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Giving and Asking

I had the pleasure of presenting at the Culture Business Conference last month with Dr Lynda Kelly on how cultural organisations can demonstrate impact to funders. Read on to find out more about how to show impact and 'make the ask'.

The real question for not-for-profits is "why should they give us their money?" Organisations seeking funding need to know what difference their work is making to their audience and the community and be able to show this to stakeholders.

Showing impact sounds really tricky but it can be done reasonably easily by creating stories that bring to life the work. Well researched case studies can resonate more strongly with corporate funders (tugging on the heartstrings) than a raft of dense statistics. Not everyone thinks hiring an expert to do this is the best use of their resources - but the results tell a different story. The development team at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences asked Wavelength to evaluate the impact of an education program from when it started - and then used this evaluation report to secure more funding from the sponsor Crown. Now that was a good outcome.

It was a real treat to catch up with Rupert Myer at the conference, we shared a reflective moment on what an important mandate the Australia Council has and how it was a hard place to leave. Later, Rupert gave an amazing talk about his considerable experience on the "giving" and the "asking" side of philanthropy. When comparing Australia with the USA he said, "Australia doesn't have a giving problem, it has an asking problem." I think that rang true with many delegates - and I certainly learnt about 'asking' from the experts at the conference;

Here are my top 10 takeaways on "Making the Ask" with special thanks to Bruce and Tim from Fit Sponsorship, Nick Mitzevitch, Director NGA, and Rupert Myer.

  • Impact on audiences is what we have to sell

  • Focus on the areas where you have the biggest impact

  • Find out about what the funder wants/needs and tailor your pitch

  • Articulate your point of difference

  • Be honest about your position and future goals

  • Be able to discuss the financial position of your organisation

  • When problems arise be open with sponsors and ask them to help with solutions

  • Be as confident as you can - this creates trust and helps funders want to give

  • The more time they spend with you the harder it is to say no

  • If you cant get through try phoning at 4pm on a Friday afternoon

Of course no conference experience is complete without networking drinks - and the evening cocktails were enlivened by some great exhibitions of contemporary art and antiquities. There was a strong turnout from Canberrans and it was a pleasure to meet many of them and learn more about their work. When I got on the plane home I realised that I liked our nations capital, and its impressive cultural institutions, a lot more than when I had arrived. I hope to be back soon !

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