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  • The Australia Council for the Arts – Major Performing Arts Board (MPAB)

    The Major Performing Arts Inquiry of 1999 highlighted a number of key issues facing the sector, from the role of government support to changing audience demands, diversity of product and the affects of globalisation. One of the principal findings was that private sector income has “the potential to fundamentally change the financial dynamics” of the arts sector, but the report concluded that at that time the arts lacked the skills or experience to realise that potential to the full.

    It recommended that the Australia Council should assist the 28 flagship performing arts companies in building capacity in marketing and fundraising by providing high quality training in these disciplines. By 2003, the MPAB had commissioned Stanford University to deliver a course in strategic planning, and the AGSM had developed a module in marketing. The MPAB then turned to Philanthropy Squared to provide training in “philanthropy”.

    Most of the performing arts companies had been running Patrons Programs for many years and needed something to take them beyond the basics. What was required was a high level briefing or training session that addressed the issue from a leadership perspective.

    Our response was to develop a workshop that placed the quest for philanthropic funds in a broader cultural and organisational context and transferred skills in targeting and cultivating supporters, and in particular asking for major gifts. It was designed to de-mystify the philanthropic process and reduce the fear factor, common among senior arts executives, of cultivating prospects and asking for donations.

    One training session alone does not change behaviour, so the MPAB also provided funds towards a review for those companies that wished to explore in detail their potential for starting, or fine-tuning an existing patrons program.

    The reviews involved a database analysis, screening all available materials, in-depth interviews with organisational leaders and other key staff. Where a major donor program was in place, it included confidential interviews with a number of donors and volunteers. This not only provided intelligence and feedback, but also delivered a signal of the importance vested in the donor by the company.

    The presentation of the recommendations to the Board and executives acted as a catalyst for generating further debate and raising awareness of the principles and processes involved. Companies had by their own admission been set in their ways and unsure how to proceed. The MPAB training program has presented a great opportunity for them to learn more about what is possible and how to achieve it.

    Owing to the success of the Philanthropy Squared workshops, the MPAB instituted an ongoing philanthropy mentoring program for its companies, and enlisted Philanthropy Squared to participate in its design and implementation, in association with Artsupport Australia, the Council's consultancy for the wider arts sector in the fields of sponsorship and individual giving.

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