ArtReach Arts and Heritage Consultant, Jo provides an insight into continuing to work with organisations to support with fundraising activities despite changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has changed the way we are working with the people that we support with consultancy. Both funders and artists have been working flexibly and responsively, adapting very quickly in an uncertain situation, which has meant ArtReach consultancy has had to adapt too!

Criteria from most funders changed swiftly from March 2020, with many of them offering emergency funding instead of their usual grants. In consultancy we have had to keep a constant eye on the funds closing and becoming available, which were often evolving day by day and deadlines could change quickly. We’ve really had to be on the ball! 

Funds are usually very restricted. Funders tend to ask for precise reasons for projects that meet the criteria that they want to see, with requirements to detail all proposed activities. Under the pandemic, this has changed and funders’ evidence of what works has been thrown up in the air! 

Instead, we have seen many funders being much more trusting and flexible to organisations they are funding, asking “tell us what you need!” This has really supported arts organisations and artists in being able to adapt their ways of working very quickly so that they can continue their creative outputs in new ways. It’s resulted in more conversations between funders and fundees, so funders and donors are learning a great deal from the responses to their emergency funds. 

I wonder how they might take some of this learning into their future working. Will we see more unrestricted giving in the future, with flexibility and the continuation of these listening and trusting relationships between funders and artists?

I’ve been incredibly impressed by the resilience and adaptability of many of the organisations we regularly work with too. They’ve been really sensitive to the communities that they support, and the audiences that they know so well. They’ve been using culture as a way of helping those communities through this period, as well as using their creative outputs to raise awareness of the needs of communities who are particularly affected by COVID-19. I’ve been honoured to be able to support some of these organisations to realise important projects that make a real difference to people.