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Saffron Hall

Cultural Impact Development Fund investment

The acclaimed performing arts venue is using the loan to invest in its fundraising capacity and grow its earned income streams.

Saffron Hall © Roger King

Saffron Hall

Region: South East
Discipline: Music
Investment size: £150,000

Saffron Hall is a critically acclaimed, 740-seat performing arts venue built on the grounds of Saffron Walden County High School. Since opening in 2013, it has grown rapidly and established itself as a cultural centre for the region, with a year-round programme of experiences from across the classical, folk, jazz, and world music and dance spheres. 

Its learning and participation work is integral to its mission of being a community-centred concert hall, and is closely intertwined with its concert programming. The resident orchestras and performing artists work alongside the hall and its community partners to deliver a diverse portfolio of opportunities for local people to take part, from family drumming workshops to music therapy for people with dementia and their carers.

Saffron Hall has also taken advantage of its unique location within the county high school to develop a new model of cultural education provision – not only for the students within the school, but also for students from surrounding secondary and primary schools. The hall runs an annual week-long residency for Year 9 students to work intensively with a performing artist culminating in a performance alongside them on stage, as well as provides access to a performing arts experience to every primary school student in its local area each year.

Building Financial Resilience 

Founded with a significant donation from a major donor, the hall has long held ambitions to become less reliant on a single funding source and diversify its revenue streams. However, following the unexpected early withdrawal of its key donor, it made the decision to accelerate its business transformation plans. These plans contain a two-pronged approach:

  • Identifying and securing new fundraising to plug the gap left by the withdrawal of its key funder
  • Growing its earned income streams to become more financially resilient and reducing overall reliance on charitable giving

Saffron Hall approached the Cultural Impact Development Fund with a request for an unsecured loan of £150,000 to upscale fundraising activities and capitalise on website transactions through catering and merchandise. The investment will be used to hire staff to increase capacity for individual giving, engage two fundraising consulting firms to draw on specially curated Trusts, Foundations and individual giving databases and to make functional and cosmetic improvements to the website, ultimately allowing the organisation to draw on existing and new data sources to achieve its strategic goals.

The data sources gathered from the fundraising consulting firms will provide a strategic pipeline to increase revenue, closing the immediate gap left by the withdrawal of its key funder. Information gathered from the newly renovated website will be used to shape Saffron Hall’s performance season striking a balance between commercial and artistic considerations and help the organisation to develop varied geographic and demographic reach. Additionally, a renovated website with greater functionality will improve user experience and ticket transaction rates, further increasing earned income from ticket sales and add on catering and merchandise items for each performance.  

Achieving greater financial resilience through a healthy business model with replicable and reliable revenue streams will allow Saffron Hall to continue delivering high-quality concerts and participatory music programmes that reach the heart of the local community. By increasing its fundraising and earned income streams, Saffron Hall will strengthen its cross-subsidy model to scale up its learning and participation activities in line with its wider organisational growth, keeping true to its mission of being a community-centred concert hall.

Achieving greater financial resilience through a healthy business model with replicable and reliable revenue streams will allow Saffron Hall to continue delivering high-quality concerts and participatory music programmes that reach the heart of the local community.

Impact Capacity Development

Alongside its investment, Saffron Hall also received access to one-to-one support on its approach to impact measurement and evaluation. With a number of programme strands across its Learning and Participation department, it decided to focus on Together in Sound, its music therapy offer for people with dementia and their carers, in the first instance. 

As the programme is delivered in collaboration with music therapy researcher-practitioners from Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research at Anglia Ruskin University, evaluation has long been a priority, and the partner organisations already had existing tools and approaches for collecting evaluation data. However, working with CIDF prompted the organisations to establish clearer frameworks around its evaluation approach, clarifying the rationale behind its existing data collection approaches, implementing new ones to strengthen its methodology, and clarifying evaluation roles and responsibilities. 

Saffron Hall also worked with CIDF to create a five-year impact development plan setting out its annual social impact targets – a challenging and sobering task for any programme working with people with a degenerative disease, where it is less likely to make any positive change to people’s condition than simply to help them better manage their declining functioning. Its development plan also outlines how the organisation plans to enhance its evaluation approach across its other learning and participation programmes, as well as make better use of its impact data to inform organisational planning and influence practice across the sector. With CIDF’s pioneering use of financial incentives in return for social impact, these plans and targets will also serve as the basis for determining any reductions to its interest rate over the lifetime of its investment.