Art Fund supports the vital work of museums and galleries across the UK; providing grants to help them acquire works of art, invest in curatorship and share their collections. As a charity that receives no government funding, this is entirely possible thanks to their members, who buy the National Art Pass, and the generosity of many trusts, foundations and other individuals. Claire Noakes works in the Development Team on the latter, Individual Giving, with particular attention to the Art Fund patrons’ scheme, Art Partners.
Working in fundraising rather than marketing means my ‘audience’ is very different to those of my fellows; it is a pool of high level donors, rather than customers, visitors or members, and this comes with its challenges when considering diversity! However, not long ago, Art Fund outlined a serious commitment to diversity, and that is felt equally strongly across all teams, so now is an opportune moment for me to be a fellow, it just means my approach will be different…
So, what are the key ways my audience differs with that of my Marketing colleagues?
Size (the Art Partners patrons’ scheme includes just 186 individuals)
Communications (are 1:1 and can range from a bespoke letter to a catch up over coffee)
Price tag (an Art Partner subscription is £2,500 a year)
And what does this mean?
The first two of these differences play to my advantage because they mean we know our donor-audience personally. Between the team, one or other of us has met each member of this group, and therefore, we already know a lot about our audience’s identity and are saved the auditing stage often required for marketeers to understand their baseline diversity.
The last of these differences however, acts as a big obstacle to diversification of the group because it narrows down our potential audience to those who have a spare £2,500 to donate annually in support of UK museums and galleries; such is the nature of philanthropy! Couple this with the common misconception that the visual arts and art history are exclusive to the educated, wealthy and white, and the challenge to diversify increases.
This issue is not localised to Art Fund but common to arts organisations with few exceptions, both in the UK and worldwide; galleries are repeatedly named after the same handful of philanthropic families and the same individuals have their names engraved on ‘walls of thanks’ and are credited in Annual Reports for their support.
So how can we diversify our audience?
In the long-run we, like everyone, want to attract and engage new and different people, not currently represented by our audience. However, recruiting at this level can understandably take a very long time and a lot of human resource – people can unsurprisingly be hesitant to part with such a large sum of money. Therefore, our steps to diversify will be incremental, and the results are unlikely to be tangible for some time.
However, whilst we can’t (immediately) change the constituents of our audience, we hope to more quickly change its perception. To do this, we are conducting not one but many mini ‘experiments’, not to be completed, concluded and assessed, but to be rolled out indefinitely and adjusted along the way. For example, we are diversifying our guests lists for patron events by inviting other contacts in Art Fund’s networks to disrupt the image of a homogenous and exclusive group.