13 March 2014back

Creative Internships Blog Week 19

Week 19: Johanna Shepherd, Wales Millennium Centre

While most living things are born, mature, and die, some creatures have more complex life cycles than others. The human life cycle is so much less flashy than, for example, the butterfly’s. And butterflies are amateurs compared to the trematode flatworm, or fluke, which has a life cycle of seven steps. Its eggs must be first be ingested by a snail. Once the eggs hatch and pass through the snail, the microscopic larvae find a home in something further up the food chain – say, a fish. The fish, then must be eaten by a mammal, at which point the flukes become adult worms. All this to say, if your fish hasn’t been in the deep freeze, cook it well.

So what does this have to do with fundraising? The life cycle of a fundraising solicitation also has seven steps. Here at Wales Millennium Centre, the team will be at one stage or another with every sponsor and donor we have a relationship with. But you could really see the entire life cycle of fundraising in action at an event we hosted in February, sponsored by Geldards, to share our plans for our upcoming 10th Anniversary Programme with key supporters.

Here are the 7 steps, with examples from our event:

1. Identify: Who should we invite to the event? Eg., close friends of the Centre, or past supporters we would like to reconnect with?

2. Research: One of my tasks was to research and organise information about our guests, so that staff and board members could be good table hosts. (Eg., which companies and firms were represented, and how long have they been involved with the Centre?)

3. Plan: The event needed to be planned carefully at every stage so that it met our needs strategically. Hours went into the table plan alone. I’m not sure when I will be ready to see a table plan again.

4.  Engage: The event was a great time to chat with supporters informally, but also a key opportunity to cast an inspiring and engaging vision of the Centre’s future from the podium. We also had some first class Welsh entertainment in the form of wonderful performances by John Owen-Jones and Sophie Evans.

5. Ask: Although the event was not primarily about raising funds on the night, we wanted to give our supporters the opportunity to be part of  a project we’re excited about: the trip of the Wales Millennium Centre Only Kids Aloud Chorus to perform in Cape Town. So at the end of the evening, our Life President, Lord Rowe-Beddoe, asked for a small voluntary contribution to add to the children’s own efforts in raising money for their trip to South Africa.

6. Resolve: In this case, because the ask was small, it was resolved by guests filling out response forms, or simply placing a tenner in an envelope on the table. If you the fundraiser were asking for a major gift, you would want to meet in person rather than leave them with a ‘Yes – No – Maybe’ tick box on a slip of paper!

7. Thank, and steward the gift (and the relationship with the donor) wisely:  the most important step! Our event occurred during one of the storms that buffeted the coast, so I walked some of the guests to their cars aided by a strong umbrella. And of course, we sent thank you letters after the event. It’s crucial that thank yous come from the right person for each relationship – no one likes an impersonal mailing.

And that is the life cycle of a fundraising ask. If it works, it’s not a fluke (unlike our friend the flatworm), it’s the result of huge amount of hard work and planning. Nevertheless, I’d do my part all over again in a second. Good thing, too, because like the circle of life, the cycle of fundraising moves us all (well, all of us interns!).

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