The Nonprofit’s guide to Arts fundraising

Last updated: July 20, 2023

Share Article:

You likely have a solid argument for why the arts matter. When you love the arts, it’s apparent. Art is connection, which is needed now more than ever.

Although we may all be running to a similar goal of fundraising for our nonprofit, the way we get there often looks different. If you work at an arts and culture organization, you believe that art matters. And that’s your biggest selling point. You believe it. Now, who else does? No, you’re not solving world hunger through your nonprofit. But you’re bringing joy to people, encouraging self expression, and showing how art can connect us all in community.

If you work in the arts, bring your donor back to the experience through storytelling. Remind them why they want to keep coming back, and rely on their existing affinity to your organization.

Your organization is unique, you need to have a custom approach to fundraising.

1 – Combining Art with Education

People love to learn; especially those who care about your cause or are frequent patrons. Try getting connected with a local school to offer an after-school art program. Or try sending your theatre troupe to perform free acting classes or performances in the park. The idea of combining art with education is a perfect one to bring the community together and raise money as a result. The more the community feels like you are giving back and providing culturally-relevant entertainment, the more they will value your organization.

Here are a few ideas to expand on to get you on track to raise funds:

  • Scavenger hunts
  • Workshops
  • Virtual interactive tours
  • Writing club
  • Podcast

2 – Understand Your Seasons

If you work in education you probably think in semesters. If you work in healthcare you probably think in “which season is flu season”. In arts and culture, you probably think in performance runs or exhibits. Your seasons usually depend on your major events and performances. The more you know about the calendar of events at your organization and even in your surrounding city, the better you’ll be able to plan for fundraising campaigns. So start with a calendar, some highlighters and post-its and start thinking through what that looks like. The reality is that most of your schedule has already been set and you simply need to work within that framework and plan ahead.

Data suggests that there are two prime seasons for fundraising. While these seasons are periods of high fundraising activity, you can utilize the rest of the calendar year into more strategic tasks. Here is how a fully optimized high functioning fundraising calendar will look like!

  • January – February: Considering that March is a high time for philanthropists and VCs alike to invest into new ventures, January to February could be termed as the 2 months that ramp up to all the activity in March. Ideally, a non-profit organization should be cultivating relationships and reactivating existing donors during this period.
  • March: March is a high time for donors and fundraisers. It is not as high as the November – December season but nevertheless is a high time when people are looking to invest or donate.
  • April – September: Most considered a dormant season for fundraising for nonprofits, this is a very crucial period which is often overlooked. If I were to just ask you what you will be doing as a nonprofit, most people will be taking vacations or just waiting out for the peak season. But, this is where the hard-work is done.
  • October – December: This is the window with the most activity! Normally known as Fundraising Q4, the activity in this season is categorized by actions resulting from efforts made by nonprofits in the months preceding. Once you are into December, there is not enough interest and you can actually just call it a dead month because most of your pitches will get ignored. There isn’t just enough time for donors to act in December.

So if you want to succeed and get big donations for your art and culture organizations, you should focus your efforts in the April – September season.

3 – Track Your Data and Stay Organized

Arts organizations literally have people lining up at the door. This is an incredible opportunity! Do you know your patrons? Are you asking your patrons questions? Are those answers being tracked? You’ll want to make sure that this process is simple for the patron and simple for you. A great way to do that is to have a system of record like a CRM. You can also expand your questions into online customer surveys or even in-person interactions like a booth set up at your event. Tracking your data and keeping it organized is key to making the most of this opportunity.

4 – Offer Donor Rewards

Donor rewards are a perfect way to thank your donors and keep them engaged in your cause. The great thing here is, you already know that they are interested in arts and culture. So why not make your rewards with an arts and culture theme! A few examples could include backstage passes, signed programs, art classes from featured painters, preferred seating, special nights out with performers, etc. Not to mention all the tried and true “swag” gifts that people love like mugs, pens, tote bags, etc. Art is fun – giving should be too. This is also a great way to bring in new donors – make sure they know what they’re missing out on!

5 – Work with Your Marketing Team

There are so many teams that make up a successful nonprofit. Sometimes teams can feel like they are competing with one another. In the arts and culture industry, the teams that seem to be most “at odds” with each other are the marketing/promotion team and the fundraising team. The marketing team might be protective of the “leads” they get from promotions because their end goal is to sell tickets. The fundraising team might in the same vein, feel that enlisting new donors should be the main focus of every event. But remember that in the end, it’s the same team! Getting patrons and getting donors are both so important to the ongoing vision of your organization. The more work that can be done together between departments, the better.

A fantastic way to encourage more camaraderie here is to communicate. Make sure that both teams are aware of efforts made by each team. And this also gives the opportunity to share in success! Be sure to celebrate the great work you’ve accomplished together.

6 – Engage Your Network

Don’t forget about your board! If you are looking for ways to expand your donor pool and dive into untapped possibilities – your board is a fantastic way to begin. The arts and culture scene is an amazing one because of the amount of networking and collaboration that happens organically all the time.

Sometimes board members need to be reminded of their incredible network and encouraged to spread the word. They already care about your cause, but do their cousins? Or their colleagues? Or their fellow board members from previous nonprofit work? Using relationship intelligence data from Kindsight’s Connections is a fantastic way to dive into relationships and networks.

Keep your network engaged through:

  • Case studies
  • Thank you letters or cards
  • Private guided tours
  • News releases
  • Social media

Providing easily digestible and shareable resources for your board will allow them to feel more engaged while giving them the opportunity to spread the word about your organization.

7 – Measure, Rinse, Repeat!

Tracking and capitalizing on your efforts will allow for successful activities year over year. There are many ways to track success of fundraising in arts and cultures organizations such as:

Return on Investment – If you spent $5,000 on an gala that raised $10,000, your ROIS is $5000 and your cost per dollar raised is $0.50 (5,000 / 10,000 = .50)
Growth – Are your results increasing, declining, or have you plateaued? You’ll want to look at the number of donors year-over-year and compare the money raised from one year to the next.

Retention – How many new vs returning donors?

Teams – Take time to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each development team

Average Gift amount – To calculate this, divide the number of gifts with the total dollars given. For example, you raised $200,000 with 100 donors, your average gift size is $2,000

Average Fundraising Amount – To calculate, take the total of all participants and divide into the fundraising dollars

Conversion rate – You sent an invite to 150 potential event attendees, if 40 registered, your conversion rate is 26%

Wrapping Up

Your next-level fundraising begins with Fundraising Intelligence. By using a platform like Kindsight, you can both open the door to finding thousands of more donors and learn more about your current donors. Incorporating prospect research into your fundraising will allow you to be confident that you are making the right ask, to the right person, at the right time. And with Live Profiles, you can segment hundreds or thousands of individuals you know very little about into a prioritized list of prospects. These strategies can help take your fundraising to the next level.

The nonprofit world is always changing with new gadgets, new tools, and new strategies. Did you know that arts and recreation account for about 9% of all nonprofit jobs in the USA according to this 2020 report? That may seem like a small number, but nonprofits combined account for about 1 in 10 jobs in the private U.S. workforce. You know what that means? Learning opportunities. Chances to collaborate. Working together.

At the end of the day, never stop learning! And if you need help or guidance, ask.

Written by Guest

Explore related resources.

Want a free demonstration of Kindsight’s Fundraising Intelligence Platform?

Request a Demo