Coronavirus: the impact on arts, cultural and heritage fundraising

20 March 2020
Art, Heritage and CulturalLeadershipStrategy
Standard Content

Martin Kaufman, Chair of the RAISE Steering Committee, looks at the impact of the current situation on the arts and culture sector, and how it really is ‘unchartered waters’.

Last week, the Chartered Institute of Fundraising Cultural Sector Network, in conjunction with RAISE: Arts, Culture & Heritage, and Young Arts Fundraisers organised the largest conference for cultural fundraisers in Europe at the National Gallery in London, entitled ‘Uncharted Waters’. That was a prescient title, as we are certainly in that situation now, in a truly unprecedented way. Arts, culture and heritage sector organisations throughout the UK are facing the toughest challenge since the Second World War, and in many cases, their situation is even more extreme in terms of restrictions on staff, students, audiences, visitors, sponsors and suppliers. For many, this is a make-or-break situation, and everyone is waiting urgently for the Government’s willingness to show support to be translated into practical arrangements for getting assistance.

Whereas up to now support has been offered to businesses, and therefore also to charitable organisations whether museums, libraries, heritage, visual and performing arts organisations, the situation regarding those who work in them and who depend on them is still unsure. The Chartered Institute of Fundraising and the RAISE programme – designed to support arts and culture sector fundraisers throughout England – calls on the Government to prioritise not only the most practicable ways of supporting cultural organisations but also to ensure that their workforces can survive and return to the organisations they love and serve at the end of this crisis.

The Chartered Institute of Fundraising has provided general advice to all charities, including arts and culture sector ones, which you can access here. However, there is much more that RAISE – as a Sector Support Organisation of the Arts Council England – can and has to do.

Ticket Selling Organisations

We want to see as many organisations which have been selling tickets to exhibitions and to performances to include an urgent request for financial support when informing audiences of their right to claim a refund. A great example comes from National Youth Choirs Great Britain, which has launched its ‘Keep The Nation Singing Appeal’ on the back of the coronavirus threat and the cancellations of all its concerts, including its forthcoming Australian and New Zealand tour. If you ask your supporters to add Gift Aid to their donation, and also give them the opportunity to reclaim part of their ticket price but allow them to make a donation of a part as well, you are maximising your own financial support but also being sensitive to the financial need of your supporters.

The RAISE programme

As far as the RAISE programme itself is concerned, our small support team – now working from home – are as speedily as possible looking at ways to substitute online ways of mentoring, running events, knowledge sharing and networking for the extensive programme that we have been developing around England. Inevitably, there will be some delays as we work out how best to alter our programme to be as pragmatic and impactful as possible. We welcome every single suggestion as to how we could do that as effectively as possible, so if you have ideas on keeping the RAISE programme active and useful to culture sector charities and culture sector fundraisers, please send your ideas to Rosario Bellolio, RAISE Programme Co-ordinator at

'Let's prepare for the rebound'

For many people who have been in fundraising for a long time, we have seen the challenges of the collapse of the foot and mouth crisis in the UK in the early 90s, the Asian financial crisis and the collapse of the dotcom book at the end of the 90s, followed by 9/11, SARS and the impact of the global financial meltdown in 2007-2009, followed by 10 years of austerity. In many ways, this latest crisis is just another such jolt, although of a scale that would have been unthinkable in the past in its overall health and economic impact. Nevertheless, it will pass, and societies, charities, audiences and artists will be around when the virus has peaked, and we have started to get back to a new normality. Now is the time for culture sector fundraisers to use all our ingenuity and creativity to prepare for that rebound, to give confidence to our teams, our colleagues and friends that together we can overcome all difficulties.

I am truly inspired by the birthday message today from Vera Lynn on her 103rd birthday. The British ‘Forces Sweetheart’ of the Second World War has reminded all of us that this country has been through extremely tough times before, but we got through them – and one important way was to stick together, and to encourage and rely on community support and courage. Artists and performers and creative people are ingenious and risk-taking, and we fundraisers exist to ensure that they can do what they do best and also engage their audiences in their own creative risk-taking. This is an opportunity for culture sector fundraising to shine, and the RAISE programme, and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, will do our best to help all of you do that. Please get in touch and ensure we do that together.

More information

Martin Kaufman
Martin Kaufman
Chair of the RAISE Steering Committee
Members Only Content