Introduction: fundraising

Javier Pes, Issue 42, p49, Summer 2008
When it comes to fundraising, it's best to start with basics - approaching the right people, being clear about your plans, and showing who will benefit within and beyond the museum's walls
Philanthropists believe that to give is good. Companies know that being seen to be generous improves their public image. And foundations exist expressly to distribute funds to good causes. But how do you convince someone that your cause is more deserving than another?

This Working Knowledge is a practical introduction to fundraising, starting with the basics: approaching the right people, being clear about your plans, and being able to show who will benefit within and beyond the museum's walls.

It all adds up to making a convincing case that you will address a real need. A sense of urgency helps, as does proof that you can spend grant and sponsorship money effectively - no one wants to see their largesse spent in vain.

"People give to people" is one of the conventional wisdoms among fundraisers, stressing the often highly personal nature of the relationship between donor and recipient. More an art than a science, charm, institutional prestige and powers of persuasion are crucial in fundraising.

A tried-and-tested strategy is a public launch when a major donation or grant has been secured; it gets a campaign rolling and adds weight to the appeal.

But it is shortsighted to focus solely on big donors. Every cheque helps. And an important goal for long-term fundraising is expanding the network of people who know you exist and are excited about your organisation's plans for the future.

Some people give for the "warm glow" of giving. Others appreciate a tangible token of their donation. Here museums and heritage organisations are in a strong position. Be it a name on a donors' wall or next to an object that has been conserved, the opportunities go far beyond the listings in an annual report.

(Image: Woodhorn)