Opera Europa’s Fundraising Forum in Barcelona offered the most advanced discourse about fundraising at European opera houses that I have witnessed to date. Since the Forum in Milan in 2019, the conversation has moved from the perceived need to fundraise to the ins and outs of actually doing it.
Many houses reported that the pandemic was a significant impetus in advancing their work: individual donors turned out to help sustain operations through the shutdowns. This was evident among our Spanish hosts at the Liceu in Barcelona, as well as across Britain, Germany, and the rest of continental Europe. The opportunity on hand now is how to sustain and grow individual giving programs, while continuing to nurture corporate sponsors.
The secondary theme of the Forum on environmental sustainability also helped focus discourse on specific goals of fundraising. Houses were collaborative in sharing strategies and approaches. Coming from the USA, where we are far behind in environmental activism, the initiatives I learned about across Europe were impressive and inspiring.
The keynote presentation from Hanna Berthaut at the international branding firm Landor & Fitch, delivered thanks to Opera Europa’s partnership with FEDORA within the Next Stage capacity building framework, was particularly impactful in demonstrating the market power that comes from embracing sustainability as a core value. The importance of organizational values — including but not limited to one’s commitment to sustainability — was repeated in presentation after presentation throughout the Forum.
In my own contribution to a panel about brand value and social responsibility, I shared the ways that U.S. opera companies are beginning to embrace values-based fundraising, as codified in a movement called Community-Centric Fundraising (www.operaamerica.org/CCF).
It was a great delight to be able to share some of the latest thinking about fundraising from the United States. Although Europe may be behind us in the trajectory of fundraising, I hope I was able to provide some insights that will guide European houses in further advancing their efforts.
Chief Advancement Officer OPERA America