Thursday, 31 May 2012

Beyond Fundraising... Ambition & Transformation

At the moment I'm doing a lot of chat about campaign planning.  Working in a big, research-led university this means speaking to academics, to senior administrators, to colleagues and to the university leadership. 

We're talking about what makes a successful fundraising project. 

We're talking about feasibility. 

We're talking about resourcing. 

But there's one point I'm always keen to get across and that is this:

A fundraising campaign is not just about raising funds.

No siree Bob. 
Okay so you do have to raise funds, that goes without saying.  And to do that you need a good project, prospects, buy in... yadayada, we'll talk about that some other time.  
But it can add oh so much more value to your organisation than just money.  It's about getting a sense of who you are and where you're going.  It's about building capacity.  It's about creating a moment in time where you can deliver a step change.  It's about raising your eyes to the stars and saying, WE CAN and about saying it with one voice. 
So when I'm putting together my strategic plan for my next fundraising campaign, my goals aren't just income based.  They are as follows: 

· Significant increase in income
· Diversified income streams (de-risking the future)
· Participation improved (broadening funding base)
· Increased ambition, increased profile and increased reach across the board
Please don't imagine where the bullet points are concerned that last equals least. Not a bit of it. Let's take that phrase "increased reach across the board." 

What the devil does that mean?

Well how about this.  When creating your case for support you work out what your organisation is all about.  If you work for (for example) a large research-led university, you might be working that out at a micro level. You might be dealing with a specific College, or School, or Department.  The principles are exactly the same.    

Let's say you know your USPs.  Let's say you know that you are world-leading in fish genetics and the circadian rhythms of seaweed.  Let's say that part of your organisation's vision is to create a unique, state of the art underwater laboratory to study your fish and your seaweed and to understand their interaction. 

Let's say philanthropy alone won't deliver this project.  That doesn't matter.  Because you and your organisation have a strategic vision that will.  

The people that donate to your project aren't just donors, they are stakeholders.  They are influencers and advocates on your behalf. They are partners in delivering this project. 

The academics who have been your champions for the project, who have met with donors and discussed their work are more than colleagues.  They're signed up.  They're on message.  They're singing from the same hymn sheet. In fact, they are stakeholders too. 

You've been busy within your organisation.  You've been engaging senior people, sharing success and letting everyone feel that they are a part of this project and an important part.  You've been banging that drum so damn loudly you can hear it all the way to Timbuktu. 

 Well done you.

Everyone is talking about the brave new world of pisci-tech.  It's a buzz word, flavour of the month.  They're not just talking about it internally, they're talking about it externally.  That last gift - it made the news.  Your corporate donor did a press release on why they invested.  

You are becoming known as the place for pisci-tech. 

Your funding relationships are strong and well nurtured, which is good because now they're going to help you yet further.  Thanks to the huge endorsement of your private funders, public funders are expressing an interest.  Your academics get the chance to talk to research councils and development agencies about their work. 

Who knew that fish could be so cute?

 Guess what?

Next thing you know a call for funding has been put out by the research councils for funding pisci-tech.  But you knew that, because you shaped that funding call. Thanks to your beautifully nurtured private funders you had corporate partners signed up to help you to make the case that the research councils should put out a call. 

In fact you haven't just been raising money, you've been:

· Creating spheres of influence
· Positioning yourselves to create and seize opportunity

Five years on and you're standing in front of a gleaming marine laboratory filled with waving fronds of seaweed and darting fluorescent fish.  It's the world's most glorious fish tank.  It is an international hub for pisci-tech, no the international hub for pisci-tech.  Damn it, it was the place where pisci-tech was born. 

Ok so this is in Berlin, but you get the idea.

Behind you is a shimmering glass donor board featuring the names of 342 supporters.  It includes companies, people, research councils, charitable trusts.  Private funders.  Public funders. 

But it hasn't stopped there.  

Oh no.

A student wanders past you wearing a t-shirt with a fish on it.  It reads University of St Aloysius, transforming the ocean fin by fin.  The student is from Singapore.  International recruitment is up by 30% thanks to a sustained campaign involving alumni in the department's work. 

"Goodbye corporate funder, come back soon!"

In the doorway, you see an academic waving farewell to a corporate funder who has become a research collaborator, one of many to do so.  There is an innovation team behind that door, working on maintaining and building on those corporate relationships, a key plank of the university's knowledge transfer activity. 
The new facilities have meant that it is has been possible to attract outstanding new academics. Two new chairs were appointed last year, including the world's first Chair in Pisci-technology. 

You've had nothing to do with student recruitment. 

You've had nothing to do with innovation. 

You've had nothing to do with funding or appointing the new Chair. 

These things have been born from the vision which drove the campaign.  They've emerged from the strong and vibrant community of stakeholders which developed around the project.  They've come as a consequence of a more collegiate atmosphere, of an increased ambition, of a willingness to engage with each other and the outside world and a sense of shared purpose.  

So let me say again...

A fundraising campaign is not just about raising funds. 
So it's worth doing right, right?


  1. Indeed with the launch of online charity websites, online fundraising is easier and safer than ever because these websites have databases of reliable and trusted nonprofits you can choose from.

    online fundraising software

  2. Crowdfunding has been around for quite a few years. It has empowered people to use the power of community to raise money to accomplish bigger things. visit