Posted Aug 13 2021
Light on a Regional Fundraiser: Daniel Poole

For some bonus summer content, we chatted to Daniel Poole, Head of Development at Derby Theatre for our Light on a Regional Fundraiser blog. We discussed how he got into the sector, his career highlights and tips for fundraisers everywhere!

Why did you decide to go into a career in the arts and in fundraising?

I enjoyed[…]working with people on creating funding bids[…]to get their project off the ground. I was having success and wanted to take this further.

Like all good things in life, it was a happy accident. After leaving University, where I studied music technology, I spent some time in temp office jobs whilst trying to promote dubstep nights in Nottingham. Showing my age a little there…. It was during this period that I became more aware of the wider arts sector outside of my interest in music. I started to visit places like New Art Exchange and Nottingham Contemporary in my home town and was really interested in how these buildings and places were run and what the people behind the frosted glass doors actually got up to.

I was lucky enough to snag myself a job at the local Arts Council Bridge Organisation, the Mighty Creatives. I stayed with TMC for 5 years working my way up and really enjoyed my time there. I got to experience the grant giving side of things and really got to understand the impact Arts and Culture could have on people and the places they live. The thing I enjoyed about my job was working with people on creating funding bids and approaches to help leverage further funding to get their project off the ground. I was having success and wanted to take this further.

It was at that point I realized this could be a career path for me, so I made the jump into my first development role and I haven’t looked back since. I have been lucky to spend some time in the Charity sector as well as at large institutions like Tate and now at Derby Theatre, where I play my part in helping an incredible organisation do its work.

What are you most proud of having achieved in your career?

Anything you can do to help make that work happen feels like a privilege, even if it sometimes requires a lot of resilience to get there.

That’s a tough one! I’ve been lucky to work at some amazing places doing world-class, relevant and inclusive work over my career to date. Anything you can do to help make that work happen feels like a privilege, even if it sometimes requires a lot of resilience to get there.

However, it can’t be ignored how difficult this last year has been for those of us tasked with generating fundraised income for the arts. For Derby Theatre this has been a year like no other and, although we haven’t fully emerged from it yet, I have felt my contribution to keeping us open is my proudest achievement in my career so far. This hasn’t been just in my role as fundraiser, but more broadly to help the wider team get through this. I was only a small part of a team effort, but the pressure and relief of securing the funds we need over this period has never been greater. I will never complain again about a difficult financial year target!

Are there any special moments/ fun stories that you will always remember?

A particularly fun moment that comes to mind was a fundraising quiz I organised whilst working at Tate Liverpool, which was a first of its kind for the gallery. It was to celebrate our 30th Birthday and we had Jon Snow (Channel 4, not Game of Thrones) as the presenter on the night.

My job was to sell the tickets, write the questions, plan the event, secure prizes and brief Jon ahead of the evening. It was a loud and fun night, with supporters of the gallery joining the festivities until late. Seeing Jon and one our curators judging the sculpture round (where guests were challenged to recreate Henry Moore sculptures from clay) was one of those wonderfully surreal moments you only get doing this job. The winner got one of his famous ties!

Now in terms of return on investment, it wasn’t the jewel in my career crown – but a great memory none the less!

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Sometimes working in fundraising and development can be isolating, especially in the arts. There is a lot of pressure and you aren’t always the first department people think of when decisions are made. Sometimes when I was younger, I would let this pile up and it would start to make even the simple things hard to do.

So, my advice would be to look up, step back and give yourself a break! Nothing is unsolvable after a good night’s sleep and some time to think.

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