CDE project 9: putting the principles and actions into practice — part 10
- Written by
- The Commission on the Donor Experience
- April 19, 2017
Learning from success stories
The 2015 Coutts Million Dollar Donor Report for the UK shows that £1m/+ gifts are not evenly distributed across sectors: 86 gifts worth £565m went to foundations and 68 gifts worth $485m went to higher education. The implication of this is that higher education institutions successfully meet the needs of major donors. What do they offer and what can we learn?
King’s College London's World questions | King’s answers fundraising campaign closed in spring 2016, having raised more than £600m—beating the original £500m target 18 months early. In an interview , Gemma Peters, Executive Director of Fundraising and Supporter Development at King’s, identifies three key success factors:
- a shift from ‘old style’ education campaigns to build the institution to a campaign about King’s solutions to important world problems.
- an inspirational campaign leader—John Major—who was not an alumnus, and so provided external validation of the campaign rationale.
- a focus on the campaign story—people whose lives have been transformed—and not the money.
These points underline key ways in which major donors choose their causes. They focus on inspiring—sometimes leap of faith—solutions about how their support can make a transformational difference to an issue. They focus on impact and difference. They respond to causes according to their passion, interest and excitement, not necessarily through a rationale assessment of need. They follow their instinct and their trust in organisations and the people at the top of those organisations.
Successful major donor fundraising organisations understand and work with major donors who think, feel and act in this way. They are pragmatic and responsive, able to assess opportunities, implement plans flexibly and be responsive to external passions and interests. They are unlikely to have a completely fixed forward plan, but are capable of responding to the possibilities that major donors offer, working with them to jointly make progress towards the mission:
‘The biggest gifts are made to charities that are prepared to work alongside donors to craft exciting propositions.’ 
Matthew Ferguson and Gemma Peters, Directors of Principal Gifts King’s College London & King’s Health Partners
In many respects, this brings us full circle to the question of choice—successful major donor fundraising organisations are those that genuinely see major donors as partners in their mission.