Many years ago I was running a fundraising campaign for a school in the Midlands. The Chairman of Governors was the Vice Chancellor of a neighbouring university.
He told me one day that he had done a Masters degree at one of the American universities. Every year since, the university concerned had invited him to a reunion – but they had only asked him for a gift every seventh year.
This is a story worth remembering in the UK, where we are notorious for continuously asking our supporters for money – and not being particularly good at thanking them when we receive it. We all remember the sad story of Olive Cooke.
When I started out in fundraising, an experienced colleague said to me: “The 2 most important words in fundraising are ‘Thank you’. He was right. Fundraising, especially where seeking funds from individuals is concerned, is as much about establishing relationships as receiving money. Many individual donors, especially wealthy philanthropists, do not wish simply to give – they want to become involved with the charity concerned. Thinking this through and planning how to achieve their aims as well as yours will be an important part of cementing a future relationship – and ensuring the financial support continues to flow in.
This also applies to grant-making trusts, where establishing and maintaining a good relationship can lead to significantly larger grants over a period of time. I can think of many occasions when I have applied to trusts over 4-5 years – but received nothing. Then, suddenly and inexplicably, in the next year I have received a substantial grant – and these grants have continued annually thereafter.
As we come out of the coronavirus crisis, the fundraising future is uncertain. But we can do much to alleviate that uncertainty by planning our fundraising relationships as well as our fundraising – and ensuring that we do not forget those 2 important words.