The key components of a successful major appeal

Fundraising Consultant Giles Pegram talks through how to make a major appeal successful.

Any charity right now could start the process of launching a major appeal. But what truly makes a major appeal successful?    

What is the difference between a capital appeal and a major appeal? 

A ‘capital appeal’ though good, and able to give a compelling case for support, is not necessary for a ‘major appeal’. Both the NSPCC’s record-breaking major appeals were for targets to fund a re-organisation of existing services, not a new building. ‘A Capital Project,’ if you have, it is the icing on the cake because… 

Major appeals do not require huge innovative thinking. Nor any large investment of resources. Just a rigorous implementation of well-articulated principles that go back 1,000 years and drove both our appeals. What were some of the components of success? Here are some things I’ve learned through my years of launching major appeals: 

The importance of a strong fundraising team 

First, a fundraising staff team driven by the prospect of making a transformational difference to what the charity can do for your beneficiaries. It won’t be plain sailing. There will be setbacks along the way. 

And you need to lead your team through these setbacks. Be honest and transparent. The Appeal Board meeting last night was terrible. But we are working on a plan, and will come back to you within a week to report on it. We will need your help. But the Appeal target is unchanged and unchangeable. Together, we can do it.” 

Set up an Appeals Board 

Secondly, and critically, an Appeal Board that genuinely owns the target. Not just turning up at meetings, giving their best advice to the staff, and then going home. They must genuinely, and as a team, take responsibility for achieving the target, supported by the staff team. When they succeed, they will feel terrific at what they have achieved.   

Don’t have prejudices about who should be on the Appeal Board. So long as they have influence, that’s what matters. But they may be from the world of sport, or entertainment, or the huge numbers of organisations out there. Organisations of ordinary people. 

Communicate with your trustees 

You need to inspire your Trustees to believe that this is desirable and possible, and that it will require a three-year commitment from them to take a (very tiny) long-term outlay of resources and make a decision at a Trustees meeting that will then take three years before the launch of the Appeal, and income coming in.  

This sounds easy, but it isn’t. I achieved it at the NSPCC, but I had constantly to inspire the Trustees that this wait was worthwhile. In my work as a consultant over the last fourteen years, I have come to realise that most trustee boards want results next week, not three years away. Patience is not a usual virtue of a board of charity trustees. 

The Trustees would keep asking why the Appeal Board were being so slow? On the other hand, the Appeal Board would keep asking why the Trustees weren’t doing more to help?  This tension had to be managed over much of the three years. At the NSPCC we did it, not by smoke-and-mirrors, but because we were always able to give compelling answers. 

Give it enough time, this process can’t be rushed 

A major appeal takes time; calendar time. Moving them from a commitment that involves them writing a cheque, to a commitment that will dominate their time, brains and overcoming challenges. That is why you really need the three years. 

Understanding why people give in this way 

It’s also important to understand why people give.People do this to achieve self-actualisation, the highest level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow himself defined this as, “The desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming” 

Their family, friends and loved ones can’t give them that. Nor can success at work and self-esteem. You can. By being part of a team that raises a truly significant amount of money, they can make a significant difference to the world they live in. 

If your Appeal succeeds, it will not only achieve your already ambitious, nominal target, it will also transform your long-term fundraising. 

Drawing from an award-winning career in fundraising, I now share my insights as a consultant. Find me here.