Well, it has been some time since I wrote anything: I have been busy settling into a new post at Edinburgh International Science Festival. It is the first time I have worked in the Festivals and a real step change in terms of pace and culture.
I was recently asked to present to the Institute of Fundraising Scotland Major Gifts Special Interest Group around preparing for a fundraising campaign. I didn’t think I was really working in that space at the moment, in the fast moving world of the annual festival and associated events and programmes, but as I thought about the planning needed to prepare for a fundraising Campaign and what I am putting in place at the Science Festival, I realised I am now in an exciting new world where I have pretty much need to start a fresh Campaign annually!
Here are some musings about getting Campaign ready…
Consider whether you really need a Campaign.
A Campaign is a construct of our own making, a marketing tool designed to bring together an organisation to achieve something special. But it is expensive, and a lot of work, and creates a huge amount of additional pressure, sometimes unnecessarily. It was the main way of fundraising for many years, but today, we need to be creative and inventive – is this really the best way forward for you at this time?
First things first: undertake a feasibility study – and crucially – take heed of the advice!
If it doesn’t seem to be the right time, make sure you have facts and figures to back up the decision so that you can persuade your senior leadership: be able to offer solutions to challenges, not just problems – what needs to happen before you ARE ready? How can you develop your capacity anyway?
Are you ready? Do you have the projects? Have the prospects? Have the infrastructure? And most importantly in my opinion, the internal buy in?
How you build your case for support.
There’s always a lot of talk about a case statement in Campaign planning. This almost always results in a brochure or video or some other collateral. These things will not bring in money.
Can you – and your senior leadership - communicate what your ambition is, to someone who knows nothing about your organisation, and do it powerfully and emotively and succinctly? If so, you are on the right track.
Your projects need to facilitate an ambition or a vision. A building isn’t about the bricks and mortar. It’s about solving a problem – the problem being whatever it is that the people in that building are working on e.g. curing a disease or solving global warming. You will be successful when a problem people care about meets what your organisation is best at. And your donor is the hero in this story – they will make this happen. Your case for support will illustrate this powerfully and passionately.
Consider the long-term when you are planning your Campaign: what do you want your organisation to look like - not just in terms of projects, but in culture and messaging – when your Campaign comes to an end? How do you want the outside world to think about you at the end? How will you continue to fundraise? What will be next? Plan this in from the start if possible, so you can thread in the right messages throughout.
Your case for support is key to your Campaign, so consider:
- What does society need? What can you offer to the community, the country, the world?
- Why your organisation? What is your unique selling point? What can YOU specifically offer because of your expertise and specialists that no-one else can offer in the same way?
- What will it take to get there? Do you need new buildings? New equipment? People? Upskilling? Expansion in some other way?
- What difference will it make? What impact would a successful Campaign have? If you achieve everything you want, how will you describe the outcomes in a compelling way?
- How much money is needed to do everything you need to do?
- What is your timeline? You’ll need an end date in order to show the urgency and need.
Do you have the projects?
Once you know what your outcomes need to be, you can make sure that the projects you have are a good fit with the organisation and each other. They should sit comfortably with the organisational aims and strategy otherwise it will not make sense to a potential donor.
Have your projects been fully developed? Does the project leader have a plan, a budget they are working to, clear outcomes they wish to get that you can create some compelling stories around? Are your projects unique to your organisation and compelling to talk about?
Once you’ve sourced your projects, evaluate and prioritise them. You may not be able include every suggested project within the Campaign. Be careful how you communicate this to your project leaders – if they feel they are not important enough, or have been side-lined without a reasonable explanation or communication, they will be difficult to work with forever more. And it is just nice to be nice to people. Communication is always the most important part of your job.
Consider your project leaders when deciding which projects to include in the Campaign: are they enthused about the Campaign? Do they believe in the power of philanthropy and in you and your team? Are they happy in their work and in the organisation? Can they help you to sell the project? Or perhaps there someone on their team who is a fantastic front man or woman? Who you can use to engage and enthuse your external, and other internal, stakeholders? Not someone who is unhappy at work.
Do you have the prospects?
Do you have prospects? Analyse your database – unless you know your prospect pool very, very well, don’t take for granted that those tagged historically as prospects, have a good look and consider if they REALLY are, or if they are historical leads that should be disregarded. Make sure the data is clean. Your prospect pool will enable you to identify your campaign target which should be both aspirational and realistic.
- What gifts have been received by your organisation so far and what projects appealed to those supporters? Will you be including projects that might appeal to those donors again?
- What has been your organisation’s largest gift? Can you expect that again? Or more?
- What does your prospect pool look like (Prospects, not suspects) – think about the maximum you might be able to raise for the projects you have identified, who might you approach and the size of gifts from each of those prospects.
- When reviewing your prospects, you will have fewer leadership gifts than major gifts and fewer smaller gifts than major gifts etc – your pool will resemble a pyramid.
A gift table is a useful tool for identifying your prospects, and how much you might realistically be able to raise from the pool of prospects that you have identified – again, this is those you have identified as prospects for good reason, not people you think might give but haven’t ever engaged with or those that have no connection to your organisation.
This is an example I have lifted from my lovely colleague Margaret's previous blog about gift tables (and the myth of them!). As I say - a tool. Not the be all and end all.
A gift table shows how your pyramid breaks down and shows you how many gifts you can reasonably hope to receive, based on the 1:4 ratio that assumes for every 4 prospects, one will donate at major or leadership gift level.
Do you have internal buy in?
Your internal stakeholders are:
- - Your CEO/ Senior leadership
- - Project leads past and future recipients of funding
- - Finance Department
- - All of your colleagues
Your senior staff must be willing and able to support and work with you. They need to believe in the Campaign, understand what you are trying to do and what you need from them in terms of their time and connections. Creating a culture of philanthropy and belief in any Campaign needs to come from the top.
You need to find out who your internal friends and champions are, who you can rely on and who might put barriers in your way and suck your energy and time. Your champions are those that will support your aims and willingly get involved at every step. So think about: who can represent you externally? Who can help you build enthusiasm and internal engagement? Who is excited, enthused and can talk about how unique and urgent and inspiring your projects are?
Get to know your experts. The project leads know the projects inside out and they believe in the value of the work they are doing. Call on those that know and who understand their work best (and better than you). Your experts or champions will have all of the information that your prospective donor needs and will know how to sell complex ideas to those that need detail and analysis. Do your utmost to make these people your friends and they will guide you through the process.
And do not underestimate your own fundraising team. This is so very important: do you have a great team alongside you? Are your fundraisers enthusiastic and behind your Campaign, and behind the leadership of your institution? They need to be bought into the Campaign and what you are trying to achieve, and to really believe in the path ahead or you will not be successful.
Engaging with internal stakeholders.
Our workmates need to be enlightened. It is our role to help build a culture of philanthropy within our organisations and our colleagues have to understand the basics of theory, planning and logic of what we do.
How do you create that culture of philanthropy? This is all about good communication. Regularly update your colleagues. This can be done by presenting at departmental meetings, planning a roadshow of updates if staff are based in various locations – go to your colleagues promoting the projects you have raised funding for previously, showcase areas you are working on and highlight the benefits to them of working with you, sharing contacts and fundraising, show how they can help you and how you can help them.
You can bring in external colleagues to run training sessions around fundraising and start with senior staff. I suggest external as I have personally found, and I know anecdotally, that if our internal colleagues don’t want to hear something, they just won’t hear it from their own expert, but if someone is brought in as an expert from outside, they find it easier to take on board.
The creation of a culture of philanthropy is not easy and takes time. Colleagues in your institution have to understand what you do and why you are trying to raise money or they will not support it.
Start with your stars – your colleagues and project leads will stand out as understanding what you do and how you can support them. If you can work closely with these individuals, you can showcase success and use this as a way to uncover further opportunities for collaboration
Who are your external stakeholders?
This might include…
- Prospects, influencers and donors including:
o Trusts and foundations
o Business/industry with an interest in your organisation
- Local community/groups/the public
- Your partners
Consider the need for a Campaign Board: who can help you ask for money? Who can help you to engage major donors? Who can help you with ideas and connections to corporates and trusts? Think about your projects – make sure you have coverage from your volunteers – representatives for each project or across the scope of the Campaign and work with those that can help with connections, influence others and open doors for you.
Do you have the infrastructure you need?
Make is easy for someone to make a gift – set up the infrastructure you need to. Make sure your donation process is quick and easy, whether someone is making a large donation or a small regular gift. Make sure it is a smooth and easy process and that you have a clear process in place for recording, receipting and thanking quickly, you do not want donors you’ve been cultivating over long periods to have to wait to be thanked.
Ensure your database has every capability you need, make reporting and tracking your work easy so you don’t have to spend a long time filling our spreadsheets and duplicating work every time you are asked for an update on your income, or next asks.
What processes and policies do you need in place? Think about a gift acceptance or ethics policy – what are you and your organisation comfortable with? Other policies might include a gift recording policy – at what point to you count gifts and pledges, and a donor recognition policy – what donors might accept in terms of recognition for different size gifts and how your organisation acknowledges supporters.
Campaign communications and marketing.
Think about your messaging – carefully plan your communications and engagement well before you publicly launch your campaign: for stakeholders, internal and external as well as for prospects and donors. A stakeholder engagement and communications plan can provide you with a steady plan to follow when you are in the thick of it – from timings of events, to how you will steward your donors.
Think about your marketing collateral – logos, banners, do you need a video or campaign brochure? Some of these are red herrings. Videos, for example, are costly. They will only be effective if you can show it to people– if you don’t get much traffic on your website or through social media, when will people see it, however powerful it is, and what are the benefits?
Use every opportunity to showcase your messaging and imagery – flyer events, have visible branding like pop up banners too. If there is a way you can make people feel part of a club by using a pin badges, tie, wrist bands, t-shirts or whatever works for your organisation and the groups that you are targeting, that can work well – some donors like to be able to show what they are supporting and this can also support the spread of your message.
Are you ready?
Once you have all of this in place… you start with a quiet phase. Here you do all of your internal and external engagement. Gaining buy-in across your organisation, all of the planning and the work needed to engage those leadership donors and to solicit the first gifts that were identified in the feasibility study, approaching donors for the larger gifts that get the Campaign going. During this phase you would seek to raise 50 percent or more of its goal. The idea is that when you open the campaign up to the public you want to be able to position it as being successful. It encourages others, if they feel part of something successful.
Then, the public phase. After about 50 percent or so of the goal is reached in the quiet phase, you are able to embark on the public phase of the Campaign. Here you launch, with a big splash and the communications plan should properly kick in, announcing to the world that you have already raised £X.
When you achieve 90 percent of your Campaign target, it’s time for the wrap-up phase, the hardest part of the Campaign. Consider how you might succeed with your final 10%. Can you ask a donor to match fund donations as a “challenge grant” or similar? It’s a great story and can be effective, though you need the right supporters on board. Be creative, and think what might appeal to your supporters.
Finally, success! Announcement of completion. When the Campaign goal is met you will quite rightly announce this loud and clear to the public. Throw a big party and thank all of your donors. And keep thanking them. Make sure that you let your community know that you successfully raised the money that you wanted to raise and how grateful you are for their support. This is an important part of the public relations and the visibility of your organisation as well as it positions your organisation as a successful organisation with many friends and supporters that help it to achieve its aims.
Phew. It's a lot to do!
Just briefly though…myths versus reality
So, that is the theory, but is it the reality?
This doesn’t always work out as neatly as you might be told. For example:
Often the gift pyramid isn't a pyramid – you might have a tiny number of small gifts, a lot of middle gifts and need to grow your major giving programme too.
The Campaign for an organisation with a mature programme is very different from one that is using a Campaign to start out, so a mature Campaign won't need as many prospects because the conversion rate of prospect to donor is far better.
You might decide to start a Campaign after you have raised quite a bit of money already and have been in an unknown quiet phase for a long time.
Sometimes things take longer than predicted due to events out-with your control – the global crash of 2008 meant that the organisation I was fundraising for was in Campaign for an additional 2 years longer than originally planned. Actually, in that Campaign, around half of the many projects that were identified as fundraising priorities raised little or no money but far more was raised for some of the successful areas than predicted.
So, theory is useful, tools are helpful, but do just remember as you go that people are people and you cannot control what they want to give to, or how much. Just because you have identified prospects your research says are interested in a specific project, that doesn't mean that is what they will want to fund…
Have you come across myths have on your journey?
Tweet me your myths @hannahbrodie