Artistic Vision vs Fundraising Needs – How Do We Find the Balance?

20 April 2016 | By Cause4 staff

In January 2016, Chancellor George Osborne attended the first anniversary celebration of the Creative Industries Federation. He spoke out to the cultural sector stressing the value of arts and culture as something that transcends its monetary value. The economic benefits are important but we must embrace ‘art for art’s sake’ and not take for granted ‘what defines the country internationally.’

Yet for a number of years the arts have been asked to demonstrate a lot more than just their artistic excellence. Since the credit crunch, the call for the instrumental worth of the arts has intensified resulting in the ever-growing need for clear, strong communication with a variety of funders. As a result, the arts have been asked to show value in ways, which have perhaps felt strange and challenging. Organisations have had to become, as Jane Trowell says, ‘entrepreneurs... marketing savvy’ to survive.

Sir John Tusa offers an interesting perspective on these challenges in his book Pain in the Arts. He stresses that arts and cultural organisations are asked to fit into a mould of ‘accountability’ that is detrimental to what the arts are inherently set up to do. Tusa makes it clear that it’s democratically right for arts and cultural organisations to be held accountable in terms of the money that they receive, yet it’s the way we are held accountable that he has a problem with. We need to establish our own language, he states, we can’t keep fitting into the ‘managerial’ speak of other sectors. Yet can the arts truly embrace an ‘art for art’s sake’ identity when communicating with funders?

Our job as fundraisers is to translate the worth of the arts into something that funders will understand. After all, most arts organisations are charities and therefore have a responsibility to our funders and audiences to be transparent, communicating how we are changing things for the better. Yet perhaps there are certain types of accountability that can threaten the artistic identity of an organisation if we don’t keep the foundations, i.e. the art, in check. How do we find the balance between the artistic value (which is so essential to an organisation’s identity) and our fundraising needs (also very essential)?

Top tips for establishing the balance

  • A holistic culture: Establish an integrative, holistic culture across your organisation. It’s important to stay connected so that the needs of each department are understood. It’s never been a more crucial time for organisations to think and act collectively.
  • Art as the driver: When you’re seeking funding for a particular project, ensure that the funders’ values align with your organisation. The art (our identity) must be the driver and not sacrificed. You shouldn’t try to embellish a project just to suit their needs. Arts and culture have a huge capacity to show change, but we must ensure we use the art to do that.
  • Stay informed: Here are some readings around ensuring a balance between artistic value and fundraising needs:

Take the Money and Run – Jane Trowell

Pain in the Arts – John Tusa

Management and Creativity – Chris Bilton

What do you think? Do you believe that arts organisations should try and maintain the balance between artistic and fundraising needs? If so, how is your organisation ensuring this? We’d love to hear.

Christie Johnson is the Arts Fundraising Fellow for Writers Centre Norwich. Follow her on Twitter: @C_Magdalene

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