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Nicky Goulder: Tailor your fundraising events to fit your partners

14 Aug 2017 Voices

Arts charity Create provides some ideas on the need to tailor and individualise your fundraising events and corporate partnerships.

Some of Britain’s most notorious criminals have been tried in the Old Bailey, including Dr Crippen and Peter Sutcliffe. It has survived bombs from the Nazis and the IRA. In the lower floors you can see the original London Wall, built by the Romans - the weight of history imposes itself on you from every oak panel and marble pillar in the building. It’s fair to say it wouldn’t be everyone’s first choice of venue for an uplifting charity fundraising event.

But that’s exactly why Create, the charity of which I am co-founder and chief executive, chose to be there – to run a fundraiser that breaks away from the black tie dinner circuit and puts our work at the centre of the event rather than being an abstract idea that is spoken about but not experienced.

Through Create’s Inside Stories programme, our professional artists enable fathers in prison to work together to write, record and illustrate original stories for their children, which they then set to music. At the Old Bailey event, Create patron Erwin James spoke from the witness box where in 1985 he was tried and sentenced to life, about how creativity can help offenders turn around their lives. 

Erwin said: “When I was sentenced I was pretty sure my life was at an end. It had been a difficult and painful life, for me, but more importantly for other people because of me and I was relieved that it was over. I never expected to live again, not in any meaningful way. I certainly never imagined that one day I might be back in the same witness stand explaining how I managed to salvage some good from the wreckage that had been my life before prison.

Through Erwin’s passionate and emotional speech, and a reading by writer Carol Topolski from storybooks made during Inside Stories, the event put Create’s work and beneficiaries centre stage. Guests weren’t present just to have refreshments and a good time, they were having their preconceptions about offenders challenged and experiencing for themselves the power of the creative arts as a powerful tool for social justice.

The Old Bailey event followed our fundraiser at the Design Museum in Kensington in March, at which our guests enjoyed after-hours access to two exhibitions and a vibrant performance. Over two weeks, 16 children aged 7–10 from Hallfield Primary School in Westminster worked with our professional musician Merit Stephanos to write and rehearse Sonic Design, an original piece inspired by the Design Museum itself. At the event, they performed in the main auditorium to an audience of over 220 guests including their parents.

The success of the Old Bailey and Design Museum events, both in terms of feedback from guests and the funds raised (£43,300 and £33,700 respectively), demonstrates the impact of tailoring and individualising fundraising events. To fulfil our diverse fundraising strategy, we adopt a similar approach of tailoring to our corporate partnerships: each project funded by a corporate partner is uniquely designed to meet their CR objectives whilst achieving our charitable aims.

For example, creative:connection is our national programme that tackles disability prejudice by bringing together disabled and non-disabled schoolchildren to create collaboratively, and the programme for which we won a Charity Award. This month, in partnership with shopping centre owner intu, we ran our biggest ever creative:connection project - in Manchester - which brought 56 pupils from four schools together with four of our professional musicians to write and perform seven original pieces.

intu was specifically interested in supporting children with disabilities in communities local to its shopping centres, and giving its staff the opportunity to take part. After a week of writing and rehearsals, the participants had the incredible experience of performing their original music on the stage at intu Trafford Centre for an 800-strong audience. One told me simply: “It was awesome!”

By designing unique fundraising events that profile Create’s work and tailoring projects so that corporates are partners, rather than just funders, we deepen our relationships with our supporters and ensure they are invested in helping us to continue to empower lives through the creative arts.

Nicky Goulder is chief executive of Create, winner of the arts, culture and heritage category at the Charity Awards, the annual awards for the charity sector run by Civil Society Media.

Create won its award for its creative:connection programme, which tackles disability prejudice by bringing together disabled and non-disabled schoolchildren to create collaboratively.


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