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Festivals Toolkit: Fundraising

Income for festivals normally comes from a mix of sources.
Festivals image fundraising

Of these, earned income (such as ticket sales, merchandise etc) is in some respects the most significant, but most organisations will need to raise additional (possibly all their) income from fundraising activity which is likely to include some or all of the following:

  • Grant giving public bodies including development agencies and lottery funding (such as Arts Council England East Midlands, East Midlands Development Agency, Culture East Midlands, Big Lottery).
  • Local authorities
  • Charitable Trusts and Foundations
  • Business sponsorship either as cash or as ‘in-kind’ e.g. donated materials or services
  • Individuals: donations from patrons, in the form of one-off donations, ‘Give as you earn’ or wills and bequests.

Getting started:
Once you have a written proposal and budget you can approach potential supporters for your project, but remember that you are unlikely to raise all the money from one source. In fact, diversifying your income sources can be a good means of ensuring financial sustainability and reducing reliance on one income source.

Always check guidelines carefully, as some funds will only be open to groups that have a particular legal status such as charitable status (which can be a pre-requisite for raising support from individual donations).

Before starting identify a ‘target list’ of potential funding sources (grants, trusts & foundations, local authorities, individual donors etc) and look at the ‘match’ between them and your festival, their funding criteria and the likelihood that they will invest in your festival. As a rule of thumb you start with the sources that are closest to you. It does not follow that you will raise the largest sums from such sources but they are the ones most likely to identify with what you are doing/wish to do. If you obtain support from local sources (no matter how modest) then that encourages others to invest in you too. Funders like the evidence of others valuing your work as well as disliking being the sole source.

As each funder has their own priorities and criteria for arts support and assessing applications, your proposal may need to be adapted for each submission. Read all application guidelines carefully and have any additional material required prepared in advance of any application deadline. Funders and sponsors may attach conditions to any support given. Make sure that these are practically deliverable within the event and the budget.

If this is your first project, it can be difficult to convince people to give you money, so use endorsement from one funder to persuade others to get involved.

Donations from individual donors tend to be a product of a long-term relationship but if successful can provide great results.

Further Information
Annandale and Eskdale Council of Voluntary Service: Guide to Writing a Successful Application (can be viewed from the Related Documents section on this page).

Fundraising : Some critically important things to remember include:

  • Know your artists/product
  • Know your targets
  • Know your budget – all income and all expenditure
  • Know your sources – their criteria, objects, funding history
  • Present yourselves as utterly credible, reliable and focused
  • Don’t be fooled into thinking that what you value as important will find universal agreement

Make your case SMART

  • Specific: know what you are asking for and ask for it clearly
  • Motivational: move your potential funder emotionally without demeaning your cause
  • Arresting: use hard hitting statistics or other facts to grab attention
  • Relevant: target your funders properly, make sure they will support the type of work you do
  • Truthful:  be accurate and honest, make sure your funders know what the deal is

Basic truths

  • Organisations are not entitled to support; they must earn it
  • Successful fund-raising is not magic; it is simply hard work on the part of people who are thoroughly prepared
  • You do not raise money by begging for it; you raise it by convincing people of the value of your festival
  • People do not just reach for their chequebooks and give money to an organisation; they have to be asked to give
  • Don't wait for the ‘right’ moment to ask; ask now
  • Don't decide today to raise money and then ask for it tomorrow: it takes time, patience, and planning to raise money
  • Prospects and donors are not cash crops waiting to be harvested; treat them as you would customers in a business

Some basic protocols

  • Keep control of the relationship
  • Keep your funder informed of interesting developments
  • Keep your funder informed of any difficulties if you encounter some in delivering the funded work
  • Invite funders to all your events not just to those that they have supported
  • Say thank you
  • Treat your funders as a friend not just as a bank

Generic Funding Information

The Arts Council England East Midlands produces a regular newsletter with information on funding for the arts.


  • Association of Charitable Foundations is a membership association for trusts and foundations in the UK with over 300 members ranging in size from small and local grant-makers to some of the world's largest foundations . See information on their publications
  • Charities Aid Foundation works to create greater value for charities and social enterprise.
  • Directory of Social Change is an independent source of information and support to voluntary and community sectors worldwide.  They have a very useful catologue of publications which include many resources for fundraising.
  • Institute of Fundraising is a professional body that represents fundraisers in the UK.  They also have useful publications on fundraising.
  • County Fetes, the UK Event Organiser's Directory covering the UK and Ireland, has a section on fundraising.

Related documents

The following document is in Portable Document Format (PDF). You can download software to view PDF documents for free from the Adobe website (opens in a new window)

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