Donor Profile | Stephanie Lyall

A writer, cyclist and Scandophile dedicated to the arts, meet Stephanie Lyall. Stephanie and her team recently ran an ACF campaign to raise funds to take their live art event SQUASH to Festival of Live Art (FOLA). Stephanie also donated to other artists to show her support for their projects.

In our new Artist to Artist series, we chatted to Stephanie about what spurred her to donate to other creatives, and why it matters to her.

Firstly, a challenge: tell us about yourself in 40 words or less.

I’m a marketer and communicator who has built a career in the arts: from theatre to festivals, artist development and visual art, across Adelaide and Melbourne. I currently work for the contemporary art gallery ACE Open in Adelaide.

If money were no object, what work of art would consume or buy?

I’d commission Olafur Eliasson to design me a house! The architectural application of his work is incredible. Either that or personal daily performances by Batsheva Dance Company.

What initially made you donate to another artist’s campaign on the ACF?

Working in the arts means that you cross paths with so many incredibly talented people, and it’s hard not to become invested in their stories and develop a passion for their work – I suppose it’s a bit of a hazard of the job!

I’m a firm believer in the value of every single dollar donated, so even though my contributions are rarely substantial, I know that my support moves an artist or organisation one step closer to achieving their goals – and that’s very satisfying.

I also became involved in giving, because in my line of work I often need to ask for money – which is so much easier to do if you are a giver yourself, and have a personal experience of generosity and philanthropy.

Yes, it can become a bit of a merry-go-round of cash when artists give to other artists; but there are plenty of benefits that come from being on the ride, at whatever level is comfortable for you.

Speaking more generally, if/when an artist or organisation comes to you for support, what do you want to know about them and the project? What makes you want to give?

This might be a frustrating answer, but personal relationships are everything. Even if it’s the best sales pitch in the world if I don’t know you or your practice I’m very unlikely to give. I need to have at least heard of you, if not be personally or professionally connected.

I would say that nine times out of ten on ACF my motivation to contribute is about supporting the artist, more than the project itself. I’m also more likely to support an artist where I can see and understand that contributing at this moment in time will help elevate their career: so it’s important to communicate what the opportunity is for you. On reward-based platforms the balance is a bit different – sometimes it’s the project that’s of more interest than who is delivering it.

Alongside connection, a clear and confident ask goes a very long way. I don’t need the 1000 word spiel that explains the theoretical basis of your practice. I need to know WHO you are (…although hopefully I already do!), WHAT your project is, WHY it’s important right now (to you, to the world), and WHAT you need from me.

Once you have donated to these campaigns, do you like to stay in touch, is it important to you?

Depending on my level of connection to the artist, I’ll generally keep an eye on the project’s progress. Something I LOVE from an artist is a short personal email a few months after the project’s completion to share how it all went and what impact the fundraising made – but I realise this doesn’t always happen, as we so quickly move onto the next thing.

But there’s a lesson to learn about maintaining contact with your donors… out of courtesy, but also in case you ever need them again in the future!

SQUASH at FOLA 2018  SQUASH! at FOLA 2018

Has an artist ever supported your project? If so, how did they do this and what impact did it have on you?

Yes absolutely, artists are always key contributors to projects that I’ve been involved in running. When an artist donates, the strength and impact often comes less from the dollar value, and more from the unreserved validation of your project or idea – publicly showing that they believe in what you’re doing and that they are happy to put their money where their mouth is!

The gesture is often just as valuable as the cash itself. Plus, the more donors that you begin to tally up, the more confident you feel and the more donations you can ultimately attract.

Pre-empting a project’s eventual success with a cracking crowdfunding campaign is very satisfying.

What other ways do you like to encourage and support artists in your network? Eg: letting them know about grant opportunities, attending local exhibition openings etc.

I do all of the normal ‘turning up to shows’ and word-of-mouth things as a way of showing support, but something that I feel like I can really make a difference is with is my skill set – so I’m always very happy to chat with artists and smaller organisations about their marketing, communications and fundraising activities.

One thing I often talk about with artists who are considering fundraising is the misconception that ‘I don’t know who will give to me.’ My response is always ‘have you ever asked anyone?’ It’s always a pleasant surprise to find out who in your network has the capacity and willing to support you practice or project – especially if you work in an area where there is rarely a way to contribute money (or enough money – ticket prices never cover the full cost! But some people are in a position to support at a higher level than your face-value price. You just need to ask).

I also used to be on the board of Renew Adelaide and part of the Format Collective here in Adelaide, which is a great way to support the ecosystem with skills and time (if you have it!)

What would you say to other artists who are thinking about donating to campaigns on the ACF the arts?

Don’t hesitate! Show your support in whatever way you can – and do it now. Every single dollar is a boost to another artist’s confidence, morale, and ultimately their project.

It’s important to know your boundaries – around motivations, and money! – so that giving feels genuine and comfortable for you.

Giving is a great way to understand fundraising and philanthropy, from a personal perspective – it’ll make you a better fundraiser for your own projects.