September was Salford and January has just been Bristol. At We The Curious we, a bunch of curious arts organisations, learned more about resilience at the feet of Arts Manager International. Last year we were tutored in the fundraising cycle, this year it was about board development, individual and corporate giving.
First up was Michael Kaiser, using as series of great stories to illustrate his learning points, stories of running a Ballet Company in Cowboy country (Kansas City), brokering a ludicrously high profile series of marketing opportunities for the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, traumatic board meetings early in his tenure at The Royal Opera House and getting ambitious at the Kennedy Center.
Following both lunch and Mr. Kaiser was a rough gig for Nicole Kidstone. She was walking us through a cycle of Prospecting, Cultivating, Soliciting and Stewarding donors when her gig got rougher still – delegates started to question the ethics of doing research on people to establish their wealth and propensity for charitable giving before asking them to support their cause. Many people seemed to think that this strategy was about being nice to people in order to get to their money – a counter argument rang out that most organistions in the room were happy enough to take money from the National Lottery that disproportionately comes from less affluent members of society so it was a bit hypocritical of them to start having qualms about asking more affluent members of society to contribute.
Here was were Ms. Kidstone came into her own, giving us a glimpse of her professional skill, the prosaic power-point mode was dropped and she gave a convincing demonstration of how her strategy is to be nice to people because being nice to people is nice; if people donate, continue being nice to them, if they don’t donate – continue being nice to them. It was all easy and genuine charm – we share a love of art and what it brings, we both want to make this happen, we all bring what we wish to the party and together we make it happen. For some this all seemed underhand, for me it made total sense encapsulating our approach (mostly minus the asking people for money part – we’ve not being going heavy on our Scheming Friends effort).
Day 2 was over to the familiar incisive, witty charms of Brett Egan who led on the Corporate Giving strategy and introduced us to the video embedded above.
We wound up proceedings with a Bret/Nicole double act role playing with delegates how a Solicitation conversation might run. In their polished American tones it had all sounded very natural and easy, in our mealy mouthed apologetic British tones less so, but it all comes down to practice.
We’ve got some very big plans brewing over the next five years so we’re going to have to get practicing, with the voices of Arts Manager International ringing in our ears it all seems possible.