I am not a climber. However I am certain that there is no such thing as Everest the easy way. You will only reach the summit with meticulous planning, arduous training, well integrate support systems and great teamwork. Like my first blog, Rowing the Atlantic, the title is a metaphor for the achievement of fundraising success.
Fundraising and Everest have one thing in common: neither is easy. Faced with a major challenge the question is “How can I best stack the odds in my favour?” No one looks at Everest and thinks “I’ll do this in a one-er”! Base Camp and the series of higher altitude camps are there for a reason. They make the challenge achievable. Each camp provides respite and recuperation and the chance to assess how to tackle the next stage of the challenge. Fundraising; The essentials for success talks more about this
A major fundraising task can be tackled in similar fashion. Dividing the task into a series of individual challenges has significant advantage. It immediately looks easier and more achievable. A staged campaign has appeal to donors. That’s an obvious bonus. They are already on your side, because you have considerably reduced the timescales between outlay and outcome.
Nothing appeals more to a donor than seeing their money swiftly put to good use. We all enjoy instant gratification. Immediacy is a powerful persuader, also and most importantly you have shown you are a good bet by achieving the stated goal. It demonstrates you can deliver and it looks good on the organisational CV. Success builds confidence in donors AND in fundraisers. Success breeds success.
I’ve experienced the flip-side of this approach. After a lot of discussion we finally got agreement on the case for support and the fundraising target. Then someone had the great idea that the fundraising target did not properly reflect the ambition or significance of the organisation. The target needed to be raised to really impress people. Never mind that the feasibility study suggests we were already aiming high. All you have to do is shake the money tree!
Everest the Easy way? This is like putting a few extra few rocks into the rucksacks of the climbers. Of course the result is the reverse of what is intended. Rather than being impressed prospective donors become sceptical, because the most likely donors probably already have a reasonable knowledge of the organisation. They may well feel you are biting off more than you can chew. In addition the confidence of the fundraising team is affected.
But what if you can’t use the staging strategy? Building half a bridge is not a proposition that is going to appeal to many people. Success now depends on your ability to get the attention of as wide an audience as possible: segmentation and donor research are the keys. You are looking to develop as many significant discrete facets of the Case as possible and to match them with donor potential.
I raised funds for a new Medical School at St Andrews University– a big task in the context of the University’s fundraising history. The case for support was created after extensive investigation into every activity that the facilities of the new school would be used for. We researched potential donors and their capacity, for each area of activity, and presented the case appropriately:-the need for more doctors; enhancement of University status through modern teaching facilities; the development of ground-breaking inter-disciplinary research; specialist equipment; developments in community services. These are some examples. We were still looking at the whole mountain, but had identified the support that would get us to the summit. And it did.
Fundraising is always a challenge. But arranging the game in your favour gives you the maximum chance of success. Do that, then you are looking at Everest the easy way.