Quick critique of a capital appeal

Morley College London

“David’s analysis was very efficient and effective. He understood what I was asking within a very short space of time and produced a concise, fully understandable report within the timeframe. For me personally it was very helpful – honest and reflective of where the organisation is.””

Simon Farley, Fundraising Director, Morley College London

Morley College London stands at the forefront of adult engagement in the arts. As with all such institutions, there is always an onus to match an illustrious history with an ambitious eye on the future. To this end the college had launched Morley Forward, an ambitious, phased programme of capital works, to develop accessible and flexible facilities, including a major upgrade of their performing arts facilities.

The campaign brochure set out a vision for an £18m transformation of the college over four phases, the first of which had been fully funded at £3m. The ambition was to complete phases 2-4 within 10 years.

Phase 2 of the capital campaign had been on hold because of COVID-19 and other factors, and Morley’s Fundraising Director Simon Farley wanted to strength test it before resumption. Having come across Action Planning and spoken to David Saint at a virtual digital event, he felt he would be “a very good fit” to carry out an independent review of the strength of the campaign and the opportunity to proceed with it.

Simon approached Action Planning, asking for an objective appraisal of the plans for the capital appeal. David was asked to spend three to four hours on a light touch critique, including an overview of the London market and the feasibility of success.

David began with a Zoom meeting with Simon to get a good understanding of the proposed campaign. He then reviewed the Morley Forward campaign brochure and Simon’s outline paper on moving forward with phase 2, Options Appraisal.

David’s critique was delivered in a six-page document, in which he offered various recommendations, taking into account the limited fundraising resource at Simon’s disposal. These included: writing headline plans for all four phases of the appeal, not just the next phase, to show the bigger picture and instil donor confidence; reconsidering the schedule of works to allow sufficient time to put funding in place before breaking ground; expanding the target list for trusts, so that the estimated income from this source exceeded the target rather than leaving a shortfall; rethinking the gift structure for major donors, as well as the offers for individual giving.

David concurred with many of the recommendations Simon had made and concluded that the College was well placed to launch an appeal but needed to make these changes and act fast.

The critique was received favourably and enabled Simon to have a constructive conversation with his boss about properly resourcing the appeal. “It helped me significantly because it very much correlated with where I was coming from,” he says.

With significant spending restraints as a result of the pandemic and a focus on other priorities within the newly merged College, it was decided to place the campaign on hold for the time being and so Simon has decided to move on at the completion of his current contract (end April 2022). He is now moving back into consultancy work and taking up a position as an Action Planning Associate Consultant.

Consultant’s insight:
There is often an expectation that engaging a consultant is going to entail massive expense – and perhaps tell you nothing new at the end of the process. In this case it was perfectly possible to deliver significant value for just a few hours’ work.

At one level, it would be true to say that our report did tell Simon nothing he didn’t know already; nonetheless, it performed at least two valuable functions: first, it gave Simon affirmation that he was going in the right direction (the sole fundraiser in an organisation can often feel a great need for external affirmation); second, it gave him information and ammunition to share with senior colleagues – another sad but true fact is that senior managers are often much more reluctant to believe experienced people on their payroll than external consultants.

So an objective, external opinion can often help reinforce internal points of view.

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