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Fundraising also important to the cultural field - Our Guest of the month is Heidi Lehmuskumpu

14/05/2021 - 10:45 to 15/05/2021 - 10:45

FinnAgora is starting a series of interviews, where we publish a monthly interview with an interesting guest. The second interviewee in the series is Finnish communications, marketing, fundraising and stakeholder relations specialist Heidi Lehmuskumpu. Lehmuskumpu will be a key note speaker at Art is Business event, organised by the Hungarian PR-company kortársPR the 14th of May. The event will be held online. 

Photographer: Mikko Käkelä 


Name: Heidi Lehmuskumpu

Occupation: Communications, marketing, fundraising and stakeholder relations specialist.

Education: Master of Science (Economics) from Aalto University’s School of Economics, Master of Music (Arts Management) from Sibelius Academy in the University of Arts Helsinki, Master of Science (Fundraising and Grantmaking) from New York University. Writing a doctoral dissertation at University of the Arts Helsinki, Sibelius Academy.

Professional history: Development (Fundraising) Manager for the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, Development (Fundraising) and Alumni Relations Manager at Faculty of Medicine at University of Helsinki. Now working as Manager of sustainability, investments and ESG at  the Ilmarinen Mutual Pension insurance company.

Hobbies: Running, going to the gym and yoga. Volunteering for the Rotary Youth Exchange programme. A passionate fan of jazz; sings in multiple bands.

Lives in: Helsinki


In May you will speak at the Art is Business online event that is organized by the Budapest-based PR company Kortárs PR.  Have you ever visited Hungary or is the country a new experience for you?

Unfortunately, I have never been able to visit Hungary myself, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. My former hairdresser had connections to Hungary, and she praised the local culture and wines. And when I was studying for my Arts Management degree, I had a Hungarian classmate who told me a lot of good things about the country. This coming event will surely further inspire me to visit.


Your profession is a communications, marketing, fundraising and stakeholder relations specialist. What does it mean and how did you end up in your career?

The common thread throughout my whole career has been communications and stakeholder relations. I’ve seen these things and worked with them from multiple points of view: as a reporter, in the business world, and in both art and academic organizations. To me fundraising is creating long-lasting relationships through communications, marketing and sales. It has been great to develop fundraising at both the Finnish National Opera and the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Helsinki. Nowadays my main job is in the business sector, but I still do fundraising consulting and lecturing on the side. I am also writing a doctoral dissertation about art organizations’ fundraising for Sibelius Academy at the University of Arts Helsinki.

I am sure that behind my choice of occupation was a desire to inspire, tell compelling stories and get others involved in things that are important to me and my organization.

The basic idea of fundraising is very important to me. You get to develop the operations and build stakeholder relations for an organization whose work you find to be important. For example, performing arts are important to me, and that is why I ended up working for the Opera.

Fundraising is also inspiring work: you get to innovate with all means of communications and colours of the rainbow, and to develop different campaigns for different target audiences.


What does fundraising look like on the Finnish cultural field and how has it changed during your career? 

I’ve done fundraising for both the cultural and academic fields. Comparing the two I must say Universities are around 10 years ahead of art organizations. Universities started developing their fundraising activities strongly around the year 2010. Around the same time, the universities’ alumni activities started developing. That is closely connected to fundraising because the alumni is the group of stakeholders closest to the university. Of course, some universities have done more than others, depending on the size of the organization.

I see the word fundraising referring to the asking side, so it is a title for the party that creates relationships and brings money into the organization. The money can come in in many forms: as grants from foundations, as donations from individual people or organizations or as sponsorship deals with companies. In the cultural field the focus has traditionally been on sponsorship deals and partnerships with companies. Also in the past organizations could receive donations but they didn’t actively ask for them. We’ve had patrons throughout history, but it is a new development that art organizations have started to actively communicate and build their organizations in ways that enable asking for donations publicly.


What kinds of things affect the funding of the cultural field in the future and what kind of developments can we expect to see in Finland?

I believe the COVID pandemic will increase the public's understanding that culture and arts need and deserve support as much as other fields. I hope different recipients for possible support will be treated equally by the government as well.

I also hope and believe that in ten years philanthropy and the idea of giving back from one’s wealth is a part of Finnish banks’ financial management plans - as it already is abroad. By this I mean that when a wealthy person buys financial management services, he/she would also be told about different options for donating part of the wealth – instead of just buying stocks or investing. Especially in the US it is normal to ask how much of one’s wealth one would like to donate to charity.

I hope that in the future the management of art organizations will also see fundraising as an investment: it doesn’t bring in money immediately, it is meant to build relationships. Money will come when these relationships flourish.


Do you have some fundraising tips for artists, theater groups or other actors in the cultural field?

There are many possible paths. Publicly asking for donations from a large group of people requires a fundraising permit and in that case you have to make sure to get the bureaucracy right, but the other paths don’t require it. It all starts with the organization top management being behind the cause. Then you will need to think of the strengths of the organizations and use those to compose your case for support - why should the money be given to your organization, why right now, and what exactly will be done with the money. Then you will have to think of the channels and practices that can secure you the funding. And where you can find the most favourable target audiences: those whose hearts beat for your particular organization.

I also recommend forgetting unnecessary modesty. The moment fundraising starts to look like begging it fails. The key is to believe in your organization and to excitedly invite others to help grow a stronger future for the organization.


Nowadays it is also fairly common to evaluate cultural events based on their impact. In your opinion, how does this affect the fundraising in the cultural field?

I would flip it this way: every donor, partner company or foundation wants to see what is done with their money, where it goes and what kind of added value is created with it. The challenging part is that when it comes to the arts, things can’t always be downright measured. But the bright side is that this forces the art organizations to consider what the money is needed for, and what exactly is done so that there is a clear purpose and need for the money. Of course, every arts organization needs to create added value - otherwise the organization wouldn’t exist. If the artists just work among themselves and no one else is affected by it, the organization in question is just a working group for artists. But I also hope that art keeps its intrinsic value: art is good in itself and it raises us above our daily lives. It doesn’t always have to heal illnesses or improve our health. Our hearts need the goodness and the shaking art provides, but that is of course difficult to measure.


Can funding coming from a single source affect the freedom of art? For example, if an institution funds a theater group, can it affect the kinds of pieces the group produces?

This is a classic devil scenario in the fundraising field. We are often asked how far fundraising can go while still preserving the freedom of art. In the best case scenario the arts organization and its management decide their operational idea, foci, and goals for the next ten years. Then they communicate this in a way that draws in parties that believe in their message. In the worst case scenario the organization hasn’t defined these things and messages for themselves, and that is when the organization can start drifting based on others’ requests and propositions. Another reason why things can go wrong is if the donor only thinks of their own benefit, and not the organization’s.

Abroad many organizations have a gift acceptance policy that defines what kind of donations can be accepted. For example, it is possible to rule out accepting money from the tobacco industry. Of , this can’t be limited endlessly because before long you end up ruling out all possible funders. But in an ideal situation a donor, partner company or other funder doesn’t control the content of art, it runs as its own train.


What is something interesting that you see in the future of the fundraising of the cultural field?

One thing is what we talked about earlier, that banks take up suggesting donating part of the wealth as a part of their financial management plans: that wealthy people are asked how much of their wealth they would like to donate to charity and whether they have an arts organization in mind that is important to them. I think that is an intriguing idea that I wish to become more common.

Another thing is donating through a will. Many people would have the option to give part of their wealth to, for example, an arts organization. Many single people have their wealth tied up in their apartments, in which case a will is the only way to make a significant donation and leave their legacy to a cause important to themselves.

Overall, I wish planning a will would not be considered a taboo and that people would start it on time. In English there are the phrases legacy gift that refers to one’s inheritance, and planned giving that refers to all planned donations in general. A legacy gift as part of the will can be planned as naturally and in a timely manner as other aspects of your life. It means that you care about other people and the organizations that are important to you.


Rebecka Vilhonen, FinnAgora