Recognising your best assets as an arts organisation

Phoebe-Wild-In a recent training session on ‘Planning a Fundraising Strategy’ Ruth Jarratt recommended identifying an organisation’s ‘Assets’ and ‘Constraints’ suggesting that determining these will help structure a fundraising strategy.

Assets: your work; your people; your physical location.

Constraints: lack of certain skills; lack of people power; lack of recognition.


During this activity I noticed that people:

  • Found it hard to ‘take a step back’ from their organisation to analyse clearly their assets and constraints
  • Focused mostly on the building and the people
  • Struggled to focus on the creative work of the organisation – ‘the mission’

Being so close to the work day to day, it is easy to lose track of the amazing and inspiring aspects of your organisation.

Recently I read through a small charity’s draft funding application. This charity has grown due to demand from the people in the town they serve; their work directly improves people’s lives on the ground. Although it is clear that the staff are focused, passionate and committed to their charity and cause, the application seemed confused. It wasn’t clear about the specific work that they were doing, who it was supporting and how it was impacting their lives.

After I suggested that they clarified what their assets and constraints were, the result led to a stronger application.

It was clear that the charity knew in their heart what was important about the work that they did but had possibly not identified what these areas were specifically, a common challenge I have noticed for not-for-profit organisations.

What are ‘assets’ when it comes to the arts?

When thinking about assets, physical resources are often the first things that come to mind. However within arts organisations the most valuable ‘assets’ are the inspiring work that they do, the creativity and inventiveness. These are the things that people will buy into even though there is nothing to buy.

Patrick Towell discusses this in his recent blog: “Understanding the creative components of your content or skills, as well as the creative aspirations of your users, customers and audiences, is the magic that makes what you do stand out from the crowd.”

Once identified these assets can be used in many elements of fundraising, including:

  • The case for support
  • Fundraising strategy
  • An elevator pitch
  • Funding applications

Julie Finch Chief Executive of the Cheltenham Trust said when talking about arts organisations recently “we are not marketing ourselves enough generally, not showing off our product”. This is a real and complex problem; but if we worked on these things more would this improve the situation?

I would suggest to keep reminding yourself of the organisation’s mission and vision – what do you and everyone else involved do to try and reach this everyday? Also look at what others do – what are their assets? How do they represent and value these?

Regularly seek viewpoints about the organisation from as many areas as possible – what do people outside the organisation think of it? This could be audiences, industry contacts and locals. Finally, brainstorm what your assets and constraints are with your colleagues – and compare these to the views you’ve received from outsiders.

How does your organisation stay fresh and excited about the inspiring work it does? We’d love to hear.

Phoebe is the Arts Fundraising Fellows for Nuffield Theatre in Southampton. Follow her on Twitter: @phoebe_wild

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