This survey is the first time that the collective voice of UK cultural fundraisers has been heard during the pandemic. There are important lessons to be learnt from what the respondents have told us. These need to be taken up by the government and everyone who wants fundraising for arts and heritage to play a critical role in ensuring that cultural activity itself will not just recover but thrive into the future. This survey was conducted in 2020, but what it has to tell us is still of continuing and significant relevance.
The findings presented in this research give unique insights into how fundraisers in the arts and culture sectors manage the COVID-19 crisis. Whilst resilience and innovation continue to be key skills characteristic of the profession, only with the help of substantial support – both financial and skill-based – will fundraisers be able to contribute to create a financially sustainable non-profit sector akin to pre-crisis levels.
A quick response to the first lockdown in early March 2020 pushed cultural fundraisers to act. They launched campaigns, created content, and found digital ways to connect with supporters. They applied for emergency funding from the government and private trusts and foundations. They managed supporters whilst dealing with logistics, financial planning, changing strategies and plans. This necessary adaptability has been key to both success and survival in this period.
Arts and cultural fundraisers have responded to COVID-19 with creativity, resilience, and flexibility. We can expect old activities and ways of working to return post-pandemic. But the way in which funds get raised in the future is likely to develop in new ways, informed by these experiences.
At the same time, we recognise that COVID-19 has placed significant pressure on fundraising teams – with the demands on emergency fundraising coupled with increased workloads, reductions in staff team and the challenges of working from home – which has a significant impact on job satisfaction. There is a real risk, without addressing these issues, of talent leaving the sector and fundraising all together.
In response, RAISE and the Cultural Sector Network is committed to providing cultural fundraisers with a holistic programme of support to ensure their wellbeing and motivation remains as we emerge from the pandemic