Funding, Marketing

How members, artists, donors and the public can come to the aid of the sector

Elinor Trigg discusses how Together for Museums brought together members, artists, donors and the public to respond to a crisis with a rallying cry.

Art Fund is well versed in rallying together to ‘save works of art for the nation’; we have been doing it since 1903. 117 years later we had to respond to a global crisis as the pandemic changed everything for everyone, seemingly almost overnight.

When Covid hit, we knew we had to do something more than our well-established grant giving projects. Working alongside the sector every day, we knew the needs and concerns across the country. We needed to do something that would have a lasting impact in securing the future of our museums and galleries; to help organisations innovate and reach out to communities that they serve and to embrace the world of digital to reach new audiences.

Immediately we had to understand where the need was greatest for our museum partners, so we established the Response and Reimagine grants. And the response was overwhelming. We wanted to help everyone, but with over 400 applications, this simply wasn’t possible. More had to be done.

Together for Museums project is born

So the Together for Museums project was born. The ambition was to complement the existing grants programme and increase our impact in a swift and direct way. Getting funding out to the sector takes time, our response had to be quick and urgent, the stranglehold of the pandemic was cutting off the lifeblood for museums and galleries day by day, there wasn’t time to waste.

We started by engaging our 130,000 members, supporters and major donors. These are people who care deeply about the cultural sector and with whom, by announcing this project and asking for their help, we raised over £250,000. It clearly demonstrated the collective strength of the whole Art Fund network in action, supporting each other, members and organisations working together.

A rallying cry

Still the sector needed more so we issued a rallying cry to the public. We wanted to create a movement that people could get behind and that would help museums emerge stronger from the Covid crisis and secure their future. By setting up the campaign on our Art Happens crowdfunding platform, we were able to turn to our artist friends. They donated and produced bespoke and limited edition works of art, giving us the confidence to set an ambitious £1 million target.

The campaign ran for almost three months. We kept momentum by introducing three rewards at the mid-way point and we were also lucky to secure match-funding from a major donor – again showing the collectivism that Art Fund fosters to positive effect.
It was a nail-biting finish, but by 3 March 2021 we reached our target and the campaign closed 120% funded. We secured over 4,000 donations in total from both phases of the campaign and attracted over 1,000 new donors to Art Fund.

Art Fund is its members

Since summer 2020 Art Fund’s emergency funding has helped museums stay connected to visitors, even while their doors were closed. We’ve helped organisations like the Roald Dahl Museum take its amazing collection to students who were unable to visit; Aerospace Bristol to create a digital storytelling experience; the Lowry to put together an exhibition in collaboration with local people; and much more.

We continue to work with our museum partners to capture how they’re using their grants. Art Fund is its members, Art Fund is its organisations, Art Fund is nothing without the support of the public.

Partnerships are going to be fundamental to surviving as we move forward as a sector. We are always stronger together and like a family no one should get left behind. It is one of the main reasons Art Fund is here. You do not need to go through the next stages of this pandemic alone, you can join our network of over 800 Museums and Galleries and we will help with marketing support, you can get on board with our free ticketing and crowdfunding platforms, and you can apply for our wide range of grant programmes to make your projects a reality. The next few years aren’t going to be easy, but if this pandemic has shown us anything, by working together we can achieve our aims for ourselves and, most importantly, for the public.

Please contact us today at museums@artfund.org to find out how we can help you.

This article, sponsored and contributed by Art Fund, is part of a series sharing information and expertise to support museums and galleries to recover from the pandemic and develop audiences for the future.

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