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Shared Ambition – participating organisations announced

Marketers and fundraisers working together in organisations in England applied to take part in an exciting new action research project, Shared Ambition — fundraising and marketing together, managed by the AMA in partnership with Baker Richards as part of the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy programme.

This action research programme will explore collaboration between fundraisers and marketers to better achieve their organisation’s objectives, including:

why fundraisers and marketers benefit from working together
how this happens now and how it might be further improved across the sector
what effective collaboration looks like
what impact this can have

The programme was over-subscribed with the AMA receiving a number of very strong applications. The 13 organisations that have been selected to take part represent a variety of art forms and are located in various regions across England.

The selected organisations are:

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Eden Project
Horniman Museum and Gardens
Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse
National Portrait Gallery
National Theatre
Northern Stage
Royal Opera House
Royal Shakespeare Company
Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall Nottingham
The Roses Theatre

Cath Hume,
CEO of the AMA, said:
“We are delighted to offer this incredible programme to a diverse group of organisations, all at different stages in their journey to bring fundraising and marketing closer together. The research phase of this programme will help us determine what the challenges of this are, and the organisations will then benefit hugely from a highly-tailored residential training programme. I can’t wait to see the learning outcomes of this programme for these organisations and even more so, for the sector as a whole.”

Participating organisations will be asked to share their stories to help inform and inspire others across the arts, culture and heritage sector. This will include the projects and experiments that come out of the Shared Ambition programme and will be shared via the AMA on CultureHive, as blog posts, case studies or interviews.

Michelle Wright, CEO Cause4 and Programme Director, Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy, said:
“The Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy programme aims to strengthen cultural organisations’ resilience and sustainability by transforming their fundraising knowledge, skills and levels of success. In conjunction with founding partner the AMA, this Shared Ambition project, led by Baker Richards, is an important action research activity to investigate and develop better integrated practice between marketing and fundraising functions. Most importantly, through the diverse range of organisations selected to take part across England, we hope that it will establish some guidance to share sector-wide about the considerable income generation opportunities that can emerge from better collaboration between marketing and fundraising teams within all levels of organisation.”

Find out more about Shared Ambition — fundraising and marketing together.

Follow the participating organisations journeys’ on the AMA Blog and on Twitter @amadigital using #SharedAmbition

A Catalyst for change


What can we learn from recipients of Arts Council England’s Catalyst Evolve funding? AMA’s Associate Editor, Sara Lock, captured some of the key points from the first Catalyst learning day of 2017.

Arts Council England launched Catalyst Evolve to support organisations with a limited track record in fundraising to attract more private giving. The fund is part of a wider ambition to create a more sustainable and resilient arts and culture sector.

During the learning day, led by BOP Consulting, funding recipients shared stories of challenges and positive change. While each story was unique, there were a number of recurring themes and steps that could be applied to any organisation.

Take a step back
Taking a step backwards can feel counter-intuitive when trying to achieve progress but for many recipients it was an essential part of the process. As one aptly put it: “How can we expect people to fund us when we don’t know who we are or what we stand for?”

This first step wasn’t about grantees reinventing their organisations. It was a case of them finding the right language to clearly and concisely articulate what they do and why. It was about telling their story in a distinctive way that would enable them to stand out.

Vision statements are widely used by cause-led charities to boldly articulate the difference they want to make in the world. The use of ‘Vision’ statements in the arts and cultural sector is far less prominent. Some organisations articulate business-orientated ambitions, such as becoming the leading organisation of their type. Some have a mission but not a vision and others simply choose not to share these statements with the world.

For many Catalyst Evolve recipients, developing a compelling vision statement was the first step in embedding fundraising in their organisations. Several said they felt they were now communicating more like cause-led charities. Some had taken it further by learning to speak clearly and concisely about the impact of their work.

One of my favourite stories of the day was from the CEO of South Asian Arts UK (SAA), Keran Virdee. She ensured every member of her team had a slick ‘elevator pitch’ by making them describe SAA to a member of the public in a one-floor elevator ride. The literal interpretation of an ‘elevator pitch’ meant her team had no choice but to get immediately to the point of SAA’s work.

Involve the whole team
Funding recipients from previous Catalyst rounds have stressed the importance of embedding fundraising across the whole organisation. Those who’ve been particularly successful have reported strong top-down leadership and support from the board. Others have referenced the importance of front of house staff feeling confident asking for donations.

Catalyst Evolve recipients are already achieving success by bringing marketing and fundraising staff together. A more consistent tone of voice and more engaging messaging were just two of the benefits reported. Often, part of the battle is making people aware that your organisation needs financial support; taking a joint marketing and fundraising approach to communication is helping recipients achieve that shift in perception.

Grantees have also highlighted success in working with board members to access new networks and engage potential supporters. Catalyst has provided a focus for organisations to involve board members in fundraising. While not all organisations have that opportunity, arranging a staff and board away day dedicated to fundraising could provide a similar focus.

Build processes and consistency
It’s still relatively early days for Catalyst Evolve participants but they are already beginning to establish new processes and a more consistent approach. Many of the participants talked about having previously done a bit of fundraising here and there when they could fit it in around other tasks. They talked about making a transition from one-off campaigns or fundraising events to a more consistent and connected approach.

If you are putting all your fundraising energy into one-off campaigns or fundraising activities, think about how you could connect giving opportunities. Catalyst grantees are beginning to build ladders of giving to encourage higher level gifts from previous donors. Focusing on donor care and keeping accurate records of donations has enabled them to start building private giving and streamline their processes.

Be kind to yourself
The final point I took from the day was the importance of being kind to yourself. Perhaps the overriding feeling in the room was one of reassurance. Several grantees aired frustrations at not having achieved as much as they’d hoped, only to find they were certainly not alone.

Until you see those big cheques coming in, fundraising may feel like a thankless task. Building strong foundations for fundraising can take time but, as stories from previous grantees revealed, it pays dividends in the long-term.

The day ended with an important reminder that you don’t have to get everything right from the start. If your fundraising campaign isn’t working, you haven’t failed. Take a step back, tweak it and carry on. Every mistake you learn from brings you a little bit closer to a successful campaign.


This article was written by Sara Lock and originally published on CultureHive.

Image: Phoenix Dance Theatre, photo credit Richard Moran.

Mobile giving for arts and heritage organisations

Sue Davies, Managing Director of DONATE, on how their platform can help cultural organisations kick-start their fundraising.

King Richard III. Photo by VeteranMP used under Creative Commons

Giving to charity is part of the British national character. The UK is now fourth in the league of the most charitable countries in the world. So, if you are an arts or heritage charity, it makes sense to market your fundraising needs and turn your most valuable asset – your audience – into committed and regular financial supporters.

To help make this possible, we created DONATE. DONATE is a mobile giving platform that transforms the way the public can give to cultural and heritage organisations. Through a single portal, and using all the current digital communication tools: text, SMS, QR code or NFC technology, everyone can give to their choice of favourite arts and heritage projects across the country.

With DONATE, it is easy for anyone to show their support for your organisation at moments of emotional intensity – whether they’re standing in front of a beautiful painting, or as the curtain is coming down on a great performance. The aim is to democratise philanthropy in the UK by enabling everyone to give to the causes they love, in situ, using their mobile device.

Launched by the National Funding Scheme in March 2013, Donate now works with nearly 300 charitable partners across the UK on their fundraising campaigns and has been described as a ‘21st century collecting tin’, but with huge advantages. It’s free to register and use – we just take a minority share of any Gift Aid made on a donation to cover administrative and financial costs. DONATE provides invaluable donor data, and all the financial aspects are handled by us via our payment providers (Barclaycard, SmartPay and PayPal).

We want our partner organisations to be creative and imaginative in the way they present their campaigns to the general public, and provide logos, signage templates, posters and leaflets to help get you started.

Leicester Cathedral Charitable Trust recently raised £500 in two days via the platform as part of its King Richard III Campaign. The Watts Gallery in Surrey raised nearly £10,000 in two months, and Sheffield Theatres Trust received 600 donations by putting out a call to their audiences. The key to the success of these organisations was that they ran great press and marketing campaigns around their projects to really drive audience awareness, bring in new audiences and create a general sense of buy-in and support.

We believe DONATE is the future of fundraising for the cultural sector – both for big and small organisations. Visit the DONATE website to see case studies, details of existing partner organisations, and information on how to join.

Moving digital philanthropy up in the arts agenda

Mary Jane Edwards & Andy Hamflett are co-directors of research agency and consultancy AAM Associates. This post follows their presentation on Digital Philanthropy in the Arts at our 2014 conference in Bristol.

Money - Black and White Money
Photo by @Doug88888 used under Creative Commons

The Ask

My colleague and I went to see The Valley of Astonishment at the Young Vic a few weeks ago and on our seats was a little bit of paper telling us how the work of artists in France was under threat due to proposed changes to their unemployment benefits. We turned the note over and were surprised to find there was no ‘ask’ not least to spread the word to raise awareness, but even to give funds to support their campaign.

Now, this example isn’t even so close to home but aside from membership offers, adding a donation to my ticket purchase and popping a few pounds into a Perspex box we rarely get asked for money.

Crowd funding aside (although there a few new platforms to note: Art Happens, Patreon, Tocyn,) – examples of digital philanthropy in the arts are still thin on the ground. So we started to explore why that might be, placing the arts in the broader context of the charitable sector, and the broader importance that engaging with digital philanthropy will have.

Individual Giving

The total amount of money raised from individuals by arts organisations 2011/12 was £372m1, which equates to the same as for one social sector charity, Cancer Research UK. Whilst on the face of it this may seem crude comparison, it made us think.

There have been numerous calls for the Arts to shout louder about its charitable status, and we don’t doubt that the numerous reports and debates highlighting the case for, and value of, Arts and Culture are doing their job, especially in relation to their contribution to the economy. But we can’t help feeling like the sector is missing a trick.

We believe investing in digital approaches and learning from social sector charities can help organisations develop the right articulation of their social value that will resonate emotionally with individual donors.

The Digital Landscape

71% of UK phone users have a smart phone, 86% of UK charities accept donations online, mobile in-app spending is predicted to rise to $16,9bn by 2018 and the UK is currently 2nd in the global monetary giving league.

There are numerous community and tech led examples of online giving utilising mobile phone functionality from: Donors Choose to Charity Miles, to Watsi. All of which focus on specific asks, building relationship, emotional resonance, social sharing – and even some of them feel behind the curve!

What’s clear is we can learn and experiment with specific digital giving platforms – and that is in many ways a sensible starting point – but the real debate is much broader than that.

Digital Touch Points

With the rise in mobile use and an increasingly data-driven economy, the potential for knowing more about supporters is only going to grow, and exponentially. Who are they? Where are they? What are they doing? What do they like? The range of digital touch points to gather this knowledge is expanding by the day, aside from more traditional modes of communication like websites, e-mails, gift shops, points of sale, people are able to attract attention through Gaming Apps, Wearables, Wi-fi pings, etc.

Thinking digitally, what are the users’ needs at all of those points? Where will they experience emotional impact? Where, when and how is the right time to ask for a donation? Or to sell? Listen? Broadcast? Joke? Consult? Co-create?

The potential for user-based modeling in philanthropy is tentatively being explored. The Science Museum recently tracked the walking movements of visitors and noted that their pathways meant that many bypassed the fundraising desk and the information point. By redesigning the space they increased donations by 80%. How might that be extended into the digital realm?

What potential does the future hold when there are so many digital engagement and tracking tools? Cities and shopping malls are even experimenting with anonymised data capture from smartphones, so they can see the routes citizens and shoppers take, where they linger and what that might reveal. At least a dozen UK shopping centres use this technology, by tracking how phones interact with their wifi signals. How soon before some of the larger arts organisations buy into this?

Arts & Tech Incubators

The cross pollination between art and digital technology is nothing new, but the rise of the modern day ‘maker’ movement and interest in digital tech labs have seen an array of traditional institutions and other actors come together to create new programmes for art and technology, to cite a few:

In comparison with such spaces there’s little talk about how advances in tech are driving changes in business models or fundraising in the Arts. Furthermore, there’s a distinct lack of leadership from funding bodies in the sector around Digital Philanthropy in general.

The National Funding Scheme launched in March 2013, was a step in the right direction, but as the initial figures suggest the project will inevitably take time to embed and grow. However, following on from great projects such as Happenstance a technologist-in-residence programme (they also nail the argument organisaitons need to be ‘digital by default’) – Nesta’s Digital R&D fund recently announced funding for a series of projects investigating the potential of big data.

Which pertinent since it is undeniable is that the arts organisation of the future will have to have a strong handle on its data, and have robust systems in place to handle it. Within that, and as part of a considered digital framework, there will be ample opportunity – in simple, old school terms – to ask your supporters for help.

The Sliding Scale

As cited above, no one is going to crack digital philanthropy without cracking digital itself. There’s inevitably a sliding scale of views within charities about what ‘going digital’ means, from: getting the database sorted, hiring a social media intern, to having a mobile optimised site to thinking digital, and thinking mobile first. But what is worrying is that the philanthropy angle seems to be at the bottom of the pile in discussions about technology and the arts.

We believe digital philanthropy should become a far more prominent part of those conversations.

Mary Jane Edwards & Andy Hamflett are co-directors of AAM Associates, a research agency & consultancy.  They are conducting research into data driven business models and digital fundraising and would love to hear from people interested in this space, or with case studies to share. If you want to get in touch, please contact Mary directly.

What are arts organisations for?

PH0098 smallDavid Dixon works with clients in the UK, Holland and Spain on fundraising, marketing and management projects. He founded David Dixon Associates, a consultancy practice providing fundraising and marketing advice in 1993 and in 1997 set up The Phone Room, now the UK’s leading telephone fundraising and marketing provider for arts and heritage organisations. In 2010 he founded Voice, a company dedicated to providing consultancy in the use of social media to non-profit organisations.

In this post he considers an important question, not just for arts marketers but anyone involved in an arts organisation.

The Top Table

Every now and again I am invited to speak at arts conferences around Europe or contribute articles on fundraising and general business development (for example see Management of non-profits in an age of social media or PhilanthropyUK).

Almost all countries are cutting their local and national arts budgets, so my seminar sessions are usually full and my story is that we in the UK are good at managing our arts organisations in a business-like way because we suffered our first axe-attack in the 1980’s under Margaret Thatcher.


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I presume so

During her session on financial sustainability at the conference [AMA members can read the conference report here], Clare Cooper from Mission Models Money talked about their research on new revenue streams for arts organisations. She argued that organisations could do this while staying consistent with their missions, using Live Theatre’s online script writing course as an example.

Boogie WonderlandSimilarly, Jonathan Harper spoke of his experiences at the Wales Millennium Centre and The Lowry. At The Lowry, for example, a box office staff member’s initiative to raise money as a ticket agency for other arts organisations in town had reaped dividends.

It reminded me of the early 1990s, during another recession and time of low public sector support for the arts when I was working at a venue in Cambridge called The Junction – a place that aimed to combine ‘high’ and ‘low’ art.
They were hard times. We needed cash, and we had to earn it.

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What you may not know about how the arts in the US are paid for …

Kara Larson is the founder and principal of Arts Knowledge, a marketing consulting firm specializing in the arts. She has worked in nonprofit administration for over 20 years, and held senior staff positions in marketing and communications with arts organizations across the US, including Carolina Performing Arts, San Francisco Opera, and the Glimmerglass Festival. In this post Kara dispels a few myths about how the arts in the USA is funded.


First, let me say I’m sorry. After a career in US nonprofits, I have to admit that my colleagues and I may be partly to blame for the trouble you find yourselves in. If we hadn’t gotten so good at funding the arts through private contributions, it might never have occurred to your current government to meddle with your funding. Mea culpa.

The DCMS report; Funding of the Arts and Heritage says that ‘there is more potential for arts and heritage bodies to gain extra funding from philanthropy and private investment’. And many of you wonder; is there?

I suspect that there is, but first,  two things have to happen; a lorry-load of misconceptions about US-style fundraising needs to be cleared up, and UK arts administrators need to think differently about why and how people donate, and why and how to ask them.

What you think you know – just ain’t so …
Repeated misconceptions about US fundraising include:

  • most of the money comes from corporations (in reality, it’s 4%);
  • most of the money comes in major gifts from wealthy people (in reality, average gifts are $100-200);
  • fundraising events bring in lots of money (in reality, they lose money hand over fist);
  • Americans give because of favorable tax laws (there’s some truth in this, but only some);
  • and Americans have a culture of giving absent in the UK (in reality, 2-4% of people anywhere in the US donate to the arts).

It is the people who value the arts who give to make sure their arts organisations thrive. The amount of corporate support for US charities across the board is small:

  • 75% of charitable giving comes from individuals (this figure does not include bequests, which of course are also gifts from individuals)
  • 4% of charitable giving comes from corporations1

Yes, wealthy people in the US donate to the arts. Once or twice every year, newspapers trumpet multi-million dollar gifts-but keep in mind that they make news because they are unusual. Overall, 30-40% of individual gifts come from households earning less than $200,000/year.2 And, wealthy donors may not be giving that much more than others. For donors with annual income:

  • less than $50,000 the average gift is $344;
  • $50-100,000, $326; and
  • $100,000+, $574.3

With regard to special events, Dame Vivian Duffield told the DCMS, ‘I was in New York last week and there were three fundraisers every night …. It’s an absolute nightmare’. She will, I’m sure, be comforted by the news that, with all due respect to those who love them, charity fundraisers are a bust.

In the US, charities spend $1.33 to raise $1 in special event contributions; arts organizations spend an average of $1.80 to raise $1.4 This of course immediately raises the question of why they persist in putting on these events. (The study cites ‘raising awareness, rewarding members, cultivating prospective donors, PR exposure, brand building’ as reasons: I leave it to you to decide if there are more cost-effective methods of achieving those results.) 

I strongly suspect that the tax benefits of charitable giving are given much more credit than they are due. Amounts donated to charities may be deducted from US total income before taxes are figured, but for all but the largest givers, the amounts are small compared to other deductions (for home mortgages, health care costs, retirement savings, etc.). Deductible donations are limited, and the alternative minimum tax exists, in part, to make sure that taxes are levied despite large deductions. Ed Zakreskie, chief development officer for the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC, says, ‘I have never heard in any conversation with any donor that the tax deduction is a primary motivation for giving’.

People often point to year-end giving as evidence of a tax effect (assuming that donors hurry to give before the end of the tax year), but data on motivations for giving show that of donors giving in the last 6 weeks of the year,

  • 38% say that they gave in the ‘spirit of the season’
  • 30% say they gave in response to a charity’s year-end appeal, and
  • 10% say they gave for tax reasons.5 

You already have the answer
Let’s face it, some things you can change and some you can’t. It is possible that there are quantities of donors out there who can give very large gifts but who aren’t already. It’s possible that UK corporations will step up and begin funding the arts fundamentally differently than they have. And it’s possible that the government will perform a brisk about-face and restore arts funding. But you can’t make them.

But regular ordinary people are a resource you have in abundance. And you can change them, at least some of them. You can turn them from patrons into donors.

In 2009, Arts & Business surveyed arts organizations outside London to learn about their donors who gave in modest amounts6. The results (which I had not seen until I started writing this blog) mirror every study I have seen regarding donor motivation and habits in the US.

Low- and mid-level donors (under £1000) give, can be motivated to give more and are already beginning to do so. I know that there are cultural differences. That people in the UK are less conditioned to donate to anything, but there are approaches that get patrons to give and give generously.

People give money to organizations they believe in, value, and attend. Ninety percent of the donors in the Arts & Business survey attended the organization to which they donated three or more times in the preceding two years. The top motivators for giving were preservation and development of the art form, a personal connection to the organization, civic responsibility, personal appreciation of the experience, and being asked directly.

Fundraising at this level is fundamentally an exercise in marketing. Your product is your organization. If you aren’t putting as much effort into cultivating your patrons as you do into acquiring them in the first place, you should:

Tell people that you need them
It’s very likely that most of your patrons and supporters don’t know where your money comes from. And it may not have occurred to many of them that you need their help. Start explaining to your patrons what the support of individual donors means to you. Of the barriers to giving cited by organizations in the Local Pride study, number three was ‘donors unaware of need for support’.

Give them reasons to give
Charitable giving can be purely altruistic, but it can also be a matter of self-interest. People are quicker to give when they get something out of it. Friends schemes, donor benefits, and loyalty programs are all ways of making sure that people who give more get more. Rewarding donors with access, insight, or priority powerfully motivates giving. If the transactional nature of the resulting relationship bothers you, try thinking about it this way; people give from a personal connection to organizations, and these are ways to connect with them. Donor-only lectures, priority ticket buying access, special service at the box office, parking passes, invitations to rehearsals etc., when tied to donor status can all be reasons for people to give. Small donations should accrue small benefits, larger donations more.

Ask nicely. Now do it again.
How many times do your patrons get asked to give? One of the doubts about UK arts being able to approach a US style fundraising program has its roots in a perceived ‘culture of giving’ in the US. It’s possible that what the US has is really a ‘culture of asking’. We ask each and every patron to give: to add a gift at the box office or on their order form, to click a ‘give now’ button on our website, to respond to annual (or more frequent) mailed appeal letters, to make special gifts in support of specific programs. And then, having received, we ask again.

Say ‘thank you’
The most successful US fundraisers spend as much time saying ‘thank you’ as ‘please’. Very large organizations have full-time employees whose job is processing and acknowledging gifts. It’s a chore, setting up systems that ensure that every gift giver is fulsomely thanked, but a worthwhile one, don’t you think?

Every patron who buys a ticket to see what you do, every parent whose children benefit from it, every person who cares about your city’s reputation as a good place to live or work, every business whose roots are deep in your community can and should be asked to give. Demanding support won’t work. Lamenting the lack of support won’t work. Making connections with everyone who cares (or could be made to care) and asking, in the spirit of humility, for support can work.

I would never suggest that modest individual gifts could fill the gap left by lessened government spending. And spending the time to ask for, process, and acknowledge quantities of small gifts can be taxing. But overdependence on one source of revenue is dangerous. It’s not your job to foster a national culture of giving. But it is very much your job to foster a local culture of giving to you.

1Giving USA 2009 (a report compiled by the American Association of Fundraising Counsel)
22010 Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy, published by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University
3American Express Charitable Gift Survey, 2007
4 Charity Navigator 2007 Special Events Study
5 American Express Charitable Gift Survey
6 Local Pride: Individual Giving to the Arts in England, Arts & Business 2009

Tate Debate

148315_10150106291898993_20134383992_7225397_7021313_nHi folks,

… for next week's Tate Debate – we want a topic from YOU!

If you've got that burning QUESTION, itching to be debated by the loyal Tate fanbase…then post it now, and be next week's Tate Debate host.

Have a good evening everyone 🙂

And so began our Facebook post last Thursday where we asked our fans what they wanted to discuss at the next online Tate Debate. Suggestions included:

‘Community Arts Programs – Who really benefits?'
‘What happened to postmodernism?’,
‘Are Nudes only an excuse to legitimise sex?’
and, ‘can my art go into your gallery’

Some good ideas, and a few crazies thrown in for good measure.

Crowdsourcing is increasingly popular and is very easy to do online. Our Saturday nights are filled with tv programmes where the audience is increasingly in control, keeping in the Widdecombes and Sargeants against the experts' better judgement. At Tate Britain, our team of teenagers in Tate Forum curate their own events throughout the year and help remind employees what today’s young people are interested in and what they are not.

It’s something we do a great deal online and with our youth audiences, but the main programme is still programmed by industry experts. The winner of the Turner Prize each year is selected by a panel including Tate staff and international curators. Would it stop being Europe’s most prestigious art prize if the winner was chosen by the public sending in their text votes? Would we see Rolf Harris and Claude Monet on show at Tate Modern all year round if we asked the public what they really wanted to see?

In 2012, Stratford East is throwing it’s programming open to the local community and are asking anyone and everyone for suggestions.

Personally I think this is an inspired decision but, when does crowdsourcing take populist inclusion too far? My least favourite bit of The Guardian is 'Comment is Free'. I couldn’t be less interested in what Aeschyluss48 and TimmyTinFoilHat think – give me Lucy Mangan and Nigel Slater anyday.

Is crowdsourcing  a case of truly democratising access to art, or a case of the lunatics taking over the asylum?


Which reminds me, who do I have to DM to get Terry Hall to curate Meltdown next year? Not such a bad idea, eh?

Claire Eva, Head of Marketing, Tate

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