How do you know when your organisation is not only being seen but being heard? The answer is when you get invited to sit alongside prominent figures to not only discuss important issues but to represent the growing awareness that ice is achieving in its areas of operation.
On Monday 7th May I was invited as Chair of Information + Cultural Exchange (ICE) and Managing Director of Cultural Perspectives to speak at this expert exchange event on the experiences of ICE in developing and benefiting from philanthropic relationships. The other speakers Louise Walsh, and Este Darin-Cooper, well-known figures in the area of philanthropy and arts giving.
With the benefit of having spent significant time with John Kirkman and fully understanding the organisations philanthropy narrative, I went into the panel armed with copious notes, insights, and not a small amount of nervousness. I was amongst the big guns in this area and needing to ensure that the ice story moves from a cliché to an intrinsic and strategic approach to broadening the income and support base for the work that we do.
I presented on a number of key themes; under the extraordinary leadership of John Kirkman and with the wisdom and support received from both Caroline Vu and more recently Linda Newton, I.C.E. has achieved significant resources from philanthropic and personal gifting opportunities.
It is this story and the success which was of interest to both the organisers of the event and to the many people who participated in the audience at the event.
In what was a wide-ranging and insightful discussion my contribution was to focus on two key areas.
Achieving philanthropy through connecting values
A key theme in my presentation was the values proposition in considering and executing philanthropic opportunities. In delivering on its mission and its specific objectives ice uncovers develops and demonstrates a vast array of new, interesting and profound stories.
Our approach to value is based philanthropy is not to go to potential sponsors with good ideas; rather it is to frame the work that we are doing and presented in such a way as to allow it to prosecute the argument with philanthropics. We are able to demonstrate this through our success with the Crown Packer foundation, and the impact 100 Sydney North philanthropic network.
In these approaches we certainly were able to gain the interest of the philanthropic organisations but what sold story was their exposure to the producers and the creators of the stories and the programs that we seek to bring to life.
I articulated a strategy which was not a targeted hunt for wealthy donors, crafting along the way programs are opportunities that we believed they would want; rather we sought to understand their existing value set and position the work that we have relevant to it so that they could see it, touch it, feel it and hopefully fall in love with it.
A focus on the process of attracting philanthropic funds through significant research. You need to find out about the Foundation or the person. What they want. Who they are. Who they have previously funded and supported. Their Boards/Trustees. Annual Reports. Media.
Our understanding now is that support will follow from philanthropist’s personal resonance with the projects presented and as engagement is achieved. Our success with Impact 100 Sydney North for our 2018 Barbershop project is due in part to the empathy our storytelling was able to generate e.g. the Renaissance Scholars component of that project, which focuses on providing support for ambitious students to survive what are sometimes negative school environments, the whisper asides generated were “I grew up there”, “I know that feeling” were the key to garnering support.
Making philanthropy business as usual for both the Board and the broader I.C.E. organisation
Organisationally, there is an imperative to make philanthropy part of the fabric of how an arts organisation works develops and prospers. This requires not only organisational staffing leadership and expertise which I.C.E. has in abundance, it also requires a commitment and leadership from the organisation’s Board
Positioning philanthropy within the life of the organisation has become a whole of organisation activity. Board members have participated in strategy development around philanthropy; and been encouraged to show personal leadership through giving financially to the organisation.
We have also gone to our membership and networks encouraging them to give financially to the organisation with the incentive that every dollar given would be matched by dollars from the Thyne Reid foundation, which we aptly branded the GiveTWICE campaign.
This is not an easy process. That is, evolving the role of community management from the voluntary provision of time and skill sets to a role with far more defined revenue raising requirements and performance.
What is important in this process is to not expect that all board members will become fundraisers or donors but that they will become bolder in calling on their networks to contribute to the work of the organisation through gifting.
We have a lot to learn in this area, but we understand what needs to be learnt and are prepared for it.
The Takeaway Messages
My involvement in the event allowed me to register to specific takeaway messages.
The first of these was to identify the key attributes that I believe are required for meaningful and sustainable philanthropic support. These were:
- Strategic fit
- Emotional connection
- Relationship development (based on honesty and letting the art and producers speak for themselves)
- Respect for the intelligence and intent of Foundations and the individuals involved in them
- Delivering the goods.
The second message was one I originally developed and delivered at the I.C.E. breakfast recently. That is that the real test and challenge for I.C.E. will be to develop relationships with second and third generation migrant communities in the west of Sydney who have disposable wealth but who may lack either a heritage or affinity with gifting.
If we can unleash this capacity we will not only benefit the organisation we will also realise an opportunity for these communities to contribute beyond their cultural comfort, to the broader society which will sustain them and their children into the future.
Words by Pino Migliorino
Image by Ali Mousawi
First published on the Information + Culture Exchange blog here: https://ice.org.au/2018/05/samag-expert-exchange/
View the video of The Expert Exchange: Philanthropy – more than the ask here: https://www.facebook.com/SAMAGSyd/videos/10155475420572584/