Today’s inspiration steps it up for one of London’s iconic museums

  • Share:

Welcome back to our Step it Up Campaign, where our aim is to inspire others to become more active in charity work by sharing stories of social responsibility. Today we hear from the charity side of our campaign.

Meet Michael Linington

Michael  is Head of Major Gifts within the Development Department of London’s iconic Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). Here he shares how volunteers and their help are so necessary to the institution.

Michael L FinalTell us about the V&A and your role in it.
“The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design with a mission of enriching people’s lives by promoting the practice of design and increasing knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of the designed world. Founded in 1852, the V&A houses a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects amongst an unrivalled collection of contemporary and historic art and design. It houses some of the world’s greatest resources for architecture, fashion, photography, theatre and performance, sculpture, contemporary design, ceramics, Asian art and design, furniture, textiles, jewellery, metalwork and many more.

My role involves securing high-level philanthropic donations towards the activities of the museum be that infrastructure projects, acquisitions or exhibitions. I lead a team of six that work primarily with high-net-worth individuals who are keen to see the V&A thrive and are vital in making the Museum’s collections available to all. This is particularly pertinent as Government support of institutions like the V&A is gradually reducing.

The larger Development team of which I am part works across all facets of professional fundraising (including corporate partnerships, membership schemes, legacy and endowment) and secured approximately £27 million towards the activities of the Museum in the last Financial Year.”

 Would you prefer help or straight forward donations?
“There’s no simple answer to this as we rely on both. My work is driven by financial targets and exists ultimately to secure funds; donations which are essential to achieving the many demands and aspirations of the Museum. That said, securing donations of this level is near impossible without the help of senior volunteers such as Trustees, advisors and advocates who share in the mission of the institution. Of course, donations do not always manifest only financially; we always welcome discussion regarding relevant pro-bono support and gifts-in-kind, such as the donation of objects that fit within the Museum’s curatorial strategy.”

How important are volunteers? What sort of work are volunteers doing?
“Volunteers are vital to the success of the Museum from welcoming the public at the main entrance to those that advise our senior management team and influence the strategic direction of the Museum. We value volunteers across the breadth of the Museum’s activities; some of our closest donors are also volunteer guides and it would be impossible to keep the Museum functioning with out this kind of broad and varied support.”

Do you offer training or would you prefer people come in with that skill-set?
“The senior volunteers that I work with are often chosen because of their pre-existing skill-set, achievements or industry contacts. In my role, we tend to collaborate with volunteers who have developed and honed their skill-set throughout their professional life and are willing to share this with the Museum.”

How long do volunteers tend to stay with you?
“We always hope to build a long-standing partnership with our senior volunteers. Of course, there are often regulations regarding term lengths with the role of Trustees and those involved in operating committees but it is hoped that the relationship between individuals and the Museum will endure as long as they remain passionate for the cause.”

 What sort of people are you looking for?
“In my role, I am looking for influential and well-connected figures, respected in their industries, who are passionate about the V&A’s mission and are willing to open up their address books (and wallets!) to help the Museum achieve it’s goals.”

Do you have any advice for people thinking of volunteering on how to choose a charity or what to do?
“My main piece of advice is to take it seriously and treat it as you would employment. Charitable organisations, especially in the current climate, function as businesses do and are under immense pressure to perform; it can be condescending to think of charities otherwise. Professional fundraising within arts and culture is an incredibly competitive environment and often relies on strong voluntary leadership to achieve a myriad of goals, some that would seem impossible at first suggestion. With that in mind, volunteers should be true to their interests and always have a passion for the cause they offer themselves forward for. Be realistic with your capabilities in relation to your other commitments and really consider what the role will entail: do you really want to go to additional business meetings outside of your day job? Are you prepared ask for favours from your network? Are you comfortable to publicly advocate for a cause when it’s maybe fallen out of favour? Don’t volunteer because you think you should; volunteer because you want to and are sure you can make a tangible difference.”


Please check back often for more Step it Up interviews,
and get in touch if you would like to share your own story!


Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *