Friday Morning Coffee: A Piece of the Fundraising Pie

ArtBridges - Friday Coffee - Pie (Mar 2013)

Fundraising: I liken it to washing the dishes. It’s not fun, but, it’s got to be done, and done all the time. It’s not creative like cooking, or fun, like eating marvelous food with friends. But, the dishes have got to be done.

Just like the grants, proposals, letters of appeal and events have got to be done to sustain all of the amazing community-engaged arts initiatives across the country that we hear more and more about everyday at ArtBridges/ToileDesArts.

Mind you, some people like fundraising because it’s also about communicating the work being done and the stories, and this can be an interesting process.

Anyhow, it’s grant-writing season, and for anyone who’s written grants you probably know that each government granting stream is like a pie. And there’s only so many pieces  to go around. What’s depressing is all of these great community-engaged arts projects and organizations often go after the same “pie”. And again, there’s only so much to go around, so not everyone gets a piece.

Once I met with a Board Chair after receiving a “sorry we regret to inform you” letter for a grant I had written which was denied funding. He said “awesome!!!” I looked at him with a dropped-jaw. He went on grinning …  “great, keep writing more grants and proposals and due to the law of averages, we’ll get the next one, or the one after that.” That has always stayed with me…. And I keep trying, crazy as it may seem.

That said, diversification is just as important as continuous output. Foundations, corporations and service clubs have more “pies”, big and small, than government.  Also, direct mail campaigns to individuals, a few times a year, usually yield donations as small as $10, but as large as several hundred, or thousand. And, there’s always events. And more volunteers, when the cash flow is low. And isn’t fundraising success all about the sum of the parts?

Fundraising is also about relationship-building and communicating the benefits of the work you’re doing. You never know when or if someone you meet will be able to make a donation. Once, I gave a tour of a community arts centre to a youth in 2004; now, she’s on a Board of a foundation. She recently advised her Board to make a donation to said community arts centre in the amount of tens of thousands of dollars! This came unexpectedly, and unsolicited, after eight years!

Hiring a fundraiser, even one day a week or, a few hours a week, could really be an asset to your community arts project’s growth.  This position will keep the flow and output of proposals, grants and letters going and you won’t be alone commiserating if you don’t get a piece of the proverbial pie.

For example, a few years ago, The Cabbagetown Community Arts Centre Executive Director was conducting all fundraising proposal and grant writing activities by herself — as her Board told her they couldn’t afford a professional fundraiser. I met with her and shared stories about how similar arts organizations that had fundraising support staff had become more sustainable as a result. She convinced her Board to invest in a part-time fundraiser and months later called to tell me about the substantial increase in revenue that her organization was receiving.

Do you have a story to share about fundraising? Or a metaphor? Write in and tell us at info[at] Maybe others can learn from you. Hey, and don’t give up! There are more pies out there and your project is worth it! If you notice, we have a ‘Donate to ArtBridges’ button on the sidebar. Your donation would be most appreciated! (Had to ask!)

-Seanna Connell, Project Director, ArtBridges/ToileDesArts
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