How do cultural organisations raise money?

Between August 2018 and March 2019, BOP Consulting and Achates Philanthropy undertook an evaluation of the second year of the Art Council England’s Catalyst:Evolve programme, which supports arts organisations to build their fundraising capacity.

During this time, we discussed fundraising with over 95 small and medium arts organisations across England. So, what have we learned? This summer, we are sharing our findings through a series of blogs and publications, which will also be available on the Arts Council England’s website.

Coinciding with the release of the 2019 Private Investment in Culture Survey and drawing from what we found from our evaluation, here are our top six tips for building fundraising capacity.

1. Make it integral to the culture of the organisation

Organisations typically only start succeeding in fundraising once they have developed an “internal culture of fundraising”. What might this mean? To us, it boils down to three points:

– Staff members and the board regard fundraising as a valuable and legitimate function that aligns with the organisation’s mission, and not as an isolated, secondary activity.

– All staff help promote fundraising as part of their roles:

  • Staff at points of sale tell visitors about fundraising objectives
  • The artistic director invites supporters to rehearsals and other back-stage events
  • The marketing team integrates fundraising messages across all communication channels

– Everyone in the organisation acts as an ambassador, building relationships with supporters and prospective supporters through whatever channels are appropriate. This might be in person at shows, exhibitions or events, on social media, or using marketing and Customer Relationship Management systems.

2. Make it clear – and interesting

People are likely to engage in a task if they understand it and find it interesting, so getting your staff and volunteers on board is crucial. Events such as away days can help build a positive attitude towards fundraising, and help your team understand why it matters. A good away day will:

  • Clarify why fundraising is important for your organisation
  • Outline the strategy including targets and objectives
  • Convey what fundraising involves

Show everyone how they can play an important role.


3. Make it fun!

Fundraising should reflect your distinctive style. If you are all about pushing boundaries and creating bold, innovative work, then plan a cutting-edge, underground gala, rather than a traditional formal dinner. Having a strategy that fits your organisation will be more effective, and more enjoyable – when fundraising is seen as fun and creative, it will be much easier to get members of the team to launch and run new, exciting initiatives.

4. Get help and improve your skills – but be smart

When bringing in outside help and training, make sure you’re being effective (and cost effective). If you bring in consultants, ask them to transfer knowledge to staff through in-house coaching sessions, rather than just devolving responsibility to them. Make sure training is relevant to your size and circumstances – the experiences of another institution may not necessarily be the most relevant to your situation.

5. Design new roles…

If you have enough capacity, you can design new, fundraising-specific roles and recruit staff, but be thoughtful about the scope of the work they will undertake and where they are best positioned. Do you need a senior fundraiser, or an administrator, or a manager? What makes sense for your organisation at this stage?

6. …and be ready to train existing staff

Remember, fundraising is a skill shortage area. If recruiting someone new doesn’t work out, be prepared to invest in training an existing member of staff who shows potential.


The Arts Council England blog is here.

Our first-year Catalyst:Evolve evaluation material, including the Year 1 report, video-blogs, and podcasts are here.

For more on BOP’s impact evaluations see here.


– Rossella TraversoRichard NaylorCaroline McCormick



Image credit: Michael Afonso