David Saint

Jul 12, 2017, 10:41 AM

How To Plan A Capital Appeal

A capital appeal presents a significant fundraising opportunity – but also a significant challenge. It usually means that an organisation has to raise dramatically larger sums than usual (sometimes several multiples of normal annual turnover) – and that it has to do so without damaging normal revenue income streams.

On the plus side, a capital appeal usually means that the organisation has something new and exciting to talk to people about – a new reason to engage, and perhaps an opportunity to solicit much larger gifts. Managed well, a successful capital appeal can revitalise revenue fundraising by attracting new donors and stimulating existing supporters.

 It is important that the fundraising team is involved in discussions about the project as a whole from the very earliest stages – all too often the fundraisers are the last to know, and are expected to raise enormous amounts of money against impossibly tight timescales

See also our Insight ‘When is it the right time to do a capital appeal feasibility study?’

Broadly, the process might go a bit like this:

1.    Need for capital project identified
2.    Project team assembled, representing all the relevant disciplines (including fundraising)
3.    Project specified (eg the physical requirements of a new building to be built, or bought)
4.    Initial thinking about potential funding sources, not least to inform the setting of a budget for the next stage
5.    Design and costing
6.    Full fundraising feasibility study
7.    Consultations, permissions etc.
8.    Private phase of capital appeal initiated – ideally at least 2 years before the money is required, although this is often not possible.
9.    Final design work; invitations to tender if it’s a building project
10.    Public phase of capital appeal launched
11.    Project initiated (eg building work commences). It is very important to note that at this point fundraising income usually drops off. Occasionally it can be a stimulus to extra giving – especially from those closest to the project. But many donors will take the view “If they are pressing ahead they probably know where the rest of the money is coming from, so they don’t need my donation.”
12.    Project completed, successful capital appeal celebrated.

Once step 12 is attained and completed, it is quite common to heave a collective sigh of relief, and get back to the ‘day job’. From a fundraising perspective, this is a mistake. If the opportunity to reinvigorate revenue fundraising is to be seized, this activity should ‘step up a gear’ to build closer engagement with new donors attracted to the cause by the capital appeal, and to encourage long-standing supporters to continue giving at higher levels. In particular, it is likely that major donors will have played a part in the success of the capital appeal, and specific ways should be found to maintain their engagement, and provide them with other stimulating opportunities to support the work of the charity.

David Saint

for more information on how to plan a capital appeal, get in touch

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