In the past, schools lurched from one capital appeal to the next, often with five or more years of silence and lost data in between. Now, across the board, development is more professional and more enduring, with better appeals, donor-stewardship and improving data-management.
But as a sector we still seem to struggle with creating the over-arching narrative for development. So much giving is still transactional, e.g. ‘I’ll support your theatre project because my daughter loves drama and will benefit’. While turning off this type of giving would be a shot in the foot, I think we need to improve the way we present the bigger story: the way we raise people’s gaze above the immediate project.
Some schools attempt this with the creation of an enduring campaign. I think there is merit in this, though my experience indicates that it is not an easy journey, because there will not be many early-takers to giving at campaign-level. Most donors will still require the concrete project. You also have to show restraint in choosing your moment to dial up the campaign message.
All that said, I believe a campaign helps create continuity, provides a reason to promote and embed a compelling vision and, most importantly, in time will serve as a stepping stone towards the nirvana of unrestricted donations and legacies.