Rhiannon Mckay Smith, Director of Development at The Lowry
- Arts and creative
Name: Rhiannon McKay-Smith
My job title: Director of Development at The Lowry. The Lowry is an art centre in Salford, that has three big theatres and an art gallery. We do loads of work out in the community with young people and we have an artist development programme where we help upcoming artists develop their careers.
How I got the job… there isn’t a professional qualification, although there are some things you can do along the way. I did a Geography degree at Bristol University, which isn’t linked to the arts but taught me a lot of different skills. We learnt presentation skills, collaborative work, feedback, research, and all of those things came together I started off my career doing temp work in PR, but I really wanted to work for something I believed in and felt passionate about. I started working in a place called Kew Gardens where we had large exhibitions that we’d have to find sponsors for and create partnerships with companies. Following that I worked at the Young Vic – a producing theatre in London –for five years before I came to The Lowry.
My position in a nutshell… It’s a gem of a career if you want to work in the arts, but also if you want to work in the charity sector. It gets you really close to the activity and you often develop projects and move them and help shape them to become fundable so people can invest and support them.
My typical day… there is no typical day and that’s why I like the job. There are various different means for fundraising – bucket funding for individuals, researching people and forging a relationship with people who like the arts and may wish to donate, hosting a dinner and inviting them to find out more about our work. I write proposals for projects we are thinking of doing but need the financial help– that is philanthropy – people who want to give their money away.
We also get money through corporate sponsors and are often finding new opportunities for those– . We have one at the moment that wants a wellbeing hour so we have arranged some artists to do some drawing work with them on Zoom. We also get money through events –galas, dinners on the stage, or dinner in the galleries with famous artists, actors or musicians. We also get money from trusts and foundations – which exist to give money – so I could be putting in an application for that and coming up with ideas with the team on how we can build a great project. There are a lot of emails, phone calls, meetings, a lot of logistics and a lot of writing.
My most memorable moment… My good memories are often quite glamourous and fun and usually involve the events. We had a dinner where Sting the musician sang to our guests and they then went to see a show that he was in. Michael Parkinson did a lovely dinner for us in the galleries where he talked about why he loved The Lowry’s work.
The worst part of my job… when you get rejections. I might spend months on a bid, putting everything together, getting all the ideas, getting the budget straight but it’s really competitive and if you don’t get it it’s always so disappointing but you always know there will be other opportunities.
What are the key skills/attributes needed in your role… Be a people person and be able to multitask and be creative in your thinking and problem solving. You have to like people and enjoy building a relationship with someone. Have good writing skills and be able to to sum up a project in three lines in a powerful way so if someone read it they would want to donate some money.
Advice for someone looking to go into something similar… not many people look into it as they think I do cold calling etc. But there are lots of jobs in fundraising and you can specialise – if you love business and the corporate world you can become a corporate fundraiser, or if you love sitting and writing you can become a trusts and foundations fundraiser. If you like variety and people, definitely consider it. It’s a really nice career – you get very close to the artists and the art – you aren’t making it personally, but you are making it happen by raising the money for it.