The principles for values-based donor relationships which have amplified The Australian Ballet’s philanthropic income are revealed in this excerpt from the new book by Kenneth Watkins and Jennifer Radbourne.

In Kenneth Watkins’ 22 years at The Australian Ballet, where he is now Director of Philanthropy, he has raised $88 million in sponsorships, donations and pledged bequests. This has been helped by a transformation under his leadership of the organisation’s approach to philanthropy.

A major part of this has been a shift to values-driven cultivation of donors. This goes beyond the traditional research into people’s motivations for giving, to seeking to understand their needs and values then provide pathways for them to realise these.

Philanthropy and the Arts - Book CoverNow Watkins has joined the academic, Jennifer Radbourne, whose specialty is research and practice in arts management, arts governance and arts marketing, to pen a book, Philanthropy and the Arts. This details The Australian Ballet’s journey and shares lessons that will be invaluable for other arts and nonprofit organisations.

Below is an edited extract from the book revealing the principles of values philanthropy and how organisations can introduce it themselves:

We define values philanthropy as the relational exchange between an organisation and a donor developed through reciprocal understanding of the intrinsic needs and values of the organisation and donor, and fulfilled by satisfaction of needs and application of the gift to achieve shared values and organisational goals.

Values philanthropy is achieved through the following functions in the organisation:

  • Know the intrinsic needs and values of donors.
  • Articulate the core values of organisation in publications, management and marketing activities, and in personal relationships with donors.
  • Provide experiences for prospects and donors to participate, see, hear and feel the organisation, its work and its values.
  • Establish processes to match donor needs and values to organisational needs and values.
  • Support the development team in espousing qualities that encapsulate the values of the art form (or cause), the organisation and the donor, and in building relationships.
  • Ensure an organisational commitment to these values and to donors as investors in the future of the company throughout management, the board and artists or staff.
  • Identify cultivation and campaign plans that respond to donor relationships and donor engagement.
  • Follow up every gift with a values-focused communication and action, relative to the size of the gift.

From this example of values and practice in the field, we have derived a set of principles that The Australian Ballet embraces in cultivation and solicitation.

Principles of values-driven cultivation

1. See every donor as an individual (no formula for major donors).

2. Manage the relationship with each donor to build a meaningful partnership.

3. Know when, during the relationship, to ask for a gift. Be confident in assessing donor behaviour, tone of voice, questions, interest, values and the strength of the relationship.

4. Build self-capacity for maintaining many simultaneous relationships with several donors, from prospective donors to new donors and those donors with potential to make a major gift.

5. Develop the skill for constant storytelling as the means of engagement with donors.

6. Build the donor’s capacity to feel comfortable with the director of philanthropy as trustworthy and honest, as a friend within a meaningful relationship.

7. Be alert and intuitive to meaningful cues in conversations with donors.

8. Implement a regular moves management process where the development team consult about moving a donor to another level based on what has been learned in the relationship.

9. Ensure donors see the director as a conduit to the company. Their major relationship is with the values-driven cultivation art form and the company. They are not giving to the director, but to the company relative to their values.

This is an edited extract from the book, Philanthropy and the Arts (RRP $44.99), by Jennifer Radbourne and Kenneth Watkins, published 1 October 2015 by Melbourne University Press.

You can hear Kenneth share how he secured a landmark $8 million gift at F&P’s Big 4 Fundraising conference on November 23 & 24 in Melbourne, in his case study: major giving at The Australian Ballet.


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