Sometimes an appeal grinds to a halt before the target is reached. There are no more grant-making organisations to apply to, the last of your cultivated major donors has given and the public has ceased to respond. This can often be predicted if you keep a wall chart marked off in monthly segments with the major gifts clearly marked. The number of gifts each month gets visibly fewer and fewer and the ‘to be approached’ list dwindles.
At the same time the chances are the twin perils of building cost inflation outstripping ordinary inflation and the cost of all those necessary extras you didn’t know you needed when the appeal starts loom menacing in front of you.
Fortunately there are several things you can do instead of reaching for the situations vacant column of Professional Fundraising magazine.
- As you can see a crisis over the horizon, you should have ample time to keep all your key donors and stakeholders informed but not alarmed.
- When you are sure this is a real problem, consider bringing together all the top funders and ask them to add an additional pledge or donation to cover the shortfall.
- If you have one or more very rich and involved donors ask them to underwrite the appeal, and agree to meet any shortfall in say, six months time. In this case you should also set out in writing each fundraising activity you will engage in, so that they will know you have done your best to raise the funds underwritten. This is a very significant step because you will want to keep such donors on board in the long-term, as trying to explain what you have done after you have failed may lead to derisive comments if the donor does not understand the process, they may even renege on their pledge.
- Think too ‘who will cry if you die’ these will be the people or institutions that are also most likely to finish the appeal for you. They may be someone unexpected like a manufacturer who sells goods to your clients or the family of a beneficiary.
- Of course, your research will eventually unearth more potential donors and the game begins anew; but think about those who said, ‘No.’ Perhaps they are now in a position to give? As capital appeals often take a number of years to complete, circumstances change steadily over the years and people and institutions may be much better placed to help than they were when the process started.
- Look also at your board. They may have been relatively quiet when the appeal was launched not thinking they knew many rich people, but over time they may have insights which could help or you may have new trustees you need to get to know quickly as they may help.
If you have kept the momentum, drive and enthusiasm going through the appeal many more people than you might think will be willing to help. They may not put themselves forward and you might have to meet them and energise them, but they may have the key to unlocking the final donations.
The IFC team has carried out many successful capital appeals. If you think your appeal could benefit from our expertise, then get in touch today: firstname.lastname@example.org