In the lead up to Culture Business Canberra, we sat down with keynote speaker Will Dallimore, Director of Public Engagement at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) in London ahead to talk capital campaigns, donor relationships and redevelopment for major cultural institutions.
The RA’s grant of more than £12m from the UK’s Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was critical in enabling the biggest redevelopment in the Academy’s history, providing the organisation with an opportunity to share more of its mission with the public. Will gave us a taste of what’s to come at his Culture Business keynote.
Be the good you promise
As Director of Public Engagement, Will knows the importance of connecting with the RA’s stakeholders. While lottery funding is granted in the style of capital campaigns, it is important to remember that in this particular case the funds come from the ordinary people buying lottery tickets. Knowing and appreciating the stakeholders of all levels of the scheme is essential. ‘There is an implicit promise when you buy a lottery ticket that, even if you don’t win, you are supporting good causes,’ explained Will. ‘As a recipient of this funding, you have to deliver on that promise – you have to be a good cause.’ Proving and justifying the institution’s cause as one of public good is tested through rigorous selection processes, followed up by close scrutiny to ensure the correct use of funds granted.
Trust and rapport
As with any capital project, especially one spread over several years, things change: architectural plans became active worksites, audience research reveals new expectations and thinking needs to change. But how does one shift the thinking which was signed off and committed to four years prior? Will pointed to the positive relationship the RA forged with the HLF as a major key in allowing the RA’s approach to adjust and adapt. ‘It is really important to have developed that rapport and that trust so that [stakeholders] know that you are still going to deliver the set goals and meet the spirit of the project, but perhaps in a better way.’