Practical Approaches to Raising Funds in the Arts – Mickey Fellowes

Mickey Fellowes

Mickey Fellowes is an Arts Fundraiser with over five years experience. He is currently working for Showhow on the Arts Council Fellowship programme for Black, Ethnic minority and Disabled arts managers.

Mickey also works in marketing for National Disability Arts Forum (NDAF) on Arts Access UK – the online database of access facilities at Arts venues.

Mickey has raised over £250, 000 for arts projects.

Practical Approaches to Raising Funds in the Arts.

After looking at the arts funding system a number of questions remain unanswered and the major one is:

How practically do we go about raising finds in the arts?

I can’t tell you how to fill in an arts funding application form but I can outline some of the issues and techniques. My experience comes from 5+ years working for North West Disability Arts Forum as Training & Development Officer. Obviously my job was training/learning and the arts and education interface but during this time I wrote the applications or delivered the presentations that raised over £250,000 for NWDAF. This came from a number of different sources ñ some were not obvious art funders ñ and for a range of projects.

Honesty and integrity

This is an absolute basic because the arts funding system works on trust.

  • Ask only for what you need
  • If you lose your reputation for integrity it is game over for your career as an arts fundraiser (there are numerous instances of organisations that have collapsed due to financial mismanagement or fraud).
  • You should have an allowance in your budget for unforeseen circumstances (contingency) and this is usually 5-10% of the overall budget
  • Do not be tempted to pad out the budget in other areas as you need to show value for money.
  • Do not double fund something (i.e. accepting full grants from two sources for the same project) if this is offered discuss it with the funders.
  • Do not underestimate what you need because either the application will be rejected as unrealistic or you will struggle to deliver a project without the necessary finances.

Know what you need

You must be the expert on the project you are raising funds for. You must know the vision or philosophy of the project and also the financial, managerial and technical detail.

  • Know financially what you need – you cannot turn around to funders halfway through a project and say “I made a mistake this project needs more money.”
  • Know in detail what you need ñ not simply “£2,000 for marketing” but what precisely you will spend that £2,000 on. How did you settle on this figure for your marketing budget?
  • If you know what you need in, vision of the project, finances and detail then you can be assertive to argue your case. You are the expert on your project and when the funders ask questions you should know enough to confidently state your case.

Maintain a good relationships with the funders.

You hope to apply for future funding so you need to maintain a good relationship with your present funders either for repeat funding or for new applications.

  • The arts is a people business. The network of people who know you and trust the work that you do is vital.
  • The arts works on gossip – both for good as people will hear of successful projects and for bad where your reputation will be damaged by badly delivered projects.
  • Persevere with applications – anything that is turned down you should ask for feedback and make further applications whenever you can. Your name, organisation and projects will become a feature in funders mind. If they know of you positively it will make it easier for them to fund you.
  • Your reports and accounts for funders should have the same sense of integrity. Do not be tempted to hide a problem with the finances or the project. Honestly detailing a problem ñ perhaps asking the funder for advice – and positively dealing with it should enhance your reputation.
  • Thank funders and make them feel involved – even the smallest ones as acting as a trustee for a small grant giving trust is voluntary and they want to see money they have granted being used properly.
  • Do your monitoring and evaluation of the project and flag up success stories. Show that weaknesses in your project are immediately dealt with and your analysis of the evaluation will affect the design and planning of future similar projects.
  • Success breeds success so a track record of delivering good projects to the budget will help you to raise funds for other projects.

Sources of funds for your arts projects.

  • Arts funding system (Arts Council of England)
  • Local authority
  • Co-productions and partnerships using arts budgets and also partner education money such as schools budgets, Learning and Skills Councils of post 16 colleges and higher education funding council money from Colleges and Universities.
  • Trusts and funding with socially beneficial purposes if you can show the social benefits of your project. (i.e. not simply “give us the money so we can ponce about on stage” but the social and community benefits).

For more information about Mickey Fellowes and what he can do for you visit his website at