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Trusts & Foundations Symposium 2024

05 Mar 2024

Trusts & Foundations Symposium 2024

Blog by Holly Foskett, Arts Programme Manager 

For over eleven years A&BNI has been working strategically with Trusts and Foundations from the UK and Ireland to increase the volume of applications submitted from NI arts organisations. This has and will continue to evolve into a year-round programme of fundraising intelligence, including research, networking opportunities and one-to-one support. From this, our Trusts & Foundations Symposium remains one of the most impactful in our calendar with offers attendees the opportunity to hear from expert fundraisers and funders from across the UK and Ireland. The symposium also offers a more personal approach to cultivating funders by providing one-to-one meetings. These create an opportunity for both funder and grantee to share their vision and ambition.

Why it’s Important?

To navigate the rapidly shifting funding landscape, arts organisations are assessing their business models and working out how to diversify their income streams. Through our arts membership network and surgeries, we know that many arts organisations do not have the opportunity to adequately research the funding options that are open to them and to cultivate relationships with funders.

Trusts and Foundations support a variety of short term and long term activities and capital costs including: staff costs, equipment, capital costs, core programme, overheads/ operational costs, education and community projects, one-off projects. Through the Symposium, we aim to build connections between funders and arts organisations to help generate  new income sources and support for the Cultural Sector in Northern Ireland.

Over 1,700 UK based grant giving charitable trusts and foundations were registered with the Charity Commission in 2020, with many with funding streams for arts and cultural activity and a focus on access and participation and growth of arts based skills and talent.



What Happened?

This year’s symposium kicked off with an engaging plenary which provided insight with data and case studies on the impact and work that Trusts and Foundations do in the arts sector in NI.

Hilary Copeland, Fighting Words NI, Director, spoke about their organisations’ fundraising journey and shared an insightful breakdown of their funding income which helps make further impact to those who engage with their work. Aspects of what to do when you get a successful application or not were spoken about, alongside what good funder practise could and should look like.

Mimi Turtle, Chief Executive, Strand Arts Centre, focused on their practical approach when it comes to cultivating and researching suitable fundraising and how spreadsheets and data can be a critical tool when it comes to diversifying income and manging funder relationships.

Our funders panel which had representatives from DWF Foundation, Freelands Foundation, The Ireland Funds, Music Venue Trust and The National Lottery Community Fund gave insight on how funding strategies/priorities vary due to specific funder outcomes and the difference in this when it comes to being seen as a smaller or ‘niche’ arts based funder, in contrast to being seen as a wider funder or with various thematic areas of funding.

Karly Greene, Director of Strategic Development & Partnerships, Arts Council NI, shared an in depth look at Trusts and Foundations and their vital role in supporting the arts in Northern Ireland. Trusts and Foundations invest £3.6 million each year into arts organisations, In 22/23, 67% of all contributed income (combined income from sponsorship, fundraising, trust/foundation, and donations) came from trusts and foundations. This has fallen as a proportion over the last three years: in 21/22 it represented 75% and in 20/21, 83%. The most likely explanation for this is the diversification of income streams, especially as income from trusts and foundations has remined consistent over the last three financial years. More information about this can be found on the Arts Council NI’s website

With the data presented we went on to showcase a video (see above) of experienced fundraisers in our sector and their thoughts and tips on all things fundraising. We spoke to some of our arts members who had received funding from DWF foundation, Children in Need and Foyle Foundation as a result of last year's symposium, alongside independent fundraising consultant Dana Segal, and shared their insights on the current climate of Trusts and Foundations funding. 

We also facilitated 90 one-to-one meetings between arts organisations and charitable funders, helping to forge new connections which creates a path to income and support for our cultural sector.

What’s Next?

Already, we have gained so much useful feedback on how we can continue to develop this aspect of our arts programme. With continued research and insight from our arts members network, we will continue to shape our programme to help strengthen fundraising skills in the sector but also help inform funders on the barriers, and needs for specific aspects of funding for the sector.

My take aways from today are renewed knowledge of funding practices and tips on building relations with funders - T&F 2024 attendee

Today has helped renew my confidence in fundraising and helped make new contacts with my peers and funders. T&F 2024 attendee

Following on from the Symposium, we are hosting a Trusts and Foundations Bootcamp on 21st March.  This will give those who attended the Symposium an opportunity to be together to get practical tips for researching potential funds, putting together an application/case of support and help make sense of the guidelines. With the help of fundraisers and the A&BNI team, we will make sure you leave with at least a draft proposal by the end of the bootcamp.

Click to Book Your Spot

We are also hosting Fundraising Connections, which is a pilot programme designed to bring together the network of people fundraising within our arts membership. This is a quarterly peer led, networking and information session for our members to share ideas, resources, fundraising tips, successes, losses, potential funders and more. Fundraising Connections is open to anyone in our Arts Membership network who do not have a designated fundraiser in their organisation to help upskill funding knowledge and plans, look at new opportunities and engage in other aspects of fundraising. If you are interested in attending contact us at 

For further engagement and understanding on the aims and priorities of various Trusts and Foundations, we will be hosting online webinars with some of the trusts that attended the symposium to outline the application process, hear about the work they fund and to further impact to create an opportunity for both funder and grantee to share their vision and ambition. We'll be sharing more about this in the coming months. 

More training opportunities, resources and research for the rest of the year will be posted in due course on our website and sent to our arts members inbox directly!

Thanks again to our brilliant speakers, panellists, funders and our event marketplace stall holders, your invaluable support makes this event possible and good luck to all our Arts Members for their future applications!

For the latest updates on the Trusts & Foundations Symposium and our programmes/research please follow us on X, Instagram and LinkedIn @artbusinessni

From the 1:1 session, I was told to pitch higher! I’d done my research, had our 12 minutes and I am leaving with a clear plan for submission. T&F 2024 attendee

Our Funders & Partners

Arts & Business NI is generously supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.