In this blog, Sue Fisher, Director of Development at the Science Museum Group shares her top 5 tips for a successful fundraising campaign. Sue has 20 years of experience of fundraising in senior roles in the Third and Cultural sectors. At the Science Museum she has successfully led a number of capital campaigns, developed new income streams and personally secured a number of major gifts. Since joining =mc as a Senior Associate Consultant, Sue has been working with WISE at Hull University (Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation) on a plan to help them achieve wide reaching impact, and also assisting on the global campaign for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International’s new institute in Rwanda.
During my tenure as Director of Development for the Science Museum Group I have lead on a number of fundraising campaigns, varying in size and totalling in excess of £60million, but there have always been constant elements to each one – and they’ve all been very successful. So, my 5 top tips are based on these vital elements:
Get the timing right
Is the organisation ready to deliver a campaign? Are you confident you can achieve the funding needed in the timeframe? Do you have the necessary resources? If you don’t have that level of confidence, get some external advice. This is when a feasibility study can be helpful. A good study will demonstrate what can actually be achieved based on the readiness and capability of the organisation and the external appetite. My experience is that often an expert, outside voice is needed to repeat what the internal voice is saying.
Ensure everyone is clear about what the campaign is and what impact it will have. Poor communication will sabotage the campaign either intentionally or otherwise. And be as engaged with your internal stakeholders as you are with your external relationships. Ensure you are at the heart of activities so you can help inform key decisions which will impact upon the success of the campaign. Make sure you have the full backing and confidence of key internal decision makers.
Getting the right type and right number of senior volunteers and advocates on board is essential. You need people who will bring credibility and gravitas to the campaign. I prefer to have people who are well connected, know exactly what is expected of them and deliver – give, get or get off! Having well-respected and well-regarded individuals – celebrities in their field – on board is helpful, but I prefer to use these people in the background to facilitate meetings. Doing this can feel much more special to the prospect.
Decide whether you want or need a battalion of senior volunteers or if a quick and nimble task force would work better. My experience is that a small, tight group dedicated to raising money is the best way forward as they tend to be more focussed and easier to manage.
Make sure you have the right talented internal staff. A campaign is often a timely reason to ensure you have the right people, with the necessary skills.
Make sure you have a strong case for support that’s relevant and flexible enough to engage different types of prospect. Messages for a HNWI are likely to be different from what a corporate sponsor wants to hear. They will both be interested in the final product, but their relationship with that product will be different.
Have a strong, researched and realistic pipeline. And be systematic in your approach – remember fundraising is a scientific process, with a creative flair. Ensure you have the right people in the fundraising function working cohesively and systematically. Ensure you have a strong cultivation plan in place to engage your prospects.
Campaigns can be daunting, but they provide fundraisers not only with a challenge but an opportunity to transform their organisations and their fundraising capability. Everyone should deliver at least one major campaign in his or her fundraising careers.