Editor’s note: Richard Offen has raised funds for the National Trust, a UK conservation NGO, since 1989. In 1993, he undertook management of the Trust’s Neptune Coastline Campaign to acquire and maintain outstanding natural or historic coastal land in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Through the campaign, the Trust has protected 600 miles of coastline, now privately owned by the organization (MPA News 4:10).

This month, Offen is leaving the National Trust to start his own fundraising consultancy. Contact information for his new consultancy is available at the end of his perspective piece below.

By Richard Offen, Manager, Neptune Coastline Campaign (The National Trust)

Since its inauguration 38 years ago, the Neptune Coastline Campaign of the National Trust has raised over 50 million British pounds (US$83.5 million) for the acquisition and subsequent management of coastline in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Each year, the National Trust has acquired an average of seven miles of coastline using Neptune funds, and has carried out countless projects to improve access, protect coastal buildings, and enhance nature conservation.

While the purchase of threatened coastal land may be the “sexiest” focus for fundraising, many apparently mundane projects such as repair of footpaths or vehicle maintenance can be packaged to make them sound vital to the continued conservation of an area. Through imaginative marketing, the National Trust has even managed to raise money for the repair of rest rooms. We give our fundraisers a very wide range of coastal projects to offer potential donors and tempt back old ones, enabling them to “mix and match” projects according to donors’ personal preferences.

Sources of Funding

Almost 75% of the funds raised by the Neptune Coastline Campaign comes from individuals, and one of the key elements of Neptune’s fundraising strategy is the major donor program. Through this program, we develop long-term relationships with donors of 5000 British pounds or more. As with approaches to all funding sources, major donors have to be carefully targeted, taking into account their real gift potential, their “warmth” toward the cause, and their needs. Each approach must also have a specific and well-argued “case for support” to persuade the potential donor to give. (We treat charitable trusts and grantmaking foundations in the same way as major donors, with careful research and cultivation going into every approach.)

Where individuals have already made major gifts, then a warm relationship needs to be maintained, ensuring that the donor feels appreciated. A successful relationship with major donors may lead to substantial legacies: roughly half of Neptune’s income comes from legacy donations, mostly from previous donors. The National Trust carries out regular legacy mailings, which concentrate on donors aged 55 years or older.

The Neptune Coastline Campaign has a good record, as well, of successful sponsorships and sales promotions with private companies. For these firms, protection of the coastline can be attractive as a promotion mechanism to:

  • Create goodwill (with the community, customers, or their employees);
  • Enhance sales;
  • Respond to pressure from government; or
  • Satisfy the company chairman, who may be personally interested in the cause.

Company gifts, be they money or gifts in kind (i.e., donation of goods or services), come with few strings attached. Sponsorships, on the other hand, generally have a legally binding contract, are for a particular time span, and require both parties to deliver specific benefits for a specific sum of money. Such sponsorship agreements are an excellent way for a company to target a precise audience with a message about its products, and can be a cost-effective alternative to more traditional advertising campaigns.

Another excellent source of corporate funding is cause-related marketing in which a proportion of the price of a product is donated to a good cause, such as protecting the coastline. Especially where well-known products are involved, such marketing campaigns can bring large amounts of money and publicity to a charity at little cost, and the company’s customers get a warm altruistic feeling. Neptune currently has an offer running with Pizza Express to promote a fish pizza, which has generated a large amount of media publicity, raised 100,000 British pounds for Neptune, and (what the company likes best!) vastly increased product sales: over 400,000 pizzas in the two years the partnership with Neptune has been running.

Principles Of Fundraising

The principles underlying the Neptune Coastline Campaign’s success are simple and apply to all sectors of the fundraising market. They can be summarized as:

  • You have to ask.
  • The personal approach is vital:
    • Asking someone face to face is better than …
      Telephoning someone to ask for support, which is better than …
      Writing a personal letter to someone asking for support, which is better than …
      Giving a presentation to a group of people, which is better than …
      Putting a request on the internet, which is better than …
      Sending a mass-produced appeal letter to lots of people.
  • Understand the donor’s viewpoint and why he or she should want to give.
  • Fundraising is a “people” business and requires selling.
  • You must say “thank you” to everyone, however small the contribution.

With careful planning and adherence to the above principles, many worthy projects in coastal conservation can benefit from funding from individuals and the private sector. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

For more information:
Richard Offen, 130 Warrensway, Woodside, Telford, Shropshire TF7 5QF, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 1952 585818; E-mail: richard.offen@o2.co.uk.