Sometimes you get lucky

The sponsorship activity of an organisation often tells you about the leisure interests of the CEO or chairman.  Team Sky cycling, as was, is now sponsored by Ineos which testifies to the sporting interests of the company founder, a keen triathlete. Who a company sells to should  influence what it sponsors, but the public has wide interests.  Arguments can therefore be made for sponsorship of many activities- particularly the one that interests you! It is important to research both the company and the people making the decision when you seek their support.  There is always a thrill when you discover that your interests and theirs coincide perfectly. Sometimes you just get lucky.

The same principle applies when planning your approach for a charitable donation.  Charitable Trusts normally provide specific information on what they will support (The Directory of Social Change is a great reference point for this).  It does not mean, of course, that you are in line for a donation just because they support your area of activity. You still need to persuade and convince. Fundraising: the Essentials for Success focuses on the vital need for a Compelling Case for Support.  My last blog You are what you think; So just think big.. also describes a specific fundraising case and how the proposition was constructed to create a successful case.

Careful research indicates whether your target donor is likely to take interest in what you do. That sounds obvious. But, as the administrator of a charitable trust, I receive many applications that suggest applicants have not really studied our guidelines.  Your research  should be as exhaustive as possible. The extra effort can unearth a diamond of information which transforms your approach. Just as each donor organisation has particular interests, so do the people who make those decisions on behalf of the organisation. Their personal views will have an influence on the decision they make, much like in corporate sponsorship. The more you know about them and the charity the better you can make your Case.

That said, sometimes you  get lucky, without really knowing why. In my last blog I talked about Donaldson’s College and the plan to develop it as an International Centre of Excellence for Deaf Studies. The Case had been well researched and developed. Donors had been identified who might support particular elements of the project. One particular charitable trust had been highlighted as a potential major donor. The Trust received the full package: personal letter, brochure, report on fundraising, a suggested level of grant and a suggestion of appropriate recognition.

A week after the application had been sent I received a reply. I recognised the sender from the insignia on the envelope. It is always a nervous moment when opening envelopes which may contain significant news. The speed of the response had surprised me. I hoped that the letter would confirm the Trustees decision to consider the application at their next meeting. Surprise turned to amazement as I opened the envelope, unfolded the letter and watched a cheque for £278,000 fall out! (about £500K in today’s money) . I was stunned. Why had the application received such an immediate and positive response?  Sometimes you  get lucky, without really knowing why. I only found out at the end of the campaign when the £8 million had been successfully raised.

The new facilities were opened with a celebration. Donors were invited to view what their money had achieved and receive the sincere thanks of the College. This was my first opportunity to meet the chair of the particular Trust who had made that substantial donation. I discovered that he himself was very deaf. It was a significant lesson in the importance of understanding connection to a cause. As EM Forster famously said: “Only connect the prose and the passion.” .

I would like to say it was the diligence of my research and the skill of presenting the Case that did the trick. Undoubtedly it was the Chairman’s personal understanding of and relationship to deafness that helped him to appreciate the potential of what was being created. As I said,  Sometimes you get lucky.

That particular experience taught me an important lesson.  Research of both the organisation and the individuals responsible for its grant giving is important. We are back at the point where this blog started. The more diligent the research, the more likely you are to identify the triggers that make the difference between success and failure.