Thinking about investing in arts fundraising training? 5 tough questions to ask your supplier before deciding

It’s never been more important to invest in skills and knowledge about private fundraising in the arts. These are tough times. The arts council faces more pressures than ever, lottery income is falling, we are leaving the EU and its cultural investment, LAs are withdrawing from arts support and even competing for funds up as trust status agencies…tough times indeed.

Bernard Ross speaker

It’s no wonder there are more consultancies and individuals offering fundraising training. Most of these training opportunities are at a venue near you, last 6-7 hours, give you the chance to work with up to 40 other people in the room, and are subsidised by the arts council. What’s not to love?

Why on earth would you choose to come on the most expensive training course there is, and spend six days locked in a conference centre with 25 people and 4 trainers, learning everything there is to know about fundraising? Good question. And I think you can find the answer here (NAFS)

We recognise you do have a serious choice of how to spend your precious investment of time and money. To make that choice easier, I’d like to suggest five tough, but fair, questions you might want to ask of the agencies you’re considering buying training from. For comparison, I also offer our answers to those questions.

Question 1: Will this training genuinely transform my fundraising?

Ask your provider if they can offer to change the economic basis to your work – providing tools and skills for genuine sustainability. (Or is it really just ‘an intro to…’ a topic?)

In 2018 the national arts fundraising school will have been going for 30 years. The fundraising landscape has changed dramatically over that time. And so has the school. One constant though – the programme has consistently delivered dramatic improvement in results for those who attend. Our research shows we’ve helped attendees raise almost £300M.

More than that, some of the highest achievers in UK cultural fundraising learned their craft at the school – including senior individuals who have gone on to work in Tate, National Theatre, National Museums of Scotland, RSC, etc. Attending NAFS is a great way to transform your career too.

Video: Sarah Mitchell, NAFS Alumna and Development Manager at Tate talks about how NAFS has helped progress her career.

Question 2: Will it help me adopt a strategic approach? (And is it practical too?)

Dammit you seem to want it all. Still, you probably need a combination of strategy and practical. Check out if you can get that on your alternative programme or provider choice. Check out too if practical means the latest tested ideas. (Ask them for example if they have evidence about how easy it is to raise money from millennials, or if they know that 60% of crowdfunders fail, or what the stats are on the corporate market…)

I think we can ensure you get it all on NAFS. The programme covers how to design and deliver a strategy. We fill the week with 20+ practical modules on creating digital fundraising, securing legacies, asking HNWI for money 121, building supporter journeys, developing corporate partnerships and much, much more.

You’ll leave confident to write a powerful email to an individual, able to make a pitch to a company MD, sure about the content of a great case for support, relaxed about designing a great donation page for your website, and above all confident to create that all important strategy document.

Question 3: What experience do the people leading the programme have?

Who’s teaching your alternative programme? There are some great fundraisers in the arts and cultural world. But for many of them their expertise is limited to the usual sources – ACE, HLF, a bit of small scale corporate, and some of the arts-friendly trusts. But to be successful you need to bring in expertise from elsewhere. No one person can have all the expertise needed.



That’s why on the school we have a team of four core programme leaders. All experts in complementary fields – backgrounds in business, in the arts, in international fundraising, in health, in youth work etc. Our team have been involved in some of the biggest campaigns in the world – planning the strategy for $50B for the International Red Cross, raising €300M for the Eiffel Tower, and $5M for a dinosaur museum in Argentina.


We’ve also been involved in training and consultancy in house for most of the UK’s most successful cultural institutions – Tate, National Gallery, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Magna Vitae, and Blackpool Council, etc. And we’ve helped some super small agencies.

Question 4: Is it just a course and that’s it?

One day programmes are convenient, cheap and cheerful. They often start at 09.30 and finish a 17.00. They cover one topic. They’re running the same standard materials every time. If you think that a one-day introduction would transform your fundraising that they’re a great choice. Check if that’s what you’re getting.

NAFS is different.  if you think 6 intensive days often working from 09.00 to 18.30 sounds like just a course… then maybe it is. But NAFS is much more than that. We want to be with you on your transformation journey for the next 365 days after you attend.

The journey, in fact, starts before you even come with a pre-programme webinar to make you arrive up to speed and ready to start work. You’ll also be asked to complete a detailed online analysis tool question to make sure we structure each programme to meet the needs of you and the specific group attending.

And then we have the intense 6-days, 20+ modules in a beautiful secluded hotel with 4 leading experts. After you attend? You have free check in webinar 2 months later, then regular alumni events in London with the chance to share ideas and learn new topics, discounted access to special =mc programmes, and the Emcees – our national award scheme. Plus, you can call on us for 365 days of help and advice. (Within reason!)

NAFS participants 2017

Question 5: Does it work?

Actually, this is probably the only key question. Do the techniques and approaches offered actually deliver increased income? Does the provider track impact? Do they guarantee success?

Again, we can point to the tracking we do to establish the results – £350M – we’ve helped participants to deliver over the last 30 years. Add that to the results we’ve achieved for other organisations we’ve helped though consultancy. That’s why we offer the world’s only money back guarantee.

That’s right, the school is the only course in the world to offer a money back guarantee if you don’t at least raise the programme fee. That’s how confident we are.

That’s our five questions for you to ask of others. And if you have more don’t hesitate to email or call us on +44 (0)7843 132 032. We love questions.

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Our next programme runs 10 - 15 November 2019

2019 price: £2149 + VAT.
We even have a money-back guarantee!