Imagine you are in a room full of experts in your field and you are wondering what the story behind their success is and how they made it so far?
Now let me take your focus back to the first word of the previous statement – ‘imagine’. Yes, you can only imagine these things when it is almost impossible for the ‘new kid on the block’ to receive an invitation to a room of experts, let alone have their curiosity satiated. I was the ‘new kid’ up until last month, with goals of landing projects and sponsors, instead of concrete plans for the same. Theoretical knowledge and practical experience go hand-in-hand. India is still developing in the field of artistic fundraising and that explains the dearth of literary resources and case studies based on Indian data. So, I enrolled myself in the course Leadership in Arts Fundraising offered by University of Leeds on FutureLearn in collaboration with Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy. I went from being a confused freelancer in the field of artistic fundraising to a more confident and trustable leader in my organisation in the course of three weeks.
Why I took this course
In India, there has been an obscene rise in the socio-economic disparity between the wealthiest and the poorest following the pandemic. (Oxfamindia, 2021) I decided to work towards closing the gap between the resourced and the under-resourced through my entrepreneurial venture in this field. Being a musician with a degree in Financial Economics and a diploma in Music, I wanted to merge the analytics with the emotions and the business with art. I had an organisation to lead and no prior experience to bank on. This course, curated by Dr. Jonathan Price seemed to be tailor-made for me as it answered all my questions. Dr. Jonathan Price is a lecturer in Creativity and Enterprise at the School of Cultural and Performance Studies in University of Leeds and his research explores management, governance and leadership in cultural organisations among other things.
The course introduces the learners to strategic plans to direct and evaluation models to discern the performance of an organisation. The course further elaborates on how an organisation should identify and nurture their stakeholder relationships, how the leaders should remain transparent regarding their vision and values and how to minimise risks in response to crises. Personally, I found the testimonials from senior cultural leaders from around the world to be the most useful – be it incorporating a solution oriented approach towards feedback (Sarah Coop, Artichoke) or learning from failure (Arundhati Ghosh, India Foundation for the Arts) or the more amusing fact that “ no one ever died asking for a gift from someone directly”, referring to being upfront about asking for money (Christine Stanley, Signature Theatre). Each interaction with Dr. Price on the discussion forums gave me additional insights to ponder on. My laptop screen features his advice on a sticky note as a daily reminder – “Only make promises you can keep, and if you over-deliver that’s brilliant, but if you under-deliver that erodes trust”. Is that not true for life as well?
Grading and time commitment
As the course nears the end, the learner is required to cover 90% of the course material and achieve 70% in grades to complete this course. On completion, they are awarded the certificate of achievement that records learning for 8 hours of Continuous Professional Development (CPD). I studied around an hour or two daily, considering my elaborate note-taking process and managed to score a perfect 100% on the summative exam. The summative quiz may seem easy at first glance but it is, in fact, a good way to ascertain the student’s ability to pay attention to detail and their analytical accuracy in choosing from the multiple-choice questions.
Overall, this experience was brilliant, productive and expansive. I came here as a brand-new entrepreneur in the field of Artistic Fundraising but three weeks later, I am an entrepreneur with a strong foundation of knowledge, guidance and direction. I would like to thank Dr. Jonathan Price, University of Leeds, ‘Art, Fundraising and Philanthropy’ and FutureLearn for providing this opportunity to international students like me, who might not otherwise get access to the course. I would further encourage future learners to opt for this course and earn an opportunity to learn from academicians and leaders from around the world. As a cherry on top, it is a low-cost, affordable method to pursue learning from top universities without our physical presence.