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A Catalyst for Change?

What we've learnt from the Catalyst Programme in its 3 years

Arts Council England’s Catalyst programme was the largest direct public policy intervention to support cultural philanthropy and fundraising in the UK, and beyond.

Between 2012 and 2015, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England invested £100 million to help the cultural sector raise money from private sources. BOP evaluated Arts Council England’s strand of investment, £68 million, which benefited over 400 cultural organisations across England – from the large to the small, the urban to the rural, and across diverse art-forms.

So what have we learned? Our detailed findings are available in three annual reports (Year 1, Year 2, Year 3), but here are some of our overall reflections on the long journey.

First, the main assumptions that informed the design of Catalyst have been borne out. At the heart of these is the idea that improving fundraising is not simply a matter of buying in a fundraising post, but instead requires a much broader and more profound process of organisational change and culture change. Our reports make explicit what this transformation has consisted of, how and when it has happened, and what were the main challenges to the process.

Catalyst also provided match-funding to help incentivise both donors and arts organisations to increase giving revenues. Match-funding proved an extremely positive element of Catalyst: it boosted arts organisations confidence and made them feel more empowered when pitching to donors, and donors in turn responded to the fact that their money could go further. Here, the Catalyst findings reflect the wider experience of match-funding across the charity sector.

However, the very success of the programme and the match-funding prompts the question as to what happens when the funding ends? Did the organisations ‘fall off a cliff’ and revert to their previous situation?

As our evaluation continued for a year after Catalyst ended, we were able to explore this. We found that, on the contrary, organisations had kept fundraising and most of them plan to increase their fundraising activity in the near future. The structural changes grantees made with the support of Catalyst, such as establishing a greater consensus around, and extended responsibility for, fundraising across the organisation, recruiting for new fundraising posts and Board members, and drafting new fundraising strategies, suggest that they are better equipped to fulfil their fundraising ambitions.

Arts Council themselves have also learnt greatly from the first round of Catalyst investment and have adapted the follow-on tranche of Catalyst investment, Catalyst: Evolve (which we are also evaluating), accordingly. The new three-year programme combines the most successful elements of the first round (i.e. money for capacity building and match-funding) with a greater focus on smaller organisations with less experience of fundraising.

Beyond assessing the design of the programme and its impact on grantees, our research also contains a wealth of material on what constitutes good practice within cultural philanthropy and fundraising. In particular, the 32 case studies completed across the evaluation illustrate the importance of the following success factors:

  • Designing a compelling case for support
  • Developing a mission and vision-led fundraising strategy
  • Identifying fundraising assets
  • Developing fit-for-purpose governance
  • Establishing a culture of fundraising within the organisation
  • Understanding donor motivations
  • Using consistent and effective messaging
  • Deploying a tailored approach to relationship management
  • Designing an innovative case for support

More detail about these can be found in the Good Practice and Case Study chapters of the Year 3 report. The Year 3 Executive Summary can be found here.

Through Catalyst BOP is building up a uniquely powerful body of evidence on what makes for successful fundraising in the arts. In these economically challenging times, this will be of urgent interest not just to the cultural sector at home, but also internationally, as cultural leaders in countries such as The Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Korea and Australia turn to the private sector to support culture and look for what works in policies that encourage greater cultural philanthropy and sponsorship.

- Richard Naylor, Director & Rossella Traverso, Associate