Most artists have the fantasy of “reeling in the big one” — finding a wealthy patron who is willing to underwrite their work. In reality, individual fundraising is about nurturing relationships with many people who give modest, ongoing contributions to your activities. Individual donors give because of their connection to the artist or the work. They can and will provide the stability of ongoing support and are therefore the most crucial supporters for the future of an artist or organization. In a society where everything from education to health care is seeking support from the same people, it is increasingly difficult to secure individual donations and increasingly important to keep our donors connected to the arts.
- Build a database. The most effective way to manage a large number of relationships is to retain information on all supporters in an easily accessible format.
- Keep in touch. Keep supporters involved and interested by regularly updating them. E-mail provides an easy, inexpensive way to do this.
- Look to your audience. Chances are that the very people who connect with and support your work are already showing up at your performances. Don’t miss the opportunity to find new donors through direct audience contact and interaction.
There is a widespread belief that corporations donate to the arts for philanthropic reasons. While this might have been partially true once, corporate donations now are almost always tied to some benefit for the donor. This is bad news for those who believe that the private sector is going to fill the gap left by decreased public funding. For arts organizations it means that raising corporate dollars is a matter of packaging what we do to appeal to the marketing departments of the corporations we are courting. For organizations with a substantial audience size, this generally means some form of performance sponsorship. For artists and organizations with smaller audiences this means programme advertising, gifts-in-kind and creative on-site promotions.
- Understand their perspective. Most small businesses receive numerous requests to help in their own communities. Understand that your request is just one of many and make sure to address their needs in your proposal.
- Be creative. Consider gifts-in-kind, creative promotions and unique connections to companies or products.
- Deliver on what you promise. Chances are that you will be coming back to the same corporations/businesses for your next production. Make every experience rewarding for them and they will consider supporting you again.
Foundations generally give money for specific programmes or initiatives based on their own funding objectives. It is essential when preparing applications to foundations to understand their objectives and regulations. Private foundations can only make donations to registered charities and may have other restrictions on which applicants they will accept. Foundation support can often secure a certain part of an organization or artist’s activity such as new creation, education or community outreach.
- Know the guidelines – Before you spend the substantial amount of time required to make a foundation application, read the guidelines carefully and call the secretary or programme manager at the foundation to discuss your application.
- Do your research – Find out as much as you can about what kinds of organizations and projects the foundation you are applying to has funded. Get some idea of the size of grants it generally awards and apply accordingly.
- Explain it well – Unlike arts councils, the juries that review applications for foundation funding often do not have specific expertise in the arts. When writing your application, do not assume that the reader is familiar with the dance community or your dance form.
Article originally contributed by Anne Patterson
For Individual Donors
Association of Fundraising professionals
For Corporate Donors
Council for Business and the Arts
Canadian Directory to Foundations and Grants. Van Rotterdam, Rose, Editor. The Canadian Centre for Philanthropy: Toronto, 1999.
The New Ontario Trillium Foundation