Fundraising for the visual arts can be rewarding: supporting artists and making projects happen. But it also involves tight deadlines and difficult targets. Two fundraisers talk about their work.
Rachael Watson is Development Manager at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, and Irene Lafferty is Development Manager at Contemporary Art Society. Both spoke about the career paths into arts fundraising, and the skills and qualities needed for their work.
Fundraising for an independent museum
After taking a BA in History and MA in Museums, Galleries and Heritage Studies, Rachael Watson secured her first job as Curator at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming.
Working for an independent museum, with a small team and no dedicated fundraising department, meant that a key part of Rachael’s job was to find funding for the museum’s collections and educational programme. This involved negotiating smaller pots of funding through local business partnerships in order to pilot ideas and gather evidence for larger funders, such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and Renaissance funding. This enabled audience focused projects, such as a family events programme and oral history project to take place, giving life to the collections once again and helping to build on the museums profile.
Rachael had always planned to be a curator, so she was surprised to find fundraising activities as enjoyable and well-suited to her skills. She enjoys the creative side of fundraising, working across teams to develop ideas as well as working in partnership with a range organisations.
Fundraising for a large arts centre
With a good grounding in fundraising from government grants, Rachael’s subsequent move to become Development Manager at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead broadened this experience, moving from a collection based museum to a non-collection based gallery.
At BALTIC, the approach to fundraising varies from corporate partnership and members programmes, statutory, trust and foundation approaches as well as a full range of individual giving opportunities, such as low level giving, Gifts in Wills and Patrons programme. Being part of a small fundraising team means there is great variety within this role and opportunity to work across income streams.
As well as the three seasons of exhibitions a year and a full educational programme, Rachael’s work includes designing sponsorship packages, partnering with local businesses, and above all else, maintaining and developing relationships with regional, national and international partners.
Rachael advises that a sound knowledge of organisation strategy, being able to confidently communicate an organisations’ vision, is vitally important. Coupled with strong interpersonal skills in developing strong relationships and effective communication skills, are all the essential ingredients for a successful fundraiser.
Fundraising for an arts organisation
Irene Lafferty is Development Manager at Contemporary Art Society, where she finds funds from public funders and trusts and foundations. Irene secured her first fundraising role at the City of London Corporation after a career in museum collections at the V&A and National Maritime Museum.
“A passion for the arts is important to successful fundraising. Passion helps to make a compelling proposal.”
The Contemporary Art Society has enormous impact in developing public collections of contemporary art. They supply galleries such as the Hepworth in Wakefield Yorkshire with funds to acquire art works.
Irene’s work supports the smooth running of the Contemporary Art Society’s work with museums and galleries, including three programmes, the Acquisitions Scheme which funds the purchase of works of art for member museums and galleries; the National Network professional development programme for curators and museum professionals; and Gifts and Bequests which supports collectors and philanthropists to gift art to public museums and galleries. Irene is responsible for researching and identifying opportunities and developing and delivering applications for funds from trusts and foundations.
As a practising artist, with a BA in Art History, MA in Library and Information Studies, and PGDip in Museum Studies, Irene’s knowledge of art and museums has helped her to develop persuasive funding proposals- she is able to put each application for funds into a wider context.
“It is important to know the wider political, social or art world context in which the bid or grant application is being written.”
Qualities and skills to be a good fundraiser
With a passion and commitment to art Irene can write proposals that illustrate the Contemporary Art Society’s work as important and vital: to make contemporary art available to the public.
“A passion for the arts is important to successful fundraising, passion helps to make a compelling fundraising proposal.”
Irene believes there are a range of other skills key to successful fundraising include:
Strong IT skills
To use a database correctly to find out who previously gave what, when and how much.
Vital to understanding a funders position.
To ensure a proposal is attractive and well delivered.
Irene had the opportunity to develop her skills in these areas through a variety of training schemes including the V&A internal curator scheme, as well as the National Maritime Museum Subject Specialist Development Programme. These professional development opportunities have ensured that Irene remains up-to-date about developments in the sector.
For Irene, the highlight of her job is meeting different people and working with a dedicated team.
“Fundraising is a team activity. Team-working skills are important to ensure a proposal includes the most up-to-date information about the organisation's work from different departments.”