How to raise funds and organise people

Roger Trapp looks at a consultancy that helps non-profit organisations

Amid the furore about the South Bank Centre arts complex in London receiving £1m of National Lottery money towards a £75m refurbishment, one person at least has cause for celebration. Freda Wooldridge has played a prominent part in developing the fund-raising strategy to attract money to the South Bank from the private sector.

There will be a further application for funds from the National Lottery. But in keeping with her policy of taking a wide view of the issue, Ms Wooldridge, as managing director of consultancy the Friedland Group, is making the sources of potential finance as widespread as possible. And that means maximising revenues from the project site itself first.

As recent visitors to the South Bank may detect, a lot of work has been done in the past two years to change "the way in which the business works and succeeds". For example, the bookshop franchise, which, says Ms Wooldridge, had an arty bias but was not really related to what was going on in the centre, recently came up for renewal. Books Etc was selected from the retailers invited to tender, not just because of its financial projections, but because the company wanted to establish a clear relationship with the South Bank.

Consequently, the theme of special events will be carried over into the bookshop, so that those interested can easily purchase related literature. It sounds like obvious enough marketing, but it marks a departure from the relaxed old days. And it does not suit everybody. Officials of Lloyd's of London, for instance, were apparently not too amused to find the bookshop piled high with copies of a hard-hitting book about the insurance market when they arrived for their last annual meeting at the Festival Hall - especially since the book was clearly selling well.

The South Bank is just the latest body to benefit from the specialist consulting experience of Ms Wooldridge and her team at the Friedland Group. In the past 12 years, a range of not-for-profit organisations across Europe and in activities ranging from the arts, through education and research, to welfare services and conservation have used the company.

The work done for the Aldeburgh Foundation, which promotes music and education in the Suffolk town where Benjamin Britten lived, is typical of what Friedland can offer, at a time when traditional sources of funding are drying up. "The Arts Council is short of cash, local authorities are limited by capping of expenditure," says Ms Wooldridge, and the only answer is to look to the private sector. But there are too many good causes around for companies and individuals to give to all.

Organisations tend to think that she or her colleagues will find somebody to solve their problems. "My approach is that they have to solve their problems themselves," she says.

She helps them to do this by looking at two basic issues. The first is the way in which they run their businesses. Costs are often not too much of a problem, but a lot of work can be done with programming at arts centres - by, for instance, assessing responses to certain shows from different sectors of the audience.

The second is the pricing structure. "The tendency in the not-for-profit sector is to assume that there is not enough money to do what they want to do," says Ms Wooldridge. Dealing with this involves changing the psychology of those involved, so that they realise it is up to them to decide how to provide the best service.

Take an orchestra, she says. There is no point in hiring second-rate conductors who perform limited and predictable repertoires to houses that are less than half full. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra have demonstrated what could be done when someone with imagination is hired.

"No one is interested in supporting something that is half-baked. If the quality of the output is good, people are pleased with the service that is being delivered and more people will make donations because they see it is successful. In the process, morale goes up and the organisation gets better again."

Some situations are more complex, though. Ms Wooldridge did some work for the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in the late Eighties, when those running the site first began to realise that government funding was no longer a certainty. She helped to develop a corporate policy that had as an important aim making clear to the people involved what their roles were. It also set out to identify priorities and programmes, as well as to devise a structure for the organisation.

One result was to find the money from the private sector to fund £2m- worth of research projects a year. But the changes are creating management problems, and, after a gap, the Friedland Group is back at the gardens, essentially running a "management of change" programme.

The consultants are assisting particularly with the transformation to information technology of a highly specialised research body. But they are also attempting to deal with a situation in which scientists are having difficulty making the transformation to successful marketeers.

"You've got to work out where the opportunities are, but make sure it fits comfortably within the organisation and that the management situation is comfortable," says Ms Wooldridge. "You don't want the tail wagging the dog."

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