Ahead of his appearance at ArtsRaise 2023, F&P caught up with Melbourne Theatre Company’s Rupert Sherwood.

Hi Rupert. Tell us about your role at Melbourne Theatre Company including your number one goal for 2023.

As Director of Development, I manage a team dedicated to raising money for Melbourne Theatre Company through philanthropy and corporate partnerships, to deliver our artistic ambition, and help us to fulfil our purpose: to share remarkable stories that enable people to better understand the world around them.

My number one goal for 2023 is to enable the establishment of two aspirational artistic initiatives by securing multi-year funding for each. It can be so rewarding (but also daunting) working on major initiatives that will genuinely change the face of your organisation. Rewarding because, if successful, you can share such a sense of pride, achievement and ownership with the donors who make it happen. But daunting because of the responsibility that sits with the Development team to get there!

What does a day in the life of Rupert Sherwood look like?

I love cycling to the office, as it kick-starts my energy for the day, and acts as a good wind-down at the end.

My days are really varied, and it’s never a certainty how any given week will pan out, but generally they involve lots of meetings with my team, phone calls with Board members and donors and strategic thinking and planning.

I particularly love moving around our offices to talk to people in other departments who do very different things for the business than I do – the New Works department, Production, Casting, Education. Those conversations are crucial for my role, to understand the detail of their work and their challenges and be able to filter that through the stories we tell to our stakeholders.

When my energy is running low, I love to stand in the scenic art area at the centre of our headquarters, where I have the perfect view of the sets being made, the props builders creating their magic, the wardrobe department and the rehearsal rooms. It’s a terrific reminder of what we do our work for.

Tell us, briefly, “what I know about fundraising”

For me, fundraising in the arts is such an exciting area, interacting with people who are so passionate about what your organisation does and what it dreams of doing; it is a powerful area that can affect real change.

What I have learnt about fundraising over time is that it centres around storytelling, and relies on building strong relationships. At its heart it’s about listening to our donors, about understanding what is important to them, and about identifying the opportunities that combine their interests, our organisation’s dreams and the gap we face in achieving them.

When treated well, your donors become your greatest advocates, and have the capacity to leave a legacy long after both you and they are gone!

What are the key learnings you hope delegates will take away from your session at ArtsRaise (without giving too much away!)

I hope that delegates will come away with a strong appreciation for how critical a role stewardship has in the donor cycle and for its strength as a tool in growing a donor’s support over the long term. I hope that delegates will also come away thinking creatively about the ways they can best personalise the stewardship of their own donors to help their supporters engage more deeply with their organisation.

What are you most looking forward to learning at the conference?

So much! I am really looking forward to hearing Paula McLean and Melissa Smith’s conversation on endowment funds. As Arts fundraisers, we often fall into the trap of fundraising just for the urgent stuff that needs to happen now, but endowment funds can be so transformational for the bigger picture…

I’m also really looking forward to hearing Vedran Drakulic, Ben Rodgers and Ricci Swart present on how to engage more successfully with funders (hopefully it contains a lot of cross-over with my own presentation!).

Also the ethical partnerships presentation by Monica Kane and Liesbeth Goedhart – it’s such a minefield to navigate.


Rupert will be presenting the session How Melbourne Theatre Company does donor stewardship at ArtsRaise 2023.

For more information about the website and to register, visit the website.