Laura, Bill and Matt at an NAFS session.

As money gets tighter, arts funders are increasingly having to act as fundraising advisers – helping their client organisations to secure their income from a more diverse range of sources. Below is a blog from Bill Vince, Senior Relationship Manager, Arts Council England who came on the National Arts Fundraising School in April 2014.

Its 7.30pm on a Thursday evening and I’m in a hotel in Alfriston, Sussex which is a long way from home in North Tyneside.

I’m about to go down to dinner. I’ve just finished a day of intensive fundraising training which began at 8.30 with a pitch for funding from ‘IBM’. This was followed by some individual coaching based on the video of that pitch. A session on internet and digital fundraising followed and the day has ended with a session on fundraising tools and strategies for big capital campaigns.

I’m attending the Management Centre’s National Arts Fundraising school, six intensive days of practical and theoretical classes, talks and workshops. There are around 30 attendees from all branches of the culture sector – from all over the UK and beyond. Last night we were working in our small teams till almost midnight on our funding pitches based upon the case studies given to us by the course tutors Bernard Ross and Philly Graham.

The days are long and the classes intensive – it’s difficult to count all the areas we’ve covered since beginning to work together on Sunday lunchtime, but they include strategy; trusts and foundations; European funds; individual giving and major donors; sponsorship and engaging with corporates. We’ve covered aspects of communication skills and body language – and we’ve covered coping with being placed in stressful situations.

Of course at the start we were a collection of disparate individuals, most of whom had never met before. The intensity of the study and relative isolation of the course location has bonded this group very quickly. That – and the discussions over the (largely excellent) food at lunch and dinner, not to mention late night debates in the bar.

Bernard and Philly really know their stuff and their expertise is augmented by the guest speakers who come in with specialist knowledge on particular topics. The timetable is pacy, if not punishing, but the sessions are well planned and delivered with more than a smattering of good humour. I notice that they often sense check the room to ensure no-one has an unanswered question or is being left behind.

We all have slightly different reasons for being here. Some need to refresh their fundraising strategies, some are taking their first steps and some need to raise serious amounts of money quickly. We’ve learned how to present a case and make the ask. I need to able to grasp all of the issues so that, when I get back up North, I can help those that the Arts Council funds and advises to make the most of these important income streams.

Tomorrow is our last day and we still have some learning to do. Somehow the team’s enthusiasm is infectious and I find myself excited that I’ll be learning about legacies tomorrow. That wasn’t what I expected when I arrived last weekend.

Bill Vince,
Senior Relationship Manager,
Arts Council England, North


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