Zarko Koneski

In this blog, Zarko Koneski, Projects and Communications Coordinator, British Council Macedonia, shares his thoughts on The National Arts Fundraising School 2014.

Do it hard or soft? Well, depends how much time you have got.

Top 10 lessons learnt from the National Arts Fundraising School in the UK

Zarko KoneskiA month ago I returned from six intensive and productive days at the National Arts Fundraising School, a residential programme run twice a year by The Management Centre. The new group of fellow students, included our colleague Maya Darchia from the Tbilisi office. The school is set in the picturesque village of Alfriston in East Sussex. Though there were not many free-time options, it was good to get outside to enjoy our surroundings in the 1% of free time. The remaining 99% of the time we got to know each other better, learned new skills, prepared a joint pitch session and indulged in the great food offered on site. Such a comfort when pressed to learn as much as you can about fundraising and get back home with practical skills. Credit goes to trainers Bernard Ross and Philly Graham from The Management Centre.

What did I pick up from the course?
  • Ask for a tangible cause – It may prove to be difficult to fundraise for your long-term mission. People respond to concrete, immediate and needs that relate to them. And then they listen to their motivation triggers. So, think of a specific need and make a concrete ask.
  • What’s your offer – What is the uniqueness of your offer and why should others pay for that? What will they get from you and how it will make them look better to their significant others? Think about products, services, matching needs, wants, desires, aspirations…
  • Know the rules of the game – revisit national legislation and regulations on corporate giving, corporate social responsibility and existing tax incentives for companies. Check if it works for you and what you should realistically expect if trying to push the legislation buttons.
  • Get back to Psychology 101 class – Observe your posture, movement, gesture, eye contact, body language and your audio-visuals (if any) when talking to prospective donors or pitching to people with cash. Lose magazines for a while and deep-drown into more serious reads.
  • Improve management of corporate partnerships – Assess the current engagement strategy with existing or new-to-be corporate partners and look for long-term, more fruitful and strategic partnerships that deliver on multiple levels. Nothing easier said than done.
  • Understand why corporates or sponsors fund the arts – Is it to show off (a.k.a. for marketing purposes), gain access to audiences, enhance image, entertain customers or provide staff development? Corporate affairs are complex – Shakespeare has always been easier to read.
  • Hard or soft? Well, how much time have you got to raise funds? – Will you go for a pure business commercial sponsorship or develop a relationship? Trusts respond to proposals in 10 months, companies in 18 months, individuals in 1 week (provided they like you already), major donors in 18 months, and legacies take 4.4 years of effort.
  • Ask. What? Just ASK! – You think, brainstorm, prepare, write down proposals, rehearse pitches, and deliver speeches in front of people in a need to invest their money. Nothing’s been said until the BIG ask. Don’t assume, just be sure you ask for the amount you want.
  • Everybody is a fundraiser – make sure everyone in the organisation and in the office has a role to play in the fundraising game and in building trustful relationships. Talk about these, develop skills and try them out. Practise fundraising as a team effort – not a stressful solo.
  • You think you got fundraising in your fingertips by now? – One blog, one workshop, and one residential seminar will not make you a pro. It will hopefully create awareness, understanding and a bit of sense that fundraising takes time to grow. And you get this urge that a day spent not working on a funding proposal feels like a day of a missed opportunity to help someone invest in some of the great things we do.

It’s early days for some concrete fundraising result, but just having the right way of thinking is already a big step forward.

Do any of these lessons work particularly well for you? Share your thoughts so we can keep learning together.



#mcNAFS participants on their last day, trying to look fresh after an intensive six day program. Photo © Anna Esslemont @MgmtCentre

Zarko Koneski,
Projects and Communications Coordinator,
British Council Macedonia

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