Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Fundraiser's Guide to Avoiding Imps

The experienced fundraisers amongst you know already know what I am about to share:

Imps cause mischief.

No, I don't mean by curdling the milk and making the baby cry. Not THAT kind of imp.  I mean the fundraising kind of Imp AKA Impossibly Monstrous Projects.

You know the kind I mean. "Dear fundraiser, your job is to raise money for asbestos stripping and tile recladding for the city's most hated building." [N.B. this was a real project]

Cue the soft whimper of a fundraiser searching the trustfunding website for that charitable trust that, you know, is set up to provide money for asbestos removal.  Right.

Not impossible, no.  But is it the project most likely to command millions?  Probably not.

So, how to avoid Imps? 

Partnership, that's how.  As many a good health practitioner can testify, prevention is better than a cure.  It saves time and it saves resources. Once it has been born, ridding yourself of an Imp means saying no.  And no one wants to be the person who says no all the time.  How does a fundraiser go about Imp prevention? 
The answer is simple really. It looks a little bit like this:

Concept - Feasibility - Fundraising

The three phases of Imp prevention.

Let's drill into them a little more.


Led by academics/services/campaigners/whoever wants you to fundraise for them, this phase is where you act as a consultant to your colleagues, helping them to understand what a fundable project is and how to pull out the elements you can use.


1. You can't work as a partnership hiding behind a pile of paper on your desk.  This requires meeting people from the start, discussing, mapping out, brainstorming.  You are a critical friend and a trusted partner.  You need to help, not hinder. 

2. Just because a project isn't great for attracting external funding doesn't mean it isn't important.  We all need toilets. And bins. And student accommodation. It's just that those are the bits that will probably require some self funding.  You're looking for the bright spots in the over all mix.  Those are the bits you can work with.

AMBER GATEWAY! To progress past the concept phase, the project needs to demonstrate the key criteria: it needs to address a crisis or an opportunity that is meaningful to the outside world (need); it needs to be time bound (urgency); it needs to have a clear role for funding (what difference can funding make?); and it needs to have an internal champion/lead.  Some projects won't make it this far, but because you've worked hard with the project originator they will know why. Transparency is good.


Over to you, fundraising guru.  You've got a decent project - now do you have any prospects?  I've come across some great projects which failed to reach their fundraising target because the fundraising target was based on the amount needed, not the amount of funding available. 

Rough rule of thumb: for every donor you need, you should have four prospects. That's healthy.  If you've got a £30 million project and only 3 prospects you need to rethink that fundraising target.

But it's not just about the prospects.  Do you have resources with which to invest money?  Do you have budget to travel to see them?  Can you take them out for a coffee?  Capital campaigns don't have to be all Roll Royce and caviar - major gifts, after all, is one of the most cost effective forms of fundraising.  But you might need to invest in research. You might need to host events.  You might need to travel 200 miles.  Can you?

GREEN LIGHT!! You have a great case for support.  You have champions and leadership buy in.  You have prospects.  You have resources.  You and your colleagues are acting as a TEAM. The time is right.  So, my friend it's time to....


And not an Imp in sight. 


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