She kicked things off by taking us through her career and how she got to her current position as a fundraising management consultant with a wealth of experience behind her. Patricia started her career as an in-house fundraiser of corporate income at English National Opera before working on an audience appeal. She then made a bold move by managing a successful capital campaign for the Aldeburgh Festival (now Aldeburgh Music). However, Patricia gave us a timely reminder of how the fundraising climate has changed, in the mid-nineties 75% of a capital campaign budget was funded by Arts Council England, today 20%-30% is more likely.
After Aldeburgh, Patricia took up a post at Tate, and saw another capital campaign at close quarters. Numerous hard-hat tours later she became Director of Development and Marketing at the London Philharmonic Orchestra. According to Patricia, this was a particularly challenging role: although the two departments work closely together, they have discrete functions,
‘Marketing is about accessibility and fundraising is about exclusivity.’
Patricia then established her consultancy and later headed up the £36m capital campaign for the refurbishment of St Martin-in-the-Fields. She went in an interim capacity but didn’t leave until over four years later when they had successfully reached their target. During her time there Patricia learned about the challenges of fundraising in the USA and Hong Kong; working with the board and management team to secure a number of individual donors, and realised that sometimes it can be the smaller gifts that are the most memorable. She was very moved by the long-term commitment of some of the members of the congregation and recounted one donor's delight of how donors were accredited in an interactive ‘virtual book’. That became one of her ‘What are your top three moments of the campaign’ exercise that she and her colleagues took part in.
Patricia can have up to five or six consultancy clients at any one time and uses her experience to give advice and develop strategies for their fundraising campaigns. She acknowledged that as a consultant the nature of the work is very different, as you seldom have a personal relationship with an organisation’s donors.
Patricia’s insight into her fundraising experience in the USA was also an eye-opener. She explained that fundraising is in the culture, but this can also mean that funds are spread thinner as donors give to a lot of causes.
Some stand out pieces of advice from Patricia on the evening were as follows:
- When working with high-level donors you will do a lot of the ground-work research and cultivation, but often it is expected that the board will make the ask
- For successful capital campaign management you have to:
- Think on your feet
- Grasp opportunities when they arise
- Be ready and able to deal with big numbers!
- The board need to understand what fundraisers do and how best to support them
- Often the last 10% of the target is the hardest, but this can be the most motivating time for donors as they can see that you are nearly there - make the most of what you have already raised to demonstrate that there is only a small amount left to raise.
- Be clear from the outset of what you can offer in return for large gifts – for example, can you really name a room after a donor indefinitely? Consider offering fixed term naming agreements.
We are so grateful to Patricia for generously giving her time and imparting her knowledge – there’s no doubt that the evening will have inspired and informed possibly the next generation of campaign managers.