I remember one of my great fundraising heroes saying that the real reason that most capital appeals fail is that their case for support is just not strong enough. At the time I thought there were myriad reasons for such failure, but the more successful capital appeals I have been involved with, the more I am inclined to agree.
Putting together an entire capital appeal programme may be a mystery to many fundraisers, as we don’t experience many such appeals – if any at all – during our careers, but the components are well established and with a good guide most organisations can set them up and walk confidently down the path.
Yes, they can fail if fundraisers ignore the advice, neglect the basics or never get round to asking properly, but the drive and momentum that builds up around a successful appeal is based on the strength of its case. Why else should people give? If you think there is a long queue of wealthy people just waiting to get their name on your building you are wrong.
A building is just a pile of bricks or a lot of cement around some steel, and it costs a lot of money that doesn’t go directly to your beneficiaries, so you better have a pretty good reason for people to give very large sums to build or buy it. Of course, this means that those people you help are going to benefit in a huge measure from this building, and you are going to have to prove that convincingly. Indeed, you must prove that you actually need to buy a new building, not just a refurbishment or a new rental. When running the capital appeal for the Medical Foundation I faced difficult arguments from potential donors who were convinced we could simply rent new premises, and had bring in expert advice that the beneficiaries who were treated on the premises required the right surroundings i.e. a purpose built building.
By the way, is it just you saying you need a new building? You would say that wouldn’t you – so, do you have people with expertise and influence who agree publicly with you? Their names and comments should be in your case for support too. If you can convince them you are half way to convincing potential donors. Donors are more comfortable in the company of people they respect.
That begins to set out the basis for your case for support. At the heart of it is the simple reason in terms of how much your beneficiaries need this building and how it will benefit them. This should be analogous to the elevator pitch, just a few words that set out the case, or maybe the napkin pitch which is a few words plus a diagram. It is well worth taking time over this and talking to your copywriter about the phrasing of it.
Your finished case for support will most likely be in both hard and digital form and you will need a copywriter and designer – you probably need to raise several million pounds so don’t scrimp on the most important document – your donors will be used to seeing a high quality product, and won’t take your pleas seriously if you can’t be bothered to prepare properly. Do retain control of the product I have seen cases for support prepare by advertising agencies which were wonderful coffee table creations but useless for fundraising.
I won’t cover the composition of the whole document here, suffice to say that there will be a lot of important sections that your consultant will take you through, and altogether the document must be both intellectually satisfying and emotionally compelling.
At the heart of the emotional case lie the beneficiaries, but merely giving their stories is not enough and you will also need to link their needs to the building and show clearly how they will benefit.
This is the link that is surprisingly often neglected and the key to the strength of your case for support.
Good luck with your appeal!
John Baguley, CEO, International Fundraising Consultancy