Managing ambitous projects at the National Theatre

June, 06, 2017

Agenda talks to John Rodgers, Director of Development of the National Theatre in London ahead of his talk at Culture Business Melbourne, 26-28 July 2017.

How do you determine the potential in a risky project and to what extent is your team involved in this process?

It’s the short term, financially risky projects that might have a positive effect on the reputation or long term sustainability of the National Theatre that my team gets most involved with. When a project is identified that is thought to be an important move to  increase our reach and access or enhance the benefits to our audiences, actors. writers, directors and creative teams, we will work with the Board ,the Executive and Senior team to help mitigate or overcome that risk through finding donors and sponsors . Often the green light can only be given to these initiatives once we have had a chance to talk to our supporter base to impress on them the need for and the potential benefits of such a project and to assess their willingness to support and report back.

What are your top tips to be attractive to existing or new sources of funding?

My top tips to be attractive to existing or new sources of funding is that individuals ,trusts and companies only give to people and organisations that they trust and like. This kind of attitude can only be gained by regular contact ,by listening and showing a genuine understanding of their needs and wishes ,by demonstrating passion, by honest and thorough reporting throughout a project and by keeping them involved and feeling a part of it at all times.

What has your experience taught you about corporate organisations and their perspective on ambitious initiatives?

Companies are normally more risk averse. They will want to know what it will mean to their senior management and  external and internal stakeholders and to their brand/company  reputation. They are, however,  always looking for ambitious initiatives  that will help set them apart from a crowded market place so new and excitingly ambitious  will often be welcomed .Not so Risk.

What are your top 3 tips for an organisation in dealing with a risk which has gone wrong?

When a risky project seems to have gone wrong don’t be afraid to take a bold step to shut down or significantly reduce the risk and keep all the supporters informed. Waiting for a miracle to change things around  will be much worse in the long term than taking firm action as soon as possible however painful it seems in the short term.


Find out more about John Rodgers and join 250 fundraising experts at Culture Business Melbourne, 26-28 July 2017.


National Theatre photo by © Phillip Vile