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Individual Giving: Membership Schemes, Major Gifts and Legacies

9 December 16 -- Anonymous

The second event in our Fundraising and Philanthropy series of 2016 took place on Tuesday 8 November in the Ashmolean’s Headley Lecture Theatre. Louisa Pharoah, Director of Development & Research at the ss Great Britain Trust, gave the first keynote of the day. The ss Great Britain carefully balances its roles as a visitor attraction, an archive, and a library as well as running an education programme.  Louisa shared with us her thoughts on the current trends in the fundraising sector today, which include: the need for good governance, the value of high quality impact reporting and the importance of diversity across audiences as well as within organisations. With the average adult spending eight hours a day using technology, it’s not surprising that technology is another top trend for fundraisers. Donors expect to be able to give anytime, anywhere but still want that all-important emotional connection with the organisation. Building on this the recent Pokemon Go craze opens up an opportunity for the cultural sector to interact with an audience we might not necessarily currently connect with. There are lots of examples of museums already engaging with Pokemon Go users on Twitter – take a look at the hashtag #pokemeongo to join in. One final trend to mention is, of course, Brexit though the impact of this is difficult to predict at present.

The ss Great Britain’s response to these trends is formed by three key points:


2.Looking after supporters

3.Learning from outside the sector

Using these as focus points Louisa and the team at the ss Great Britain Trust are working towards a resilient approach to their fundraising.

Our next speaker for the day was Fiona Gourley, the Head of Development for the Gardens and Museums at Oxford University. Fiona opened her presentation by encouraging fundraisers to ask themselves what they want to achieve from their work and to be mindful of the difference between marketing and philanthropy. 

For museums with free entry it can be challenging to know who your supporters are but investing in a good CRM system is a positive step in developing relationships with donors. Another key point to take away from Fiona’s presentation was related to benefits, particularly around Gift Aid benefit rules, and how important it is to be aware of financial restrictions and policies.

Using one of Louisa’s key steps to fundraising resilience we were lucky to hear from speakers from outside the museum sector: Louise Chantal, CEO of the Oxford Playhouse and her colleague Paddy Chatterton, Director of Development. The Playhouse earns the majority of its income through ticket sales; however, donations from individual giving have enabled them to carry out essential work that otherwise would not have taken place. Recent renovations, particularly of their VIP members’ room, were almost entirely funded through philanthropic giving. 

Louise reiterated Fiona’s argument that a good CRM system is invaluable as it helps to develop both a relationship and a journey for members and donors. The focus of the Playhouse’s membership programme has traditionally been audience development rather than fundraising however the community support for the organisation is something the team are very proud of and area always looking to build on.

Heidi Kurtz, Senior Development Executive for the Gardens and Museums at Oxford University then gave her introduction to major gifts for new fundraisers. Heidi described a major gift as being partly defined by your institution and partly defined by your donor. Her tips and tricks included developing relationships between donors and organisations rather than specific individuals, working face-to-face whenever possible and trying to aim for the magic combination of right project, right amount, right solicitor, and right time.

Heidi recommended visiting - Fast Track is a leading research and events company that has created a network of the UK's top-performing private companies through rankings in the Sunday Times and could be a useful tool when researching potential donors. Every major donor is an investor and Heidi recommended taking the time to get your ‘thank you’ right as it helps to continue the relationship.

Richard Berman, Fundraising Project Coordinator at the Chiltern Open Air Museum gave us a case study exploring the Arts Council England, Museum Resilience Fund, Flourish Project - a partnership with two other organisations, Didcot Light Railway (part of the Great Western Society) and Tring Local History Museum, which runs 30 April 2017. Richard’s approach to his fundraising follows the following steps:  Identify – research – plan – involve – ask – confirm – steward. In addition to financial donations Richard has also been able to secure payment in kind through skills and talents of supporters. You can read more about the project on the Chiltern Open Air Museum website

Our final section of the day looked at legacies and Heidi Kurtz and her colleague Caroline Reynolds, Legacies Officer for Oxford University, provided the first overview of the topic. They talked about the importance of embedding legacy giving into all aspects of your fundraising programme and to aim to include a legacy message in all your marketing material. The museum sector has a well-established practice for legacy giving and a clear public benefit which helps when designing marketing material and approaching potential legators. A type of donation sometimes made in a will that is rather unique to museums is the gift of an object. These do carry additional financial care costs so should be carefully considered before being accepted. Finally, Heidi and Caroline highlighted the importance of recruiting the best people to your team; the perfect legacies manager will be great with people and display sensitivity in difficult and highly emotional situations.

Our last speaker was Susan Hughes who has recently moved on from her position at the V&A Museum to become the Legacy Manager for The Brooke. Susan spoke to us about her wide-ranging experience, which has included moving from a museum where she established a new legacy programme to working for a charity where 60% of the income is received from legacy donations.

With less than 1% of charitable legacies donated to the cultural sector Susan knew she was facing a challenge in setting up the V&A’s new legacy programme. Making sure that staff within the organisation knew about the scheme was just as important as advertising it externally and Susan worked with the wider development team and with colleagues in different departments to ensure the programme’s success.

Susan encouraged the delegates on the day to keep developing their skills through courses and networking opportunities. She recommended checking out the Institute of Legacy Management and legacy management groups on Linked In to keep connected with colleagues across the sector.

We’ll also be running another event in our Fundraising and Philanthropy series in 2017 so check back in the New Year for details.  Thank you to all our speakers and delegates for making the 8 November an interesting and varied day; we hope to see you again soon.