Friday, 20 February 2009

Do you say please and thank you?

Geoffrey Crayon and I have been having an interesting exchange in the comments on my recent post about artists and farmers. I mention this for two reasons.

Firstly I want to encourage you to comment. I do read them, I do reply and others sometimes join in. If you get this via email subscription, do click through and visit the site so you can comment or read the comments others leave.

Secondly, we got on the subject of what it's right for Arts Council to expect from its funded organisations, stimulated by Sir Christopher Frayling's recent comments on how he felt he was treated during his time as Chair. I won't repeat it here, other than to say I don't think funding should buy agreement or silence when people disagree with a funder but that people should remember that even funders have feelings too, and be reasoned or at least human in their disagreement. Personally I am more interested in difference and diversity than unanimity but no one likes being shouted at.

The quick, possibly blindingly obvious point I was reminded of was this: it is good to say please and thank you. (At least in England, there may be cultural differences across the globe.)

In fundraising terms this is very basic - I was taught by someone many years ago. If you approach funders (any funders, this is not an ACE-specific issue) with a sense of absolute entitlement to their money, it a) is usually misplaced as most programmes are competitive b) it can suggest either naivety or intransigence and c) it just rubs people up the wrong way. So make it clear you understand they don't have to fund you, but they'd be wrong not to.

Then, let them know what you do with their money. Keep them informed, not by simply following the payment conditions and so on or doing the minimum reporting, but by sending them invites to see activity or updates, by talking about the fact that they've funded you to do what you're doing, by mentioning them in your press activity, by dropping them a note afterwards to say how brilliantly it went. (Don't fret if they can't come: there are simply not enough hours in the day, it's nothing personal.) If you want to get on the good side of a funder, you don't have to agree with their latest strategy or all their decisions - just send them a card or even just an email and say thanks for their help. (Send it to the officer or adminstrator that helped you, not the boss, by the way - the boss will hear about it anyway.) It doesn't take long, and don't go over the top with your gratitude, but it will help when you next approach them. It might also make a better starting point if you need to complain, campaign or otherwise become disgruntled with them.

This may sound simple and trite, I know. But if it's that obvious, why do so few people do it?


Anonymous said...

we can only comment on ACE but the frustration in dealing with you guys (not you specifically) comes from the the seemingly random nature of making awards, unnecessary documentation (repeatedly asking for information that has already been provided), the glacially slow turn around time and many other frustrations.

perhaps after the six month process is complete and the person coming out the other end has managed to land £7,000 (or whatever) they feel disinclined to be thankful and are just happy the ordeal is over until they have to try the whole sorry process again.

understanding works both ways!

Mark Robinson said...

Yes, absolutely agree it cuts both ways. Processes can feel laborious I know. (Though I feel obliged to point out for other readers it's a six month process only if you take 3 months writing the application as the turnaround time even on larger grants is 12 weeks - and certainly in my region we hit that 99% of the time in the last two years.) Maybe I over-emphasised the 'manners' bit. My point is even if you're cheesed off at a funder's process it's self-defeating not to talk to them after they've made an award, not to involve them - maybe they can even help as you go along.