Fundraising Forum: The Journey of the English National Opera Philanthropist

Foro de Fundraising OLA

Last Wednesday, October 12, a new session of the OLA Digital Forums was held. On this occasion, the theme that brought us together was fundraising, and we had a presentation by the Head of Philanthropy of the English National Opera (ENO) Dominc Haddock, who presented us with the work they do in the task of attracting philanthropists. From prospecting to cultivation, gift-giving, stewardship and legacy we learned about the journey of the ENO Philanthropist.


The English National Opera (ENO), founded in 1931, is one of London’s 2 major opera companies located in the Coliseum theatre. Below we summarise the main points of the conversation.




When prospecting a new donor, there are 3 keywords: Capacity, Propensity and Affinity. The first refers to the economic capacity of the person to give a gift or donation to the organisation. Propensity has to do with the person’s willingness to make donations and finally affinity has to do with the love for what you do. Does the donor loves opera or what the organisation does? This point requires a deep investigation and desk research that does not have to go further than the own database of the audience that visits the theatre. Investigate who they are, who are the most frequent participants, who buy the most expensive tickets, where they come from (municipalities, postal codes of wealthy areas). Another place to look for potential donors is through the board of directors of your organisation. They probably know people who meet the 3 requirements mentioned and will be good ambassadors for the organisation’s mission.




The relationship with the philanthropist or donor requires care and maintenance. There are endless ways to maintain the relationship with donors or philanthropists. The intention or objective is simply to get to know them and for them to get to know the organisation better, for that there are many possible actions such as events to let them know about the season, talks, write notes by hand, invite them to coffee, etc. This stage is slow and takes time. When meetings are generated it is important to listen. To learn about the interests of potential or existing donors and invite them to donate to projects or areas that resonate with their interests and passions. When requesting a gift or donation, it is recommended not to ask for too little. There are research that says that a philanthropist will stay at the level of the first donation they make, so you have to be ambitious in the first request. Another recommendation is to have donation categories for different levels of philanthropists. At this point Dominic does not recommend having too many categories because that also generates more work and investment of resources by the theatre and team. With 3 categories, which provide different levels of contribution is enough.


Stewarding / accompaniment


Like categories, it is not recommended to have many benefits for donors because it generates a workload that in some cases is not reflected in the return. Don’t promise too much and make sure you deliver on what you promise. There are many actions that can be added to this stage such as surprising the philanthropist with a note from the musical director, or an invitation to coffee with the stage manager, or events that include 20 philanthropists to meet the cast.




Receiving a gift from someone who dies (inheritance). It is a process that can take around 11 years between asking the question and receiving the donation. Those philanthropists who choose to leave a legacy receive the same care and attention as any living donor. At the ENO they know that it can be a sensitive subject, so instead of asking direct questions, they pose the question indirectly through the magazine they print. Or they recognize someone’s legacy by highlighting on a wall the names of those who have left gifts or donations. If it was for a contribution to a specific project, highlight that. Another strategy is to hold events where they give legal advice to leave legacies.


About OLA Fundraising Forum


OLA Fundraising Forum is a space created to learn about and delve into fundraising strategies, share experiences from the private, public and mixed sectors, as well as research into instruments and funds that contribute to the sustainability of theatres.


In previous editions we have had the participation of Marisa Vázquez-Shelly, Director of Sponsorship and International Relations of the Teatro Real in Madrid and Helena Roca, Director of Sponsorship, Patronage and Events of the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. As well as with Dan Cooperman, Chief Advancement Officer of Ópera América.


About the speaker


Dominic Haddock is an operatic and classical music fundraising specialist with production experience. He is Head of Philanthropy at the English National Opera, where he leads a team managing annual and project donations from major and mid-tier donors; the American Friends of ENO program; and delivery of legacy. Dominic was previously Head of Development at English Touring Opera and at Spitalfields Music, London.