Why fundraise for Arts & Culture?


We live in shifting and challenging times. Money from Government at both Central and Local level is being cut, and the Arts are certainly no stranger to the effects of this. The National Theatre recently reported in an article for Fundraising Magazine that it had suffered a cut of 30% in government funding in the last decade or so. But in these straightened times, why should we fundraise for the Arts at all? Aren’t there more important priorities when people are living off food banks and suffering from poor mental health, to name just two examples?

There was discussion of this in the greatly inspiring recent get-together for RAISE: Arts, Culture and Heritage. This is an initiative funded by the Arts Council that is allowing the Institute of Fundraising to offer training, networking and mentoring to those working in these fields. There hasn’t been enough of this type of opportunity for those working in Arts and Culture, and it was great to be a small part of this initiative, but why is it so important right now, more than ever?

As a child of the 80s, my favourite summing up of this came from Mr Keating in Dead Poets’ Society:

“Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

That was true in the 1980s, another tough decade for the Arts, and it remains eternally true. In the most challenging parts of the world, where far too many people are living in refugee camps, humans always get together to perform, to read to each other, to sing, to paint and create. These activities bring humanity and bearableness to otherwise unbearable situations. They are the things we have always done, not because they perform a useful economic function, but because they are part of what we are as a species. Stories, visual and oral, help us make sense of things. They allow us to walk in others’ shoes and help us imagine new possibilities. They’re about the art of the possible, and in changing times they can create the road map we need to a better future.

We desperately need medical advances, funding for fundamental and explorative science, justice and a whole list of things that are crucial to sustaining life. But we must never forget the things that make us human. There are enough donations to go around, and there is enough funding from government should they choose to deliver it to the hard-pressed Arts and Culture sector. In depression era America, a key part of Roosevelt’s New Deal was greatly increased funding for Arts and Artists, supporting people such as Jackson Pollock and John Steinbeck.

Lobbying governments to change funding is of course worthwhile and should be pursued, and things can change quickly when a new administration comes in. But Arts and Culture have always made their own luck. Against this background, it is great to see institutions getting out, inspiring donors and asking for big gifts, by getting givers to buy into the amazing and transformational things they are doing. They are helping donors to visualise why it is important to support them. They are dreaming in technicolour, and using their incredible spaces and people to inspire philanthropy. Everyone should be doing that – let’s not wait for Government to wake up. To use the words of Shakespeare, “Let us…on [their] imaginary forces work”.

Am I saying anything new in this? No. Does it need to continue to be said and repeated?

All. The. Time.

Go out and ask and ask proudly, and often. Fund the future.

Shaun Horan is Joint CEO and Co-founder of Halpin Partnership, a management consultancy specialising in nonprofits such as the arts and higher education.


Halpin announces Consulting Fellow Bob Rabone


Halpin Partnership, a management consultancy specialising in higher education, is pleased to welcome Bob Rabone to its growing team of Consulting Fellows.

Bob was recently a member of the Steering Group which produced the Financial Sustainability Strategy Group’s report ‘Understanding the Impact of Income Cross-Flows on Financial Sustainability in the UK Higher Education Sector’.

Halpin Consulting Fellow Bob Rabone

Bob is a Chartered Accountant with over 30 years of commercial experience as a Finance Director with private and public companies, operating in a range of sectors. For 12 years to July 2017 Bob was the Chief Financial Officer of the University of Sheffield with responsibility for Finance, Estates, IT, Accommodation and Commercial Services.

He began his career training with Coopers & Lybrand (now part of PricewaterhouseCoopers) before joining a medium-sized accountancy firm offering consultancy services in financial planning, funding and information technology to a range of clients: from owner managed enterprises to public companies. A common thread through all of Bob’s executive roles has been the development of clear organisational strategies during periods of business growth or change.

Bob was chair of the British University Finance Directors Group from 2013 to 2016 and contributed to several HE sector reviews, such as the Diamond Efficiency, Effectiveness and Value for Money review. A focus of his activity in the HE sector has been to aid the better understanding of financial performance and financial sustainability by funders, regulators, governors, staff and students. This focus continues as a member of the sector’s Financial Sustainability Steering Group.

Joint CEO Susie Hills commented, “The breadth and depth of experience that Bob brings to Halpin is unrivalled. He is a respected finance expert and is already delivering great value to our clients.”

Why can we ‘plan and do’ but not review?


It intrigues me that most organisations have formal systematic processes in place for planning and building budgets, but fewer have similarly systematic processes which enable them to review their plans, assess the impact of their work and re-shape budgets accordingly.

It appears that we all find it easier to plan and put new things in place than we do to review how our plans have turned out and, if required, consider how we can dismantle and re-build things. Perhaps most leaders are by nature innovators – delivering new plans and ideas – and less likely to be focused on assessment and review. I certainly fall into this trap and can be magpie-like – distracted by shiny new toys. Yet I have learnt over time that sometimes you have to radically review your approach and re-shape your teams. Even if you are the one that built them up and your plans were sound, unless you are open to changing them you will have less impact.

Often departments build up over time incrementally. A post here, a post there, each one individually justified. The postholders work hard and justify their keep. They deliver results and they plan how they can grow their work. Reviews of these departments and their work tend to only happen when something has gone wrong, results are disappointing, a Director leaves or budget constraints are so severe there is no other way.

And yet the power of effective review shouldn’t just be used when things have gone wrong or when external forces align against us. We should constantly review our plans and consider how we can redeploy our resources in response to the needs of our institution and changes in the market. Locking resources into areas which were a priority and are no longer a priority is wasteful and distracting. It’s a luxury we can’t afford anymore, and ultimately it’s frustrating to those working in that area too – most people are fully aware of the impact they are having and whether their work is seen as a priority by their institution.

The Halpin team have become known for our work on Reviews. Our team approach reviews in a systematic way. We establish the scope and agree objectives. We listen, learn and understand the context. We explore institutional strategy and priorities. We assess the data and evidence – quantitative, qualitative and comparative. We offer observations, recommendations and options. And we peer-review our work to ensure we are drawing in the right insight from a variety of experience bases. Our work aims to take our clients towards best practice in their sector and form an actionable plan to bring about the desired change. This kind of review should be empowering to the client, enabling them to achieve their goals more quickly.

Bringing in an external review team can enable you to consider how you tackle change objectively, dispassionately. It can open up honest, productive discussion on areas which felt impossible to change. It can empower your team to bring about the changes they have been pushing for but unable to secure. It can help you to bring about a culture of regular review by modelling how it can be done in any part of your institution.

The Halpin team are not career consultants; we are people who have delivered change at senior levels in a variety of institutions. We have walked in your shoes and know what it took to bring about change. We work with care and discretion. We value the work you do and want to enable you to do it better.

Whether you work with Halpin to undertake a review or drive the review process yourself internally, building a systematic review process will be essential if you are to be able to respond to the changing marketplace. The key steps are simple:

  1. Establish the scope
  2. Agree objectives
  3. Understand the context
  4. Focus on institutional strategy and priorities
  5. Assess the data and evidence – quantitative, qualitative and comparative
  6. Make clear observations and recommendations
  7. Test findings through peer review
  8. Define options
  9. Establish action plan

Halpin delivers reviews across the higher education sector. Two recently completed projects include a Review of Council Effectiveness at University of Bath, and a Race Equality Review at Central School of Speech and Drama.

 To discuss the particular needs of your institution, get in touch.


25 years in international Higher Education. What’s changed?


I realised recently that 2019 marks my 25th year in international higher education. This made me pause to reflect on what has changed over that period.

This article highlights three key changes – one at individual/operational unit level, one at organisational level and one at national/international level – and speculate briefly on what the future looks like. Observations are based mainly on the UK context, but some elements may resonate in other parts of the world.

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For #IWD2019, let’s start with watching our words

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The headline that “More FTSE 100 CEOs are called John than are women’ is certainly a striking one. A quick tally of UK university VCs tells us that it is not quite as bad in the higher education sector. (You’d need to include the Davids, Stephens, Stuarts, Nigels, Pauls, Peters AND Johns to beat the 25% of female leaders, which is still quite shocking but doesn’t quite have the same impact as the first headline).

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