by Miranda Rowlands, SHARED Enterprise

What motivates individuals to support culture and heritage?  How do I approach businesses to work in partnership with the museum?  How can we generate more income from commercial operations?  SHARED Enterprise has been helping regional museums answer these questions, working with them to build their capacity and skills to fundraise from private donors, corporate sources, trusts and foundations.

On Wednesday 2 March, SHARED Enterprise hosted a conference at the Museum of London, in partnership with Inspiring a Culture of Philanthropy, another HLF Catalyst Umbrella project delivered by Hampshire Cultural Trust.  With Steve Miller, Head of Norfolk Museums Service, presiding as Conference Chair, the day’s programme shared case studies and learning about fundraising and commercial income generation in museums.

The day was attended by 85 delegates from the East of England, Hampshire and as far afield as the Wirral, who have given resoundingly positive feedback about the day.  The aim was to show that attracting funds from alternative streams is something that can be done by museums of all types and sizes, as most activities can be scaled to fit the needs of any organisation.

Here’s what people are saying about the event:

“…brilliantly helpful and instructive. Excellent range of presentations and lots of practical ideas for immediate implementation, as well as for longer-term strategic planning.”

“Very good day – informative, stimulating and hugely enjoyable”

“Well organised, co-ordinated and structured. A great day with relevant and useful speakers”

“Very enjoyable event.  Well organised and very useful. Excellent speakers.”

Following an inspirational keynote presentation by Peter Maple, Visiting Lecturer and Fundraising Researcher at London South Bank University and St Mary’s University, participants in both projects shared what they have learned.  Tony O’Connor from Epping Forest District Museum, (due to re-open on 19th March following a major refurbishment), has recently undertaken a review of the museum’s pricing strategies, charging policies and fundraising strategy.  Kate Axon and Vanessa Trevelyan talked about how Museum Directors and Trustees the Museum of East Anglian Life are working together to develop trustees’ fundraising capacity and promote a positive culture to support fundraising and income generation.  Director of Gainsborough’s House, Mark Bills has been proactive in forging links with neighbouring businesses to put Gainsborough at the heart of Sudbury’s business community.

The afternoon sessions focussed on learning from experience, starting with a particularly useful panel discussion with a fundraising consultant and representatives of three grant-making bodies.  The panel shared what they look for in a good funding application, and perhaps more telling, some tips to avoid writing a bad one.  The most memorable applications give a clear and concise explanation of the project, from which the organisation’s passion and enthusiasm shine through.  Surprisingly, the panellists said they still receive a large number of applications which are poorly written, with grammatical and punctuation errors and budgets that don’t add up.  Shockingly, many applicants also commit the cardinal sin of copying and submitting the same application to several different funding bodies, as evidenced by applications received that are addressed to somebody else!  The top 5 tips are:

  • write each application individually – don’t sent batch applications
  • keep it under 2 pages long
  • tell your story clearly and concisely
  • use photographs / diagrams where appropriate
  • check your grammar, punctuation and calculations carefully

We then learned about generating income from alternative streams.  Operations Manager for Norwich Museums, Stuart Garner, shared his insight into the various challenges and factors to consider when delivering weddings in heritage buildings.  Venue hire, whether for weddings or other purposes, is for many museums and as-yet untapped income stream, so this was of particular interest to several delegates considering alternative ways to use museum spaces to earn more income.  Jaane Rowehl, Museum Development Officer for the South East Museum Development programme shared her experience of working with television companies filming in museums.  The museum was successful because they were able to respond to the opportunity when it arose, and they negotiated a deal which not only compensated them for their loss of income during a period of closure necessary for the filming but also provided extra income for the use of their location.

Anne Young, Head of Strategic Planning at the Heritage Lottery Fund, rounded off the day with a closing keynote address about HLF’s Strategic Framework, some of the projects supported by HLF and future funding opportunities.

So what did delegates tell us they learnt that will make a difference to their work?

“I have got a much better understanding of the broader meaning of ‘philanthropy’ and, as a result, feeling of greater confidence in exploring this in my museum.”

“Top tips for applications from a funder’s perspective ”

“Keep funders informed of the progress of your project after they have given you funding – even if they don’t ask for it – it helps develop a relationship.”

 “Build relationships and positively promote cause…”

“Embedding a culture of fundraising throughout the organisation.” 

If you were not able to attend the conference and would like to know more, presentations from the day are available to download from the SHARED Enterprise resources page.  You can also contact Miranda, SHARED Enterprise Project Officer, on 01603 228993, miranda.rowlands@norfolk.gov.uk.  More SHARED Enterprise training events, focussed on fundraising and income generation skills, will be coming soon.  Keep an eye on the training calendar for news.

Conference Gallery:

 

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