Valuing Board Networks at the Brisbane Portrait Prize

Brisbane Portrait Prize successfully enlisted their Board as a key element of their fundraising strategy

Planning for inaugural The Brisbane Portrait Prize (BPP) began in 2014, with the aim of creating a high-profile visual art event that celebrated Brisbane, its artists, and its stories. After securing significant support from Brisbane City Council and several corporate partners it was clear that additional support would be required to realise our ambitions. Philanthropy was identified as the next viable fundraising strategy. The main difficulty BPP faced in developing a fundraising strategy and compelling proposition was that we were asking people to support an inaugural event; we did not have a finished product to share with potential donors. We overcame this by recruiting Board Members with strong governance experience, a good range of skills and, most importantly, strong networks into a different segments of the likely donor community. A target of $50,000 was identified as an initial fundraising goal that would have significant impact on the capacity of the BPP to deliver to a high standard.



BPP identified Creative Partnerships Australia’s Plus1 grant program to incentivise donors and assist the Board Members to leverage their networks. This allowed us to set a more viable target of $25,000. Branded as “DoubleUP” the aim of the campaign was to identify a range of donors who had previously demonstrated their passion for Brisbane and its strong visual arts sector. The aim was to engage deeply around a common interest to ensure strong relationships that would continue through future campaigns. We were asking Founding Donors to give between $500 and $5,000 each. We approached people within the Board’s networks and those suggested by partners and sponsors. BPP invited guests to two fundraising events; a breakfast hosted by Brisbane’s Lord Mayor and to a cocktail function hosted by Gadens law firm. These events were a success, in part due to presenting a passionate case for support and a very personalised approach. This appealed to a sense of local pride and shared passion of being involved in the creation of a new Brisbane visual arts initiative. Board Members were clear about the purpose of the fundraising events and the expectation of guests to donate or provide other support.



Both fundraising events were successful in securing 20 donations which easily reached the $25,000 target. We not only exceeded the target but also picked up additional cash and in-kind corporate partners throughout the year. In the second year, a major corporate sponsor was secured to the value of $50,000 a year for three years. Key to the success was access to prospective donors, and importantly, being aware of the corporate partner’s areas of common interest, and leveraging this interest to persuade them to become involved. The total number of individual donors tripled in the second year with the total revenue from donations increasing. This was due to the strength of the engagement, built around identifying common interests, and considering donor relationships as long term propositions. The support received allowed us to employ a Project Officer for the first time. This was a crucial step in professionalising the organisation, in terms of systems and communications. It meant we could properly track and follow up potential donors for this campaign and set up processes for future years.