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What kind of person makes a good fundraiser? Amanda Rigali answers your questions and reveals why it’s never been a better time to enter the field. 

People collaborating

My Story

I didn’t really find fundraising, fundraising found me. Having worked as a senior manager in arts organisations, then as a Director at Arts Council England, I could see how important it was to get involved with the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Programmeboth for the wider arts and cultural sector and for me personally. The programme offers fantastic opportunities for arts and cultural professionals to develop relationships and secure new funds.

Managing this Programme has given me invaluable opportunities to learn and share fundraising knowledge across the breadth of the sector. I’m also very fortunate to work with a wide range of arts and cultural fundraisers, and have asked three of them to offer their own reflections on their careers in fundraising. 

Is fundraising for you?

According to Carolyn Sankey, Director of Development at the Black Country Living Museum, fundraising is all about building and maintaining long-term relationships with a wide range of people. So, fundraisers must be confident to get out there and network. They must also have a passion for their cause, and communicate this with conviction. 

Louisa Wood, Senior Development Manager at the Hepworth Wakefield emphasises that fundraisers have to be able to influence within their organisations as well as externally – they must be able to encourage all staff and trustees to get involved in fundraising, as it has to be a team effort.

While James Atkinson, Director of Development at the Soho Theatre, sees fundraising as a creative role. It’s about finding ways to bring money in to support a project using an organisation’s limited resources. Fundraisers must be resilient, to withstand rejection, and tenacious, to keep on trying new ideas. 

Why work in fundraising?

Fundraising is incredibly rewarding – all fundraisers derive a tremendous sense of pride and satisfaction from seeing projects they helped to fundraise for come to life. 

Fundraisers in arts and cultural organisations can often be generalists, doing everything from writing trust and foundation grant applications to cultivating donors, managing events and pursuing corporate sponsorship opportunities. Larger organisations will have development teams with more specialist roles. However, there’s always a strong sense of collaboration, as the whole team is working towards the same fundraising goal.

A large amount of Carolyn’s time is spent working on long-term strategic plans with the senior management team, and developing relationships with private and public funders, including Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund. However, Carolyn still keeps an overview of all the fundraising activity at the Black Country Living Museum, including the installation of a new CRM database and refreshing the museum’s membership scheme. 

At Soho Theatre, James can spend mornings in team meetings looking at the upcoming programme, reading scripts, writing trust applications or planning for a major fundraising gala. Later in the afternoon James and his team will check to see who is attending the evening show, and may meet up with donors and supporters for pre-show drinks. 

Louisa relishes the varied nature of her role, and the opportunity it gives her to work across all departments at the Hepworth, from exhibitions through to education and now planning a new capital campaign.

How do I get started?

A large number of arts and cultural fundraisers are graduates, and many started out in fundraising by volunteering for a charity.

Carolyn helped to fundraise for the Presteigne Festival when she was a music student, then went onto work as Development Assistant at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra where she was supported to progress into the role of Individual Giving Manager. After further management roles at Birmingham Hippodrome and Arts & Business, and taking training opportunities, Carolyn secured her current Director role at the Black Country Living Museum.

James’ career path began with a business degree and volunteering in the wider social charity sector. His first significant job was as Corporate Fundraiser for a large cancer charity. James then worked in the health sector, for homeless charities and Amnesty International before taking on the role of Development Director at Soho Theatre. James was a keen theatre-goer and welcomed the opportunity to apply his professional fundraising skills to the arts.

Louisa also began her career outside of the arts within social charities. She believes that this gave her an excellent grounding in charity fundraising, which she has then been able to apply, first to a role at the National Railway Museum, and more recently at the Hepworth. Louisa still shares the same passion for the Hepworth’s work as her more arts-specialist colleagues, but is able to bring a wider external perspective to bear in communicating the cause to donors and funders.

What are my career prospects?

Career progression has significantly improved for arts and cultural fundraisers over the past three years in particular. Currently, demand outstrips supply: more specialist fundraising roles are being created in organisations at all levels from assistants up, and at present there aren’t enough skilled professionals to fill them. Professionals with fundraising expertise are also finding their skills more highly valued in general by organisations, and a number are moving out of specialist fundraising roles and into broader senior management roles.

Salary levels for arts and cultural fundraisers tend to be similar to those for equivalent administration or management roles. Entry-level roles can start at £16-20k per year, whilst Directors can earn from £45k upwards. Fundraisers should be confident in the value they bring to their organisations, and be prepared to negotiate their salary accordingly at any level!

So, the advice from all of us would be: fundraising is a fascinating, rewarding, and important area of work in the arts and cultural sector. It’s a great place to begin your career, and equally worthwhile moving into this field at a later stage in your career, perhaps making use of the training opportunities offered through programmes such as Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy. If you have the right kind of attitude and personality, you can easily learn the skills required for the role.

Amanda Rigali is Director of Programmes for Cause4 and Head of Programme for Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy.
Tw @AmandaCause4

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Photo of Amanda Rigali