I am helping to plan a fundraising campaign to raise around €7 million for one of my cultural clients. The idea is to buy a building (which has its own history) as a home for the whole organisation and its academy. This would save money in rents and provide a PR boost for the organisation which is oddly invisible since it currently does not have its own building. A large part of the funding will come from private donors although a public campaign is planned later.

Private conversations have been taking place for some time but we recently got a group of wealthy and well-connected supporters together for a lunch in the building in question. It is in a real mess and requires complete refurbishment but it still has electricity and running water so it was possible for outside caterers to bring in food and drink. The food was good but it was all rather ad-hoc and we had to take care with dust, old wiring and even holes in the floorboards. But imagine how much more powerful it was for the architects to talk about their plans whilst actually inside the building and the ideas for how the organisation would be using each floor and room were more vivid. The donors loved it and we all took a deep breath inwards when one of them asked if the organisation could use an extra €3m for long-term activities if they could raise €10m rather than ‘just’ €7m. All the other members of the group agreed that could be possible and we had to assure them that we could put the extra money to good use!

Major donors don’t always want champagne receptions. It is often much more emotionally engaging to bring them to the reality of what their gifts will support, even if it means literally getting their hands dirty!