From going to giving – Art Happens offers crowdfunding expertise designed for the sector

Art Fund’s crowdfunding platform Art Happens is designed to give museums and audiences the power to bring exciting projects to life together, help engage existing supporters in new ways and encourage visitors to go from going, to giving.

Developed specifically for museums and galleries, the platform is free to use and the Art Fund team provides one to one support throughout, from running workshops offering advice and expertise, to helping plan your campaign. And as Art Fund covers campaign costs such as producing a film and donor rewards, all the funds raised can go towards the target.

Since the platform was launched in 2014, over 9,000 donors have raised more than £900,000 for a variety of projects – from restoration to exhibitions to reopening.

AIM spoke to Jennifer Grindley, Head of Marketing, Communications and Digital at Charleston.

The team at Charleston ran a campaign on Art Happens to raise funds in late 2020, to help prepare for welcoming visitors again in 2021. “Charleston is one of the country’s heritage sites hit hardest by the global pandemic, and has lost more than £1.7m in commercial income this year. We’d been fundraising since we closed our doors in March, running a public emergency appeal up until June to essentially save Charleston, and allow us to continue as a museum. Our fundraising then continued behind-the-scenes, but even with government and sector grants we knew there would still be a financial hurdle to overcome to be able to reopen to visitors. Thanks to matched funding of £80,0000, in October 2020 we were able to launch a final public ask to support our reopening costs.

This focus on reopening rather than saving Charleston was an important narrative shift for us and to have the backing of Art Fund was really important – it enabled us to reach a much bigger audience and was a more public way of people being able to show their support.”

Given the explosion of fundraising initiatives underway across the sector at present, ensuring clear messaging and the rationale behind the campaign to reopen was critical.

“We tailored communications to different audiences, developed a joyful campaign video to bring the cause and Charleston to life, and prepared detailed FAQs explaining why we were raising the money. The rewards were also an important consideration, developing a mix of things that appeal to the core audience. An exclusive Charleston reward, I think, encouraged a lot of people to donate for a second or third time, and Art Fund were helpful throughout in providing guidance, ideas for reward price categories, numbers and so on. They had lots of experience of commissioning products and managed the fulfilment as well, so it was important to get their take and advice.”

And if you’re thinking about fundraising with the platform, the Charleston team, whose campaign exceeded its target by 15%, advise that alongside detailed planning, making sure campaign propositions are simple, clear and consistent is critical.

“Be clear about what is it that you are trying to achieve and what are you asking people to do, so that they know exactly what they’re giving to. Plan out your content and the rhythm of your campaign as much as you can, but also test different creatives and communications, and be prepared to be reactive to your audience’s behaviours and needs.

And even though it’s a digital fundraising platform, don’t discount other marketing channels and allow enough time to develop those. We looked outside of the sector at what other fundraising campaigns are doing to help us develop a point of difference too.”

Art Fund offer a great range of useful tools that support museums. To explore how these can help you and your organisation contact Merrin on or visit the Art Fund website. Click here for Art Happens>> Click here for Art Tickets>>

Click here to visit the Charleston website>>

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