed philanthropists that are waiting to plug the public sector gap for us? Yes we’re all struggling to find them unless we’re very well-resourced and well-connected. There will be even less public money to go around so we’ll have to be even better at making the case for why we should have it. Why should you have it? For what? Why should I be interested? Can you answer these questions clearly, quickly and succinctly? If not the future is looking a little scary for you. Demonstrate your passion for what you do or no-one else is going to get excited about it. Find and articulate the synergy. Why is it right for that donor, funder or trust?

There’s the music…then there’s the money and stuff
Money follows talent and artists that are committed to their artistic vision. Don’t start messing with that. Stay true to what you are trying to achieve as an artist. The minute you start messing with that to chase money, you’ll come unstuck and potential funders will see through it. Artistic integrity remains key to building a successful career or business. Regarding the other stuff, finance, marketing, partnerships, people, get help or advice if you need it.  Use your industry and peer networks to help with this.

Be distinctive
Lead in your field or be led. Inspirational leaders will find it easier to build and attract long-term funding relationships. Funders want to support the innovators and the game changers. What’s distinctive about what you do? What will have changed for you by 2020? How will you get there? Be a leader and be heard.

Tell your story
Those who shout longest and loudest and have the best stories will probably attract the most money. There is a reason most arts and cultural organisations join up marketing and fundraising teams as they are effectively doing the same thing; encouraging people to buy into your cause whether a ticket to a gig or a grant. Ensure your communications are regular, interesting and let people know you’re good and exciting people to be involved with.

Who wants what you’ve got
Your audiences, fans, donors, funders, investors are the ones who can really help here. What influence do or should they have on the future you? Are you part of a conversation with them? Live or online? Stay in touch and allow them the time and opportunity to share their views. It’ll help you know your audiences and markets and spot new ones.

The likely picture
Crystal ball at the ready. Check back on this in 2020. I think there will be fewer trusts and foundations as some wind up or join forces or just have less money due to turbulent markets and uncertain investments. Although the ones left will be wiser and giving money in innovative and informed ways. There will continue to be less public money nationally, regionally and locally BUT it will still be by far the biggest piece of the pie, dwarfing all other types of funding combined. There will be more public money outside of London as the imbalance is addressed. Mixed income will continue to be encouraged as no funder wants to see overreliance on one source.

Make it fun and easy
As competition gets fiercer, make giving or buying fun and easy to engage with. Give easy add-ons to sales, encourage giving at gigs, make online donations simple, raffle unique fan experiences. Too hard or too boring? There’s just too much good choice out there to waste my time thanks.

Partners and Plans
Create and build MEANINGFUL partnerships that are offer reciprocal benefits and can be adaptable and versatile to capitalise on opportunities. Think of the wider creative industries, that are currently growing 9% YoY, if relevant and other settings where your work could have a market or audience BUT keep true to your music or your mission before you get too distracted. The future won’t like the easily distracted music makers…oh and funders will like a plan even more than they do now.  Make it true yet versatile, creative yet robust. It will help you get money as it’ll show potential funders you know where you’re going and how you plan to get there.

So go forth, create, plan and partner but above all be the best at what you do. That way lies money…