house profile series: venue fundraising and development

David Johnson, The Albany

David Johnson
Role: Head of Development
Organisation: The Albany


We have been looking at the roles that fundraising and development play in the successful running of a venue. Four staff team members from across the house network have been sharing their experiences and perspectives with us. The first person we spoke to was David Johnson, Head of Development at The Albany.

David leads on earned income streams and fundraising for the Albany, Deptford Lounge and Canada Water Culture Space.

Hi David, how did you come to be the Head of Development at the Albany?

I started working at the Albany at the beginning of 2011. Initially my role was to oversee our café and space hire and it’s since evolved to include fundraising. Having worked in the arts earlier in my career, I’d been working in commercial leisure for a number of years and the role appealed because I was interested in applying some of those commercial principles to benefit an arts venue. The Albany has grown a lot over the last five years so my role now covers three different sites and we’ve doubled turnover from 2011, so hopefully it is working!

How do you interact with the public when it comes to fundraising?

No matter who is investing into your organisation, it is all about managing relationships. That means whether someone is donating £1 on top of a ticket sale or £10,000 to support a specific project, we strive to ensure they feel part of the Albany and that their investment counts. We like talking to our funders and work with the marketing team to decide what we want to tell people about, when and how we can best reach them.

Depending on what we are fundraising for we might have a very direct conversation with our audiences about supporting something specific, or there might be a more general case for support as part of our website or social media activity.

Can you explain the benefits to the organisation of funding projects such as the Meet Me at the Albany, the Albany’s older people’s programme?

Participation projects such as Meet Me At the Albany are really central to our ethos. With Meet Me… that’s because we have a massively growing elderly population in the community we’re here to serve, who are not necessarily living as happy and productive lives as they could be. We’re trying to use creative practice and the arts to address that in quite a radically alternative way to most ‘day care’ for older people.

The project is a partnership with Entelechy Arts who are based in the building and in the last year we’ve been able to reach more and more isolated older people as we’ve grown further funding relationships and partnerships around it: Lewisham Homes have worked with us to pilot and then develop pop-up editions of Meet Me At… throughout the borough reaching their residents in sheltered housing and various other settings.

Meet Me …  is a very human project and as such, there is a real imperative to make it continue and thrive because you can literally see and experience the impact it has, especially on a Tuesday when Meet Me At the Albany happens in the heart of our building.

What would you say is the key to implementing a successful fundraising strategy?

Have a good case for support: spend lots of time thinking about why people might want to invest into your organisation or project. It is worth taking the time at the start of a strategy or campaign to make sure you get that right. Make sure everyone in the organisation can articulate that case for support – you never know who is going to meet someone who wants to support your work. When the time comes, make sure you actually ask for the money! It is amazing how many people write or speak really persuasively but forget to actually do that.  Finally, be resilient – no matter how much you plan, you will get knocked back at some point and it is really important to carry on. Look on every rejection as you having successfully introduced your organisation to a potential future donor – if not this time then maybe with the next campaign.