to the Challenge
When I was asked to
write this article on fundraising issues facing cathedrals today I thought,
‘Where do I start?’ Historic buildings of all kinds are faced with major
challenges, many of which have been highlighted by recent high profile
coverage on television. Historic cathedrals are faced with somewhat different,
although similar challenges. They are unique buildings, not only because
of the restoration and repair issues, huge though they are, but also because
they are centres of living communities and they need significant sums
of money on a dayby- day basis to fulfil their role.
A cathedral’s role
spans many centuries and I suspect that the funding issues we currently
face differ very little from the ones faced in days gone by. Indeed, cathedral
fabric funds were first introduced in medieval times, with the sole intention
of funding repairs. What has changed is the complexity of modern fundraising,
the number of sources available, the need for complex funding applications
and, probably the most important, the wide range of ‘good causes’ these
days to which people can give their money. While different cathedrals
have different needs, the common factor for all is the need to raise substantial
sums of money to meet their commitments.
The problems around
this issue are complex, but in reality they can be summed up by saying
that cathedrals are faced with the ‘double whammy’ of increased costs
and reduced income. Costs such as insurance, building expenses, staff
salaries and new health and safety legislation have increased considerably
over the past few years, while income from a range of sources such as
investments, charitable trusts, visitors and donations has decreased.
Of particular concern to some cathedrals is the uncertainty of English
Heritage’s cathedral grant scheme and what the future holds in that direction.
The issue of charging for entry to cathedrals is one that has generated
many pages of comment and I will not add to it, except to say that in
Lincoln’s case we would find it almost impossible to replace this income
and if we lost it, the life and work of the cathedral would suffer.
To put this challenge
into a wider context, no matter where you work in fundraising it is one
of the most interesting and most challenging jobs. Whether you are trying
to find funding for one of Europe’s finest Gothic buildings or trying
to support a local donkey sanctuary, we all need to address the same issues.
The current uncertainty in the economy with the fall in value of investment
portfolios is hitting charities hard, and the downturn in the economy
is increasing the pressure on our benefactors. The challenge at Lincoln
is a complex one, but the bottom line is that we need to raise £2.5 million
a year to fund all aspects of the cathedral’s operations. The cathedral
has a staff of 70; this includes a works department of 30 people which
manages and carries out the repair and restoration programme on the fabric
of the building which costs over £1.1 million a year. While this is a
staggering amount of money, the cathedral architect’s advice is that this
level of spending will need to be maintained for the next 20 years.
Another major part
of our fundraising work is to raise the £300,000 needed every year to
fund the cathedral’s music, and these two areas, fabric and music, taken
with the sums needed to sustain the mission and library, mean that not
only do we need to raise a significant amount of money, but also for a
diverse range of projects. In addition, we also need to improve our toilets,
signage, and other visitor services – quite a shopping list!
So, how do you start?
It may help to give some background on the approach that Lincoln took
to address the problem. Three years ago the chapter felt that the only
way forward was to approach it from a strategic point of view, and so
it decided to appoint a ‘director of fundraising’ whose remit was to raise
funds for all areas of the cathedral’s work. Before this, fundraising
was a diversified function with no co-ordination. My first task was to
produce a four-year fundraising strategy which identified the cathedral’s
priorities and set out implementation programmes to which were attached
targets and timescales.
The next stage was
to appraise every area we were fundraising in and to make certain we were
using the right approach. For example; were our leaflets clear enough,
and were they reaching the right people and organisations? Were our events
producing the maximum returns, and were our charitable trust applications
attractive enough to attract trustees’ attention? We also looked to see
if there were new fundraising ideas that we could develop and thereby
offer potential donors some opportunities unique to Lincoln. From this
analysis we developed a more diverse approach incorporating both standard
fundraising techniques and different ideas, such as the selling of plaques
made from sections of roof timber and roof nails removed from the cathedral
during restoration. Another initiative was to offer amateur organists
the chance to play our world-famous ‘Father’ Willis organ for half an
hour on Monday evenings.
One thing that is
difficult to explain to the public is that, just because we are Lincoln
Cathedral, does not mean that we have some automatic right to funding.
We, like everybody else, have to compete with other charities and work
as hard and as professionally as they do in order to access funds.
We need to face the
fact that we are asking for support in a very competitive market, with
many other worthwhile causes all vying for attention. Many of the charities
we are competing with employ sophisticated methods and allocate substantially
more resources than we have at our disposal, to get people to part with
their money. This makes raising money for cathedrals a difficult task
requiring a professional approach and, while there is a role for volunteers,
if they are not managed properly, the message gets diluted and fundraising
is a mix of marketing, visitor management and raising awareness. It is
about communicating your needs clearly and to the right people, putting
in place a combination of interesting fundraising programmes and keeping
donors aware of the progress of the projects that they have funded. However,
there is a wider issue here and that is the picture which cathedrals present
to potential donors. It must be realised that in this media-oriented age,
high profile organisations are scrutinised over their every action. Cathedrals
must take this into consideration before embarking on any action, which
could alienate any new or existing donors. They should have in place communication
strategies, so any potential problem can be rectified before it has a
negative effect on public opinion and therefore possible donors.
An example of a recent
successful fundraising initiative at Lincoln is the sponsorship programme
for the Dean’s Eye Window restoration project. This offers individuals
and organisations the chance to sponsor a section of newly carved tracery
or stained glass for amounts ranging from £50 to £2,000. Launched in February
2003, this scheme has already raised over £60,000. The campaign has been
backed up with leaflets, a lot of press releases and articles in local
and national papers, interviews on local television and radio, major coverage
in the cathedral’s fundraising newsletter, information on the website
and direct mail to companies and organisations. All this has generated
a great deal of interest; many people have paid visits to see the work
in progress and this in turn has resulted in more sponsorship. The project
has been featured in the past three fundraising newsletters, and this
has kept the donors aware of how the project is progressing.
One thing that has
struck me is the lack of discussion of fundraising issues between cathedrals.
While one could argue that cathedrals are in competition for some sources
of funding, in the main this is not the case and I am convinced that a
network or exchange of fundraising information would benefit both giver
and receiver. It would certainly help to alleviate the feeling of isolation
that I know some cathedral fundraisers feel.
To sum up, how do
you approach such a task? Quite simply, you try to diversify your fundraising.
Adopt an approved strategy and stick to it. Incorporate new ideas which
catch the eyes of potential donors. As well as carrying on with tried
and tested traditional fundraising methods, make certain your documentation
is attractive and eye catching, and once you have received a donation,
keep the donor up to date with the project. Make certain that your presentations
to potential sponsors and donors are of top quality and professionally
produced. And probably the most important thing of all is make certain
that everything is done in a professional manner. Remember: people have
an ever-increasing choice of where to give their money.
So, if anyone wants
to play Lincoln Cathedral’s organ, please give me a ring but you will
have to wait until next year!
article is reproduced from Historic Churches, 2003
PETER COLEMAN is Director of Fundraising,
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