Marina Jones, Royal Opera House

This blog celebrates the journey of one of the UK’s most successful arts fundraisers – Marina Jones, Head of Trusts & Foundations at Royal Opera House. Read on to discover what she gained from the National Arts Fundraising School, and how it helped her achieve her fundraising goals.

Having been brought up in a family with a passion for theatre, it was not surprising I was drawn to a career in the arts.

My first job after I graduated was at the Orange Tree Theatre, which I’d visited as a child. I worked there for about a year as the Press and Marketing Assistant. Then a job came up in fundraising to work on the capital project to raise funds for a rehearsal room extension. The move into fundraising seemed like a natural progression – and suited me better than marketing. Having no previous experience in fundraising, I asked around about the best way to quickly get essential skills and knowledge. And everyone said the National Arts Fundraising School. So I booked on the next one available. That was 2002 – and I haven’t looked back since!

Bernard’s enthusiasm was infectious. After the School I returned to Orange Tree feeling completely energised and ready to take on any fundraising challenge. The capital project – launched by the theatre’s patron, Sir Richard Attenborough – was a great success. The rehearsal room was completed on time and on budget (and we even sold tea towels). In fact, my parents live nearby, and every time I pass the building I get a great feeling, thinking ‘I made that happen.’

Orange Tree Theatre Copyright Noel Foster
Orange Tree Theatre, © Noel Foster

18 months later I moved to the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith as the Senior Development Officer. As this role involved working on several different streams of funding, the breadth of topics covered at the School proved to be extremely useful. And it meant I could hit the ground running.

One of my most rewarding experiences while at the Lyric was working on a programme with refugees and asylum seekers. It involved mentoring a group to run theatrical projects in local schools. The programme was also a fundraising success – I raised £60,000 from the Home Office.

Generally, I tend to think about fundraising successes in two ways – those that are worth a lot, and the ones that are particularly challenging to win. Whatever its size, being given a grant from a highly selective funder feels like a triumph. At the School I got a fantastic insight into the funder’s mind. I learned what they’re looking for, how they think, and how I can modify my approach to match their interests whilst remaining true to the integrity of the work we want to achieve. This knowledge has been a distinct advantage to me over the past fifteen years.

After two years at the Lyric I moved to The Polka Theatre where I worked for three years as Head of Development, operating as a one-person fundraising team. That was hard! Then, finally, in 2008 I moved to the Royal Opera House to work as the Trusts and Foundations Manager, and have been promoted twice and am now Head of Trusts and Foundations.


Royal Opera House
Royal Opera House


What’s stayed with me from the School above all is that you need to be well prepared and really know your organisation. This hit home recently when I was meeting with a new prospective funder and having researched carefully I had a few education projects that I thought would appeal. They told me they were closing their foundation and looking to make a substantial endowment gift to support an entirely different project – and we secured a ten year expendable grant to support our apprenticeship programme.

Three words to describe the School? Enlightening, inspirational and fun!

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