Report on impact of Covid-19 on arts and cultural fundraisers

Sam Wood
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New research from the Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s Cultural Sector Network, RAISE: Arts, Culture & Heritage, the University of Sheffield’s Management School and the University of Kent reveals how arts and cultural fundraisers were impacted by and managed the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Dealing with the crisis: Creativity and resilience of arts and cultural fundraisers during Covid-19 is the result of a yearlong collaborative research project that used a survey and in-depth interviews to understand the impact of Covid-19 on arts and cultural fundraisers.

The research found examples of fundraisers adapting and responding to new ways of working, taking new approaches and changing their fundraising activities during the pandemic. This includes a marked rise in offering supporters enhanced digital or online activities.

However, it also found that almost two thirds (62%) expected their organisation’s income to fall during the pandemic, whilst almost two thirds of respondents (63%) reported increased workload. The interviews revealed instances of stress and poor wellbeing, followed by decreased levels of job satisfaction.  There is a real risk that if staff welfare issues are not addressed, there will be a significant loss of talent from the sector with long-term consequences well beyond the pandemic.

Other key findings:

  • 66% of organisations said they had postponed projects and/or programmes.
  • 30% of respondents said Covid-19 would have a substantial longer term impact.
  • 79% of respondents said that their fundraising activity overall has decreased.
  • And 64% said financial support into 2021 and beyond was very important to the survival of the sector.

In response, RAISE and the Cultural Sector Network has committed to providing cultural fundraisers with a holistic programme of support to ensure their wellbeing and motivation remains as we emerge from the pandemic.

‘Dealing with the crisis’ calls for the help of substantial support, both financial and skills-based, to help fundraisers to contribute to create a financially sustainable sector. It also identifies that some organisations are falling between the gaps of emergency support available.

Dr Simone Kraemer, Senior Development Officer at the University of Kent and a report researcher said: ‘This research is very important for all arts fundraisers and their charities because it highlights under which pressure they had to change, innovate their practice and deliver their targets during the pandemic. The pandemic has further highlighted that fundraising and the role of skilled fundraisers is crucial to support the charities’ needs resulting not only from the pandemic but also beyond and we need to continue with research to deepen our understanding of our practice.’

Martin Kaufman, Chair of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising RAISE Steering Committee said: ‘This survey is the first time that the collective voice of UK cultural fundraisers has been heard during the pandemic. There are important lessons to be learnt from what the respondents have told us. These need to be taken up by the government and everyone who wants fundraising for arts and heritage to play a critical role in ensuring that cultural activity itself will not just recover but thrive into the future. This survey was conducted in 2020, but what it has to tell us is still of continuing and significant relevance.’

Dr Marta Herrero, Lecturer in Cultural and Creative Industries at the University of Sheffield, said: ‘The findings presented in this research give unique insights into how fundraisers in the arts and culture sectors manage the Covid-19 crisis. Whilst resilience and innovation continue to be key skills characteristic of the profession, only with the help of substantial support – both financial and skill-based – will fundraisers be able to contribute to create a financially sustainable non-profit sector akin to pre-crisis levels.’

Dana Segal, Co-Chair of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising Cultural Sector Network said: ‘The report findings demonstrate the resilience and aptitude of cultural organisations to adapt in a crisis. The commitment to their civic role and public value needs to be supported as we emerge from the pandemic and restore public confidence in social interaction and connection. Whilst we will be doing our part to support cultural fundraisers, we call on policymakers and the government to maintain and grow its support of cultural organisations so they don’t just survive, but thrive, beyond the pandemic.’

Dr Simone Kraemer is a current member of staff in the fundraising and alumni office at the University of Kent and a recent PhD graduate from the University of Kent. Her PhD examined the role of government policy incentives to foster giving in higher education in the UK and a recent published article in the International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing discussed how arts and higher education fundraisers learn and navigate through organisational challenges to deliver their goals. 

‘Dealing with the crisis’ project was initiated in April 2020 by the Chartered Institute of Fundraising through its RAISE Steering Committee (funded by Arts Council England) and Cultural Sector Network in collaboration with a team from the Universities of Sheffield and Kent led by Dr Marta Herrero.