At the beginning of February we launched a public fundraising campaign at Lincoln Drill Hall. Consistent reductions to public funding for arts organisations that have affected venues and organisations across the country have also placed significant additional risk on our budgets and operation.
Our venue has been absorbing year on year reductions since 2013 and has reached a stage where the pressures on our fundraising activity to replace the gap in our income has become potentially unsustainable. Along with my team we spent a long time putting the campaign together. Be A Brick we felt was a simple, memorable, hashtaggable campaign that could capture the imagination of our audiences and communities alike. There were some really important factors though that we needed to consider to ensure the maximum impact from the campaign when launched.
Firstly, the tone of the campaign had to be positive, that the ask of our community was to support the ability for the organisation to thrive. That positivity had to run throughout. We know that our principle public funders have been absorbing their own reductions and in the current economic climate their decision to continue funding at any level is welcomed. However, we needed to make clear to the public that the venue that Lincoln has loved over the years is at real risk.
Secondly, what were we asking people to give to. What would be lost if we weren’t there. There are the 300 plus performances that take place each year in the auditorium of course, but we are one of a number of venues in the city, so to one extent if we didn’t put those on, audiences could choose to go elsewhere. But Lincoln Drill Hall has always been about so much more than just the performances. As a professional community arts centre we have strong civic role to play in the life of the city, offering more than just shows so we chose to focus the campaign on all of the other activity we offer. Chances to take part, a safe space to enjoy yourself and make friends, outreach work we’re developing with partners in the city. We believe that the city would start to lose its heartbeat without Lincoln Drill Hall.
Thirdly we needed to consider both the amount we were asking for and what people got for their money. We considered the socio-economic make up of Lincoln carefully and looked at the range of audiences we attract. We felt that asking for a small amount annually would give us the best chance for a large number of people thinking it was affordable to them. £10 per year is still a big ask for some, but an amount that we felt the majority of people could respond to. In terms of our current annual fundraising need it also sounds like a small sum when we’re looking to raise £130,000 every year, but when you consider that we sell around 50,000 tickets each year if 1 in 3 of our audience donated then we’d hit our target easily.
Lincoln Drill Hall was gifted to the city from the time of construction in 1890, so we decided to offer the chance for donors to sponsor a virtual brick, to feel a real ownership of their arts centre. We did worry about some people turning up with hammer and chisel asking to take their brick away with them (and a couple of people have asked just that), but our ever growing virtual brick wall of donors is another testament to how we are perceived.
Finally, we need to anticipate some of the questions that people might ask when a campaign of this nature went public. So we thought we’d create a simple film trying to make clear the realities of financing a small scale arts facility. You can see the film and messages from a number of famous faces here.
To say we’re delighted with the initial response would be a huge understatement. In the first two months we have raised over £15,000, well over 10% of the annual total. We are planning a number of other activities across the year, from a fundraising variety night in the autumn, to a talent show in partnership with Lincoln’s Indian Society. We’re also delighted that supporters of ours such as the amazing Jo Tolley are fundraising on our behalf, organising sponsored walks and charity balls. Our wonderful technical team are planning to tackle the three peaks challenge in the summer.
And of course we continue to fundraise through other sources. We have a number of trust and foundations to whom we’ve applied for funding to help develop the sustainability of your arts centre the success of which will also help us towards our total.
We truly believe that for any city to truly thrive, the range of high class arts and culture available to residents and visitors alike is crucial and needs to be sustained, protected and given the conditions in which to thrive. Cultural venues are a major part of that mechanism. Colleagues and supporters in other city venues are facing similar challenges that also need all of our attention to secure high class arts and entertainment. We will continue to fight for that future. Thank you to all who’ve donated so far and to all those who will do in the future.