25 February 2014back

Creative Internships Blog Week 17

Elizabeth Day, Welsh National Opera

What does the word fundraising mean to you?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past couple of months. The internship so far has opened many doors for me and I’ve been proactive about getting out and meeting new people, developing arts and business networks in Cardiff. But the conversational pace seems to drop a little when I’m asked the inevitable question, “So what do you do?”

The words, “I’m a trainee fundraiser at WNO” just doesn’t quite do this role justice. Before I started the internship, fundraising to me meant strategically planning my walk down Queen Street to avoid the friendly (but often overbearing) fundraisers collaring you in the street. It meant trying to find a nice way to end invasive evening phone calls at home from well meaning fundraisers in call centres. It meant searching for my mail amongst the countless blanket-fundraising campaign letters left to be recycled in the hallway of my shared building.

It meant no. No I cannot spare you 2 minutes, no I don’t want to set up a direct debit over the phone, no I don’t care enough about this letter to give you a call and donate.

But now - I’m the fundraiser.

The arts should be inclusive and accessible regardless of socio-economic status. But in order to keep it that way, the right case for support needs to be made.

For me, the thing that sets fundraising for WNO apart is the effort in building genuine relationships with people. The case to support the arts is less obvious than disease, poverty, or natural disasters and so there has to be additional effort to explain the impact.

There’s a lot of research behind who might support you, a process so comprehensive at WNO it is executed with some sort of military precision. It’s about getting to know someone, what they like and don’t like, what’s important to them and whether you can involve them in something they find exciting. It’s about being passionate, not just about your organisation and what it does, but about people too.

So when I tell people I’m a trainee fundraiser, what I’m really saying is that I love people. I love getting to know and understand them. I love building connections with them. I spend hours researching ways to reach out to them, whether that be within a trust or foundation, a company or the general public. I pore over proposals, analysing every word I write to make sure it communicates in the unique way specific to the person I’m sending it to. I remember the small, personal details; little things that make a big difference, not just to my relationship with that person but to how the organisation is connecting with them too.   

Now, when I think of the word fundraising, I think relationship driven connections that catalyse change. Fundraising helps make exciting things happen. And it is people that are at the heart of it.

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