Moving digital philanthropy up in the arts agenda

Mary Jane Edwards & Andy Hamflett are co-directors of research agency and consultancy AAM Associates. This post follows their presentation on Digital Philanthropy in the Arts at our 2014 conference in Bristol.

Money - Black and White Money
Photo by @Doug88888 used under Creative Commons

The Ask

My colleague and I went to see The Valley of Astonishment at the Young Vic a few weeks ago and on our seats was a little bit of paper telling us how the work of artists in France was under threat due to proposed changes to their unemployment benefits. We turned the note over and were surprised to find there was no ‘ask’ not least to spread the word to raise awareness, but even to give funds to support their campaign.

Now, this example isn’t even so close to home but aside from membership offers, adding a donation to my ticket purchase and popping a few pounds into a Perspex box we rarely get asked for money.

Crowd funding aside (although there a few new platforms to note: Art Happens, Patreon, Tocyn,) – examples of digital philanthropy in the arts are still thin on the ground. So we started to explore why that might be, placing the arts in the broader context of the charitable sector, and the broader importance that engaging with digital philanthropy will have.

Individual Giving

The total amount of money raised from individuals by arts organisations 2011/12 was £372m1, which equates to the same as for one social sector charity, Cancer Research UK. Whilst on the face of it this may seem crude comparison, it made us think.

There have been numerous calls for the Arts to shout louder about its charitable status, and we don’t doubt that the numerous reports and debates highlighting the case for, and value of, Arts and Culture are doing their job, especially in relation to their contribution to the economy. But we can’t help feeling like the sector is missing a trick.

We believe investing in digital approaches and learning from social sector charities can help organisations develop the right articulation of their social value that will resonate emotionally with individual donors.

The Digital Landscape

71% of UK phone users have a smart phone, 86% of UK charities accept donations online, mobile in-app spending is predicted to rise to $16,9bn by 2018 and the UK is currently 2nd in the global monetary giving league.

There are numerous community and tech led examples of online giving utilising mobile phone functionality from: Donors Choose to Charity Miles, to Watsi. All of which focus on specific asks, building relationship, emotional resonance, social sharing – and even some of them feel behind the curve!

What’s clear is we can learn and experiment with specific digital giving platforms – and that is in many ways a sensible starting point – but the real debate is much broader than that.

Digital Touch Points

With the rise in mobile use and an increasingly data-driven economy, the potential for knowing more about supporters is only going to grow, and exponentially. Who are they? Where are they? What are they doing? What do they like? The range of digital touch points to gather this knowledge is expanding by the day, aside from more traditional modes of communication like websites, e-mails, gift shops, points of sale, people are able to attract attention through Gaming Apps, Wearables, Wi-fi pings, etc.

Thinking digitally, what are the users’ needs at all of those points? Where will they experience emotional impact? Where, when and how is the right time to ask for a donation? Or to sell? Listen? Broadcast? Joke? Consult? Co-create?

The potential for user-based modeling in philanthropy is tentatively being explored. The Science Museum recently tracked the walking movements of visitors and noted that their pathways meant that many bypassed the fundraising desk and the information point. By redesigning the space they increased donations by 80%. How might that be extended into the digital realm?

What potential does the future hold when there are so many digital engagement and tracking tools? Cities and shopping malls are even experimenting with anonymised data capture from smartphones, so they can see the routes citizens and shoppers take, where they linger and what that might reveal. At least a dozen UK shopping centres use this technology, by tracking how phones interact with their wifi signals. How soon before some of the larger arts organisations buy into this?

Arts & Tech Incubators

The cross pollination between art and digital technology is nothing new, but the rise of the modern day ‘maker’ movement and interest in digital tech labs have seen an array of traditional institutions and other actors come together to create new programmes for art and technology, to cite a few:

In comparison with such spaces there’s little talk about how advances in tech are driving changes in business models or fundraising in the Arts. Furthermore, there’s a distinct lack of leadership from funding bodies in the sector around Digital Philanthropy in general.

The National Funding Scheme launched in March 2013, was a step in the right direction, but as the initial figures suggest the project will inevitably take time to embed and grow. However, following on from great projects such as Happenstance a technologist-in-residence programme (they also nail the argument organisaitons need to be ‘digital by default’) – Nesta’s Digital R&D fund recently announced funding for a series of projects investigating the potential of big data.

Which pertinent since it is undeniable is that the arts organisation of the future will have to have a strong handle on its data, and have robust systems in place to handle it. Within that, and as part of a considered digital framework, there will be ample opportunity – in simple, old school terms – to ask your supporters for help.

The Sliding Scale

As cited above, no one is going to crack digital philanthropy without cracking digital itself. There’s inevitably a sliding scale of views within charities about what ‘going digital’ means, from: getting the database sorted, hiring a social media intern, to having a mobile optimised site to thinking digital, and thinking mobile first. But what is worrying is that the philanthropy angle seems to be at the bottom of the pile in discussions about technology and the arts.

We believe digital philanthropy should become a far more prominent part of those conversations.

Mary Jane Edwards & Andy Hamflett are co-directors of AAM Associates, a research agency & consultancy.  They are conducting research into data driven business models and digital fundraising and would love to hear from people interested in this space, or with case studies to share. If you want to get in touch, please contact Mary directly.

Digital Marketing Academy launches

Digital Marketing Academy fellows
We’re very excited to announce the launch of the CultureHive Digital Marketing Academy, a seven-month programme to drive digital marketing innovation in the cultural sector. Leading marketers from organisations across England have been selected as Digital Marketing Academy fellows to conduct 20 experiments. They are being partnered with six expert digital mentors from around the world – a mix of marketers, mavericks and technologists – who all have a passion for developing audiences. The processes and outcomes of the experiments will be shared widely, in order to benefit everyone in the cultural sector.

The Digital Marketing Academy is entirely taking place online. We’ve created a web-based environment where participants can bounce ideas off their peers, get thinking around the use of digital marketing techniques and technology and find new ways of working.

The Digital Marketing Academy fellows include professionals from across the arts sector. Fellows and mentors were welcomed to the programme at an online launch event by Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair of Arts Council England. Three leading international digital marketing and technology practitioners then presented a series of provocations to kick-start the first round of experiments. You can view the provocations online. The Digital Marketing Academy website will be continuously evolving, with input from the wider sector as well as the fellows and mentors, to help drive digital innovation in the cultural sector.

Carol Jones, who is managing the Digital Marketing Academy, said: “The Academy is focused on driving new ways of thinking, doing and sharing approaches to digital marketing. It’s all online and focused on marketing experiments, but that doesn’t mean it’s all about tech or about narrow definitions of innovation.

“It’s really about putting audiences back at the heart of digital, whether that’s improving the customer journey or finding deeper, more meaningful (and fun) ways to engage and take part.”

The CultureHive Digital Marketing Academy is an initiative of CultureHive best practice, managed by the Arts Marketing Association, in partnership with The Audience Agency, part of Art Council England’s Audience Focus programme, supported by Lottery funding.

Digital Storytelling masterclass

In the build-up to the AMA’s masterclass on mobile media marketing on 17 June in London, trainer, blogger and social technologist Christian Payne (AKA @Documentally) tells us why he finds digital storytelling so rewarding – and reveals what to expect from his upcoming event. 

Christian Payne

I’m really pleased to be able to run another masterclass for the AMA. The flow of inspiration when I work with the arts sector is never top-down. There’s always a room full of creatives sharing and collaborating before, during and after the event.

Of the events I’m running at the moment, I find story-making the most rewarding. Whether we are pitching ideas within our organisation, giving a virtual backstage pass to our projects, or sharing content to build our networks and curate audiences, we use stories in every area of our lives. To entertain, explain, educate and engage. We are made of stories.

I believe we all need to take a step back and hone these story-making skills. Whether it be for home, for fun or for professional use, these skills can be used across platforms, across networks.

What is it about?

In my next masterclass with the AMA, we will be using today’s tools and platforms for documenting and sharing, connecting and curating. All that’s needed is a mobile device or tablet to create and share a story of your own.

This event will let you document and share your environment via a mobile device and learn how to upload multimedia from anywhere to anywhere. The course is aimed at artists, marketers and storymakers looking to create, curate, post and share multimedia on a mobile device, be it a smartphone, tablet or iPod touch.

You will learn…

  • How to choose the right equipment and apps for your needs
  • How to create and share multimedia from any mobile device
  • How to take better photos on your mobile phone
  • How to record, live stream and share video on a mobile device
  • How to hone workflow for cross-posting and sharing
  • How to keep your devices powered up in the field
  • How to share a mobile data connection with multiple devices

Intrigued? I hope you can join me in my upcoming masterclass in London on 17 June. Find out more and book online now.

Digital Marketing Academy mentors announced

Today, we’re excited to announce the six digital experts who will be acting as mentors to the participants in our CultureHive Digital Marketing Academy.

Tom Beardshaw Tom Beardshaw (Cardiff, UK) is a founder and partner of the award-winning digital and social media company NativeHQ, who help people use social media intelligently and creatively. He is a digital strategist with a background in anthropology, multiplatform production and social ethics and specialises in the human dimensions of online communications and community building.

DK DK (Wellington, New Zealand) is a Business Designer at Empathy, a service design company. In 2006, he set up MediaSnackers, a groundbreaking organisation that inspired people to learn, work and live differently with social media. He has developed training for a variety of clients including The Gates Foundation and UNICEF and is a sought-after speaker.

Ron Evans Ron Evans (San Jose, CA, USA) is a consumer psychologist and principal consultant at Group of Minds. A leading developer and researcher at the intersection of culture and technology, he explores emerging technology and its impact on consumer psychology/customer decision-making, including the social influence of donation and ticket-purchasing behaviour.

Daniel Rowles Daniel Rowles (UK) has extensive experience across digital marketing, and brings best practice from many years of work with a broad range of international clients. A course director for the CIM, he also trains on behalf of Econsultancy, Utalk Marketing and the IAB. He was awarded Econsultancy Trainer of the Year 2012. He is a lecturer for Imperial College London and Cranfield Business School.

Devon Smith Devon Smith (Washington DC, USA) is the director of social media and analytics at Threespot, a digital engagement agency. She leads a staff who help clients build long-term, high-value relationships with their constituents and measure their impact. She has recently led engagements with clients including the Smithsonian Institution, BBC America and UNICEF.

Dominic Tinley Dominic Tinley (London, UK) is an interactive media specialist. A founding partner at Thoughtsmith, he provides strategic advice on audience engagement with new technologies. He was one of the BBC’s first web producers, and went on to be a development producer at DCMS and Head of Online at the Houses of Parliament. He also provides guidance to the BBC on agile project management.

The mentors will be working with successful applicants, who must be arts marketing professionals with a passion for digital, working within an English arts organisation. You can find out more about applying to become a Fellow in the programme over at the Digital Marketing Academy launch site.

Announcing the CultureHive Digital Marketing Academy


We are offering 20 arts marketers an exciting opportunity to take part in the CultureHive Digital Marketing Academy. This is a fully-funded project which will create innovative digital experiments to develop audiences, with progress and outcomes being shared across the whole sector.

The Academy is open to individuals working within arts organisations, or as a Joint Fellowship (for example, a CEO and a marketing colleague, or a senior marketer working with a coder). Participation is free, and project progress and outcomes will be documented and shared to the benefit of the whole sector.

The Digital Marketing Academy is supported by funding from Arts Council England, and is open to cultural practitioners in England.

Applications are open now. Find out more and apply now at the Digital Marketing Academy mini-site.

Download the full AMA press release about the Digital Marketing Academy (PDF)