12:25 pm, Monday, 1st March 2021

National Arts Fundraising School. Blog with Charlotte Bowen.

Following on from Grimsby Creates funding three local creative practitioners to attend the prestigious National Arts Fundraising School (NAFS) online programme, local cultural producer Charlotte Bowen provides us with a flavour of how the programme went and how it has helped her:

What is your creative practice?: I am cultural producer, producing music and performing arts programmes, plus a range of other arts projects for both The Culture House and Birdhouse, with a mission to engage more adults and children in culture. I am also interested in how creative and cultural experiences can contribute to broadening horizons and improving quality of life.

How do you wish to use the learning from the NAFS course?: I will be using the NAFS course learning to approach fundraising with more clarity and confidence and to inform strategic planning for longer term delivery. This will include developing a fundraising strategy to both align with the organisations’ goals and to help cover core costs as we develop and deliver work.

What did you find to be the most useful activities from the course?: Philanthropic giving – who knew this was genuinely such a potential plentiful source of support, rather than just a pipe dream? Learning how to approach philanthropists was very useful. Most of the case studies we also interrogated as part of the course, were very useful in demonstrating how best to make a clear case for support. I found the presentation skills very useful indeed and the facilitators highly knowledgeable and supportive. It’s clear they want you to succeed, so it was a very supportive, no-nonsense environment.

How will the learning help you solve problems and exploit opportunities?: I have already made an approach to a major funder as a result of the course, which has potential to support core costs over a longer term. I feel better equipped to spot if the organisations fit funding opportunities, as I am much clearer about what our case for support is.

How closely did the programme align with the objectives that you initially set out?: The context of the programme met my learning objectives well and in addition, I gained more insight and learning than I expected to.

An acrobatic performance with someone standing on the head of another person
Credit: The Culture House

Are you able to quantify any other benefits from the knowledge gained?: I have used some of the learning to inform approaches to funders and sponsors and this is mainly based around feeling more confident in initial conversations at the moment. This includes having a greater awareness of how to think about and pitch around a project proposal that might meet CSR or marketing objectives. However, given our Covid ‘survival’ focus, I expect actual quantifiables to become evident later in the year, as we are stepping up more of a focus on fundraising from March.

Are there any further benefits that you can highlight from the programme?: A good level of sector networking / delegate engagement and camaraderie that made me feel part of a wider sector that faced issues and challenges and that it wasn’t just us in Grimsby. Also, I feel even more confident that what Culture House and Birdhouse do are valuable and that there are trusts, foundations and other funders out there who would potentially fund us if we ask. It’s difficult at times operating in North East Lincolnshire, which is geographically isolated from a wider cultural sector but the course was one avenue where I felt less alone (especially during a difficult year) and felt a renewed sense of purpose.

Have there been any unintended or unforeseen outcomes from the programme?: Ironically I made a great artist contact through the course via another delegate in Basingstoke – an artist within our region who we are now working with!

What are the main success-factors for you since the programme?: Clarity on our case for support, confidence in spotting, understanding and articulating how we meet funders / sponsors aims and presenting to funders.

What are challenges and areas of improvement for you in the future in evolving your practice?:  We now need to engage a full-time fundraiser to take advantage of all the opportunities out there! We’re also currently growing capacity to enable the organisation to deliver more across multiple projects and remits.

Why is the growth of your practice important for North East Lincolnshire?: Because the organisations and projects fill huge gaps in cultural provision while also contributing to local area aims.

In the absence of CDF-funded support, how would you have alternatively sought support?: Would have just carried on writing bids, or have had to find the budget to pay someone to fundraise, but this would have been done ‘blind’ i.e. I would have still have had a lack of understanding of larger processes or the confidence to apply.

Link to NAFS website