It’s crazy to think that the National Arts Fundraising School, or NAFS as it’s affectionately known, has been running for 30 years. Because 30 years ago, arts & cultural fundraising was a totally different space.

Peak – photo Toril Brancher

Remember when Tony Blair got his guitar out, declared that music is power and set up the National Foundation for Youth Music? Remember when you used to describe yourself as an RFO? Remember life *before* being a registered charity?

If you answered yes then wow – you’ve seen it all. You’re an arts veteran who has done some incredible things, and changed loads of lives. But as things have changed in the sector, how has your fundraising changed? When’s the last time you actually re-wrote your fundraising strategy rather than updated the figures and dates? Or when was the last time you asked for money in person?! *gasp*. Perhaps it’s time to brush up those skills so they are future-proof.

“I’ve been quite evangelical about NAFS since returning to work. I used to see fundraising as a ‘necessary evil’, but by the end of the course I felt excited and confident about how it can be embedded in everything we do. And it’s fun! The School is a big commitment of money and time, but the quality of the week says it’s worth it, and the learning will pay dividends.”

Cat Moore, Executive Producer, New International Encounter

If you answered no then hello and welcome to the new cultural sector: one where corporate support has been steadily declining for years, you now have to compete with museums and libraries for Arts Council cash and 40% of crowdfunding campaigns raise £0. Ouch. But there is a way to play the game better and be successful – to make audiences, communities and people who can give significant £££ fall in love with you and want to support your cause.

“NAFS was just what I needed to set me off in my fundraising career. Since November 18 I’ve had my first successful funding application, secured my first sponsorship deal and also tried out a small individual campaign which has already had some results. This is all thanks to my learning at NAFS”

Matt Clay, Sales & Development Manager, Lichfield Garrick Theatre

So as these 30 years have changed the sector, has the course changed?

Well, yes. And also, no.

Yes in the sense that you’ll get the most up-to-date information on trends within arts, culture & heritage fundraising aswell as wider charitable sector. Yes in the sense that we’re here to help you be realistic and ambitious in your fundraising strategy as it is today – not holding on to old ideas of what works. Yes in the sense that attending means being surrounded by staff from venues, freelancers, touring theatre companies, local authorities, library professionals and museum folk.

“I would definitely recommend NAFS, particularly to those in local authorities who are new to fundraising. I feel I have been given the necessary tools, practised the skills and am now empowered to start fundraising.”

Lynne Emeny, Business Manager, North Lincolnshire Council

No in the sense that on the NAFS, we still teach you the same fundamental principles of fundraising from private sources that work – how to write compelling grant proposals, how to ask for money in person, how to pitch to a business.

“Before Christmas I was able to secure a £10k grant towards supporting rurally based women develop digital training skills – this was using a template straight from the course folder!”

Rachel Dunlop, Participation Manager, Peak – Art in the Black Mountain

“Within three months of attending, our bid for an £80k grant was approved. The communications sessions during the School gave my confidence a huge boost, and helped me to effectively convey our case to the grants assessor”

Aziza Mills, Business Development Officer, Venture Arts

No in the sense that we haven’t changed our strategic approach to fundraising. No in the sense that we’ve never stopped using learning from the wider charitable sector to better inform your learning. And no in the sense that we never just say goodbye at the end of the week.

“It’s simply incredible that more than 10 years after attending the School I can still reach out to the course leaders and get advice on my strategy and direction immediately. They really do mean ‘lifetime support’ after you’ve attended.”

Eona Craig, Director of Development, Creativity, Culture and Education

So is it really worth the hype? Just ask any of our 1,800 alumni, who say it better than we ever could.

“I have come away from the School feeling validated in my strengths and knowledge in the field, and inspired to develop myself in those areas I lack. Most importantly, it has given me the confidence to believe that I am more than capable to do my job – asking for money isn’t that scary!”

Johnny Dawson, Fundraising & Development Officer, Awen Cultural Trust

The next School is 10 – 15 November, book now to guarantee your place.

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