Most organisations have to manage the tension between general and restricted income. Inevitably it’s bigger donors whose contributions tend to get restricted – grants, trusts, corporate and major donors. Why? Because money talks and big donors expect to know what they are paying for, and that doesn’t include admin and fundraising, thanks very much. Also, there’s always the larger number of lower-value individual donors whose general funds can be taken for granted. Which they generally are.
Usually I argue that a lot of income restriction is applied lazily. But don’t all donors what to know what they are paying for? Of course they do. Everything we know about framing a fundraising ask applies as equally to Average Donor as it does to grant providers, capital appeals and the rich (who incidentally are giving a lot less). All donors need:
What supporters get through most general appeal programmes is a series of routine appeals whose urgency is determined by the mailing schedule, on topics determined by what hasn’t been covered previously, what the organisation thinks it needs to talk about, and by whatever half-decent case-study content is on the shelf (but with no chance of follow-up feedback). Further watered down by what can’t be said, emotion beaten out by internal jargon, and sufficient mealy-mouthed conditional tense to satisfy the need to keep the money unrestricted.
That said, there are some stunning fundraising appeals that are breaking the mould. They go above and beyond business as usual and that is why we call them Big Appeals. They apply the key principle of capital appeals, exceptional-ism. An exceptional need, needing exceptional funding, exceptional fundraising effort and exceptional gifts from exceptional supporters. Yes, they’ve had to be clever about restriction, but it’s possible if you ring-fence planned work. And they’ve had to invest a bit in gathering exceptional content to provide on-going feedback.
But it’s been worth it. Save the Children’s Build it for Babies appeal has raised over £800,000 to build seven health clinics in Bangladesh that will dramatically reduce ante-natal deaths of mothers and babies, and their annual big appeal has tripled in three years. WaterAid’s Big Dig appeal has raised over £1.6million (including a doubling match by DfID) to provide clean water to over 130,000 people in Malawi over the next two years. And RLSB is well on the way with their £100,000 in 100 days Little Heroes Appeal for blind children. And it’s not just the money. These have been opportunities for organisational integration and have galvanised and excited staff across departments. And what excites fundraisers can’t help but excite supporters.
These big appeals work because they go beyond business as usual. They are exceptional. And they actually give donors what they want.
These Good Thoughts come to you following Good Bites…on big appeals, a free breakfast event where we were joined by Annie Moreton, Head of Individual Giving at Save the Children and Craig Linton, Head of Fundraising at RLSB who shared their experiences working on their own Big Appeals. Find out more about Good Bites or view the presentations from the event.
Matthew is one of our beloved leaders. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the charity sector so he knows his stuff.