PICA Philanthropy Program – A Marathon Not a Sprint

PICA successfully raised funds by engaging new audiences and encouraging existing ones to support them.

PICA Philanthropy Program - A Marathon Not a Sprint

In 2008 when PICA’s journey into philanthropy began, PICA was heavily reliant on static Government funding, had a minimal, ad-hoc sponsorship history and did no philanthropic fundraising. Our audience was largely young people – artists and students with a limited ability to give – and saw PICA as a free resource. PICA was also not well connected into the top end of town.

However, PICA had an ambitious artistic vision and program. Our challenge was to engage new audiences and encourage existing ones to support us. This involved building new relationships with people with the capacity to give and an interest in contemporary art and culture. We also wanted to encourage our existing audience to understand the need for support and begin to consider the idea of giving – even if it was a small amount to begin with.

PICA was keen not to take advantage of the artists it was established to support. We did not want to impose on artists’ generosity. This was very important to us. We hated the idea of asking artists to donate work to raise money, recognising that they already give so much of their time and skills. We wanted a development program that supported artists directly as much as it supported them indirectly through PICA – staying true to these principles has been one of our successes.

Our targets:

  • Achieve goals efficiently with a small team with limited resources to invest
  • Stand out from the crowd – be new, different, innovative in our approach – as a contemporary art space our offer had to be different those organisations with more established programs – AGWA, WA Ballet, etc
  • Manage the perception that we were a large public institution and most programs were free
  • Build a culture of philanthropy in WA


PICA participated in Creative Partnerships Australia’s Philanthropy Mentoring Program in 2008 (then Artsupport Australia). Our first steps involved approaching those closest to the organisation and recognising that all our Board members were individually supporting PICA already. We then did some simple market research using vox pops and focus groups across our constituencies. This included meeting with groups like the Young Guns at Allens Arthur Robinson and other corporate groups, which demonstrated we couldn’t launch straight into major gifts program. However, it was clear that these ‘young professionals’ were keen to engage. It was also clear that we had to start by building up PICA’s profile and the idea of supporting contemporary arts. This feedback was encouraging and inspired us to take the next step.

PICA recognised that our steps into philanthropy had to take the whole organisation on the journey, from front of house to the Director and Board – everyone needed to clearly understand the need for support and how it would impact on the organisation.

PICA activated a layered approach to its pursuit of philanthropic support as a way to capture existing and new contacts and offer a inviting giving pathway. Patience was required, as the effort out-weighed the benefits for a while. Yes, there were times when we nearly packed it all in! It initially seemed to take so much of our time and the rewards were certainly not instant. However, persistence paid off and we are glad that we remained patient because we are reaping the benefits now and we have found ways to integrate the philanthropy program into our operations so it isn’t so demanding on our limited resources.

The philanthropy program is layered to involve all. It includes:

  • Donation box – bespoke representation of the PICA building with the narrative that all donations matter and have an impact
  • Instant Philanthropist – you don’t have to be a millionaire to make a difference
  • Art 1000 – launched in 2009 with two donors! A $1000 donation/membership providing enriched PICA experiences
  • PICA Salon – a flagship annual supporter event. Took many many months to develop the concept. Sophisticated, art and artist focused – true to the PICA brand – but also fun and accessible for our supporters. A thank you, and catalyst to donate and support artists
  • Major Gifts – came later, with maturity and grew from the loyal donor base


The results of PICA’s approach included:

  • Approximately $1.5million in private sector support in the first 10 years
  • Private sector support now represents 20% of total income
  • Reduced reliance on Government funding from 87% to 54%
  • An average 85-90% donor renewal rate each year
  • We have undertaken ambitious new projects and programs – Spark_lab growing future innovators, a schools education program as well as large scale national and international project.

Unexpected discoveries:

  • We enjoy it! Who would have known. PICA Salon has even become an exemplar model for how we all work together and has been applied to all our projects
  • Greater support for artists through the donor program
  • Significant industry and media attention
  • Donors have introduced us to sponsors
  • Sponsor employees have become donors
  • Pyramid of giving actually works – and quite quickly
  • Partnerships are crucial as a way to cut costs, keep the program fun and varied and expand our networks… commercial galleries, fashion and design initiatives, publicists, institutions, eg MCA

Keys to our success included:

  • Knowing our people and meeting their expectations
  • Changing things often to refresh and surprise donors – innovative, interesting and fun!
  • Providing ‘money can’t buy’ art experiences, eg Curator’s tour to Naples and Taipei
  • Establishing a close knit and growing group of donors who have created a social circle with a shared passion for contemporary arts
  • Building loyalty – it takes time
  • Unswerving commitment to our values – no compromise

Arts Support/Creative Partnerships provided:

  • The catalyst and confidence to commence the fundraising journey
  • Support for the program through local WA manager mentoring
  • Plus1 funds to drive campaigns through the ‘double your donation’ message


  1. Fundraising is a whole of organisation activity – from the Board to the curatorial, front of house, gallery and performance space staff, to the quality of the security staff at events for a consistent message across the organisation
  2. There is no shortcut to building loyalty. A long term, loyal donor brings so much more to the organisation than their initial cash donation – passion, friendship, networks and advocacy
  3. The campaign doesn’t ‘start’ or ‘stop’ – it is a year-round, front of mind activity
  4. Stewardship is about understanding and meeting the donors needs and responding to what they are seeking in their partnership with the organisation
  5. Fundraising is not hard if you are passionate about your cause and true to your values