Are you an artist-turned-executive-director? Is fundraising top of mind, but you don’t know where to start? Keep reading.
I meet artists all the time who take on leadership roles, sometimes willingly, sometimes reluctantly. It feels like in order to do the thing you love (whether it’s performing or bringing your artistic vision to life) someone’s got to handle the admin or business side and you’ve stepped up.
Most of the time, that role boils down to: Where am I going to find the money?
For this article on fundraising, I collaborated with my colleague Brian Williams, a nonprofit fundraising consultant, who has specific expertise in the arts. (We met serving on the board of the Arts Council of Johnson County in 2017.) I love Brian’s calmness and down-to-earth approach that takes a lot of the scary out of fundraising.
What are your recommendations for new arts leaders to set themselves up for success in fundraising?
In the realm of fundraising, regardless of the organization's age or size, fostering a culture of philanthropy is paramount. This principle, coupled with a strategic approach to board development, community engagement, and innovative fundraising, can set the stage for sustained success. Here's a guide for new founders and executive directors seeking to elevate their arts nonprofit in a thoughtful, strategic way.
Embrace a Culture of Philanthropy:
What does it mean to instill a culture of philanthropy within your team and stakeholders? In a nutshell, it means that everyone is empowered as an ambassador for your organization. Whether they have an official fundraising role (like EDs, development staff, and board members) or not, emphasize the importance of collective efforts in advancing the organization's mission. This mindset should permeate every aspect of the organization, from leadership to daily operations.
Build a Diverse and Passionate Board:
First things first. You’ve got to get a core group of the right people around you. When assembling your board, prioritize diversity, passion for your cause, and community connections. A diverse board brings varied perspectives and experiences, enriching the decision-making process and can make fundraising easier. Be transparent with board members that they are expected to fundraise. This could look like a give/get policy and working with them to develop a realistic fundraising plan.
Implement a Working Board Model:
In other words, put your board members to work! In the startup phase, acknowledge that one person cannot do it all. Opt for a working board that actively participates in daily operations while steering the organization's direction. Again, communicate this dual role clearly to prospective board members, ensuring a shared understanding of their involvement in both the hands-on work and strategic decision-making.
Engage Your Innermost Circle:
Once you have your core people, tap into the support of your innermost circle—friends, family, colleagues, and those committed to your cause—to start spreading the word about your organization. Leverage their passion and connections to add people to your email list/CRM, which will be an important part of your fundraising efforts. Clearly articulate your mission and the impact you aim to achieve, compelling them to become ambassadors for your cause. Fundraising is a long-game that requires intentional relationship-building.
Foster Community Connections:
Forge meaningful partnerships with other arts organizations, artists, and cultural institutions to strengthen your community ties. Collaborative initiatives not only broaden your network of potential supporters but also amplify your organization's impact. Engage in local events, attend community gatherings, and showcase the transformative power of the arts to connect with a wider audience.
Utilize Crowdfunding Platforms:
Explore crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe or Facebook's fundraising tool to amplify your reach. Crowdfunding enables you to showcase your cause on a large scale, appealing to potentially millions of individuals and organizations to contribute. Craft a compelling narrative on your website, sharing your mission, vision, goals, and relevant information to inspire support.
By integrating these recommendations into your approach, you're not only fostering a culture of philanthropy within your organization but also laying a robust foundation for fundraising success. A diverse and passionate board, coupled with engagement strategies targeting your innermost circle and leveraging crowdfunding platforms, will propel your arts nonprofit toward sustained growth and impact.
Want help building your board or creating a fundraising plan? Reach out to Brian for a complimentary 30-minute consultation.
And if you’re an artist just stepping into the world of arts leadership – Arts Consultant Cheri Jamison can help you get oriented, supported, and learn to “fly the plane while it’s in the air.” There are tons of free resources and support available. Let’s have a coffee over Zoom to chat about it (free of charge).
Article collaboratively written by Cheri Jamison Consulting and Brian Williams, Dandelion Consulting.
Brian Williams created Dandelion Consulting with the purpose of “Cultivating Nonprofits for Sustainability.'' He has been fundraising for the nonprofit sector since 2003. His career spans large and small organizations supporting the arts, HIV, and houselessness. His experience includes: major donors, writing plans for annual development and donor stewardship, grant writing, appeals. He also does a Culture of Philanthropy Training for board and staff. dandelionconsulting.co
Cheri Jamison is an Arts Consultant with over 12 years of experience in the arts and nonprofits. Cultivating a non-judgmental, solution-oriented environment, Cheri meets her clients wherever they’re at with their business or creative career. The focus of Cheri Jamison Consulting LLC is strengthening organizations from the inside out through capacity-building, executive coaching, board training, and professional development. CheriJamison.com
Cheri Jamison is an Arts Consultant with over 12 years of experience in the arts and nonprofit management. Cultivating a non-judgmental, solution-oriented environment, Cheri meets her clients wherever they’re at with their business or creative career. The focus of Cheri Jamison Consulting LLC is strengthening organizations from the inside out through capacity-building, executive coaching, board training, and professional development. CheriJamison.com