Circa on harnessing digital

Circa was one of our success stories from Plus1 2014/15. We spoke with Kate Fell, Executive Producer at Circa about their fundraising strategy.

Circa on harnessing digital

Tell us about the fundraising strategy used to raise the Plus1 matched funding target?

Circa’s fundraising strategy was to inspire Circa followers, staff, board, friends, family to give to the company in the first time that we’ve really asked them.

At the same time, we were focused on opening up our doors, and giving more people an insight into the company and the artists at its heart.

The fundraising strategy involved special events, many conversations, and a marketing campaign: all driven through an online platform.

Our message was simple:

At the heart of Circa is the raw humanity of the artists – after their skills and physical prowess has passed, you remember the sweat, their fragility and presence as they put it all on the line.

Help us reach #40kin40Days and Creative Partnerships Australia will match our funds, dollar for dollar. So, your little donation could turn into something big for Circa’s artists.

In developing our campaign, we were very grateful for the advice and support of many experts – including Louise Herron and the philanthropy team at Sydney Opera House, Phillip Bacon – our long-term supporter, colleagues in development and sponsorship roles, Fiona Maxwell at Philanthropy Australia, Simona Sharry at Creative Partnerships, board members and many more. Their open and generous advice helped shape our campaign and our case for support.


Man carries several bodies on an apocaclyptic beach scene

Il Ritorno presented by Circa. Photo Damien Bredberg


Circa’s values are quality, audacity and humanity. These needed to be the basis of any campaign. Louise Herron rightly pointed out that we don’t have the bricks and mortar of the Opera House, however we have the flesh and blood of hugely talented artists and wonderful human beings who art at the core of Circa.

We created an online platform that displayed 20 of Circa’s artists and creative personnel, with each person having a target of $2000. We focused on making it possible for anyone who wanted to support that they could give any amount. We wanted to make the site interactive, fun, easy to use and have a swift response saying thank you and providing a tax deductible receipt. With the help of our good friends at Big Fish, the online platform delivered this and more.

By the time the website was built, the case for support was clear: we had 40 days to hit our target of $40,000. So $40kin40days was born.


How would you describe your Plus1 project and what are the outcomes you hope to achieve?

Plus1 came along at a time when we had the right new creation that needed additional investment – Il Ritorno.

Il Ritorno is Circa’s ground-breaking new work, fusing Circa’s world-renowned stripped-back acrobatics with baroque opera.

Il Ritorno is created by Yaron Lifschitz in collaboration with composer and arranger Quincy Grant and is performed by an outstanding cast of singers and accompanists and the Circa Ensemble. It has been co-commissioned by Brisbane Festival, The Barbican, Les Nuits de Fourvière/ Département du Rhône, CACCV Espace Jean Legendre-Compiegne, Dusseldorf Festival and Les Théâtres de la ville de Luxembourg.

Along with the many supporters for the 40K in 40 days campaign, we were also incredibly grateful for the support from Danielle and Daniel Besen for Il Ritorno.


Following your success in reaching the Plus1 matched funding target, do you feel more confident in your overall fundraising strategy and ability to achieve results through the project?

A key aspect of our fundraising strategy was realising that this wasn’t about hitting a target; it was about changing an internal culture.

Having the full support of Circa’s staff and board enabled the campaign to succeed. This has shifted the way that Circa views future fundraising efforts.

Circa’s fundraising approach is to create value for our partners – through deep engagement, innovation and capacity to deliver. We will continue to apply our passion and creativity to connections and take a long-term approach to forming relationships with supporters who will invest in new creations.


Beyond presented by Circa. Photo Andy Phillipson


Did the fundraising activity bring new donors to your organisation/activity? If so, any tips on how you cultivated them?

To bring new donors into our organisation, we:

• Held a special event in the Circa studio showcasing new work, a special performance from our young performance ensemble Circa Zoo, and a chance to meet and hear from our Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz and our new Chair Sam Strong.

• Presented a special preview performance of a new work that was opening in the United Kingdom, with 100 guests in attendance – this was targeted to Brisbane followers and supporters (but who had not given to the company previously).

• Created an Electronic Direct Marketing campaign and a social media campaign across twitter, instagram and facebook which helped the campaign along.

• Had many direct conversations and discussions with potential donors.



As a result of your project, have you increased knowledge and skills in any aspects of identifying, obtaining and maintaining partnerships in your organisation?

We have increased knowledge and skills in many aspects, particularly the value of obtaining and using data about our audiences and followers; the benefit of allowing people who care about the company to invest and support; and our internal capacity to manage partnerships.


Do you see Plus1 as leaving a positive legacy in your organisation?

Key long-term outcomes include:

  • Our aim was to increase our donor base by 70 people. Circa now has 170 people who have supported the company.
  • A cultural shift in the company with a new culture of internal giving and ongoing connections with supporters – 100% of board, 100% of executive, 80% of all staff gave to the campaign, along with many friends, family, and supporters.
  • It is now a key aspect of the General Manager’s role with support from the Artistic Director/CEO, Executive Producer, Administrator, and Board.
  • A structure for enabling future campaigns to run, centered on ambitious artistic projects.

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