Supporting Saffron Hall: a changing landscape
Graham King, our Fundraising and Communications Director, explains how his role at Saffron Hall has evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have worked at Saffron Hall since January 2019. Previously I was Executive Director of a touring theatre company and before that I was Head of Business Development at Dundee Rep Theatre, which incorporated Fundraising, Marketing, PR and Commercial Development.
Having ‘fundraising’ in your job title can sometimes mean people run in the opposite direction when they see you coming! It is a common misconception that we are always asking for money, and yes whilst we of course have to do that sometimes, I see our department as much more than that. On a daily basis we create brilliant opportunities for our stakeholders, support local businesses and promote Saffron Walden and Essex. The money we raise supports the day to day activities of Saffron Hall Trust which includes world-class concerts, a thriving schools programme and work in the community.
It could be said that everyone who engages with us, from our brilliant volunteers to the wonderful artists who perform in the Hall, is a fundraiser. Saffron Hall is a registered charity, so every single penny of the income we generate, whether through tickets sales, merchandise, catering or hall hire is invested back into the Saffron Hall community. That is why we are constantly looking at new ways to generate income. In a typical year my department has targets of around £450,000 from ticket sales, £40,000 profit from bar and merchandising sales and a further £800,000 in raised funds. An additional £70,000 is raised by the events department through hall hire for concerts and recordings. If we achieve all of these targets we still only break even. Thanks to you and some great work from our marketing team, the £450,000 is, in normal circumstances, achievable and often surpassed, but ticket income accounts for less than a third of the revenue we need to keep going.
I am often asked where our raised funds come from. There are four potential sources for a charity such as Saffron Hall; public funding, trust and foundations, support from businesses and individual support. Saffron Hall receives no regular funding from the Arts Council or the local authorities, although we do receive occasional support for community projects. With regard to trusts and foundations, we are grateful for support from some of the larger trusts such as the John Ellerman Foundation and Garfield Weston in the last year. But the national average success rate for applications is at an all-time low; 14% are successful for small bids, and only 12% for large bids. We are thankful to the handful of local businesses that have supported Saffron Hall, but we are unlikely to receive any significant corporate investment for the foreseeable future.
Thankfully we do have one regular source of income; our very successful Membership Scheme, which now contributes over £125,000 a year to Saffron Hall’s operation. Not only is this a vital source of funds, it also allows us to engage with a wonderful community of supporters. We share some amazing, once in a lifetime experiences with them and listen closely to their feedback. In addition to our membership we are privileged to have a number of philanthropists who support our ever-expanding schools and community work.
Since March my job has changed substantially. Instead of generating ticket revenue I have been working with my amazing colleagues managing refunds and postponed concerts. Instead of applying to trusts and talking to concert sponsors I have been talking about emergency funding and working with sponsors to reschedule concerts. In the last two months Arts Council England have turned us down for Emergency Grant funding, trusts and foundations have been redeploying funds away from the arts to COVID-19 support charities, and we have been unable to generate income through concerts, catering, bar sales and merchandise. It was therefore a huge relief when we put some new concerts on sale a few weeks ago; a huge wave of hope and optimism was generated both internally and externally.
I am confident that when Saffron Hall fully reopens, we will be stronger and more significant within our local and wider artistic communities than ever. We are taking every opportunity to save costs and use government schemes to help us through. Next week we will be launching a fundraising campaign that will not only help see us back to business as usual, but will also help us support the community through live music and events prior to that. I remain confident about the future because Saffron Hall has always been supported by the generosity of so many people giving whatever they can; in fact this has been a very significant strength. The arts will be more important now than ever, and Saffron Hall and its fundraising and communications department are ready for the challenge of meeting its future needs.