Kettle Partnership

Audience development is at the heart of successful fundraising

by Leah. Average Reading Time: about a minute.

Michael Kaiser, ex-Royal Opera House CEO and now president of the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington, was brought over to the UK earlier this month by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to give a series of free seminars for arts organisations across the country.

The Stage, recently featured Kaiser’s visit in an article, claiming the UK arts sector needs to plan their programmes much further ahead to increase their ability to generate from individuals and corporations

Interestingly Kaiser did a similar national tour of the US, travelling to 50 states during 2009 -10.  The tour, named ‘Arts in Crisis’, had a different emphasis: rather than focusing on fundraising as the single goal, Kaiser emphasised the need to develop better relationships with audiences.

“What creates revenue? Good art and good marketing. In difficult times, arts organizations build and retain their audiences by doing their most exciting work, not by scaling back.”

Clearly fundraising is vital to arts organisations, but it’s not the whole story.  In order to survive, organisations need better relationships with their audiences/customers. In a business, attracting new customers is the bottom line.  The UK arts scene must invigorate their audiences through better consultation and conversation, as well as seeking to generate more funds.

Kaiser’s advice to UK organisations was to programme 3 or more years in advance if they want to attract more private sector funding.   We would argue that it is essential that organisations commit to active dialogue with their audiences, who are also potential donors.  As Kaiser points out,

‘…The mistake people make about fundraising is that people think it is about the rich. A vast majority of funding comes from the middle class, and a large number of donors are not going to give you £1 million or £50,000 or even £5,000. But they’ll give you £50 or £100 a year. It adds up.’


Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, which hosted and organized Kaiser’s Connecticut Arts in Crisis presentation in June 2010

The Stage article

Info and resources on the UK seminars