Small can be equally satisfying

Not all fundraising concerns big gifts. Small can be equally satisfying. Identifying a donor, reasoning why they should give and then persuading them to give feels artistic. And like all good art it brings pleasure to both the painter and the purchaser. I have often been thanked for alerting donors to a need and giving them the satisfaction of providing the solution. It makes them happy and it makes me happy. Small can be equally satisfying.

I feel that managing a fundraising campaign has similarities to the work of a plumber or electrician. They come to do a specific re-wiring or re-plumbing job. Just as they are completing the job the home owner taps them on the shoulder. The words are only too familiar “I was wondering while you’re here if you take a look at …”. Often in the course of a major campaign someone will approach you. They want advice and help with a particular project that bears no relationship to the task in hand. The safest response is not to get involved. The project is probably a lot more complex than the simple introductory explanation. Besides that, you don’t want any distraction from your main focus.

Every now and again, however, you can do something that not only helps the organisation, it also helps your cause. I was working on the refurbishment of St Giles’ Cathedral, the iconic mother church of Presbyterianism that stands on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. It holds a significant place in British history. This was where the rebellion against Charles 1’s attempt to re-impose the Anglican concept of bishops on the Presbyterian Scots started. The Bishop’s War mutated into the Civil War with its bloody consequences.

I was approached by the Master of the Music of St Giles’ during the fundraising campaign. He was planning to take the choir on a tour of the USA linking up with Presbyterian churches there. I am sure you have guessed that he was short of the necessary funds: £7,500 short to be precise. I saw an opportunity for a quid pro quo. Americans are proud of their Scottish history. Here was a chance to expose the refurbishment work of the mother church of Presbyterianism to an audience with a direct interest. I would try to raise the funds if the Master of the Music would raise awareness of the work being done on St Giles’ Cathedral in the USA.

It can be just as difficult raising money for relatively small amounts as for large sums. This is particularly true when then there is nothing concrete to show for it. Your research has to spot-on. The choir had already done their public appeal, so the option left was realistically a single donor. It’s like detective work. Find someone connected with the church who might already have given to an activity related to its music. A hunt through previous donor lists produced a select list of potential supporters.

I have a rule that, wherever possible, those who are going to spend the money raised should be part of the team making the ask. They are the best people to explain how the money is to be used. The Master of the Music was uncomfortable about asking for money. He would obviously have benefitted from Fundraising: the Essentials for Success had it been available then. Coaching gave him confidence and he felt a great sense of achievement when he secured the donation on behalf of the choir. The donor gained an equally deep satisfaction from supporting the church and its activity. I’ve used the phrase before “only connect the prose and the passion” and it worked here.

I love the exactness of identifying just the right potential donor for a specific gift, because I know it gives the donor a thrill. The finale to this story is equally satisfying. The American churches loved the choir. What’s more, a significant donation came from across the Atlantic toward the refurbishment work of St Giles’.

Small can be equally satisfying and can lead to bigger things.