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November 17, 2017


Marie Turnbull, a senior fundraiser at Maggie's, shares her experience of capital appeals.

Maggie's provides free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their family and friends, following the ideas about cancer care originally laid out by Maggie Keswick Jencks. Built in the grounds of NHS cancer hospitals, Maggie's Centres are places with professional staff on hand to offer the support people need - places to find practical advice about benefits and eating well; places where qualified experts provide emotional support; places to meet other people; places where patients can simply sit quietly with a cup of tea.

The first Maggie's Centre opened in Edinburgh in 1996 and since then Maggie's has continued to grow, with 20 Centres in the UK and abroad.
Marie Turnbull shares her experience on capital appeals...


You've worked for both regional and national cancer charities: what are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing fundraisers working for these causes?

Whether a regional or national charity we all face the same challenges around the fundamental changes to fundraising regulation in recent years and how we ensure we respond to that. Public confidence in charities is low and we all have a lot to do to restore that faith, especially in fundraising practices. There is such excellent practice out there, fundraisers need to raise increasing amounts of income for much needed causes and they are incredible people handling large workloads and investing so much of themselves in the causes they work for with little public recognition.

Obviously regional charities don't have as much resource to communicate as extensively or strategically with large volumes of donors, whereas national charities can struggle to compete competitively in the regional fundraising arena. That is why Maggie's is a great balance for me as we fund essential services in each of our locations to the local population but with a national strategic internal operation to ensure we do this in the most effective way possible. Maggie's also has international Centres in Hong Kong and Tokyo with more planned including Barcelona, Norway and the Netherlands - there is a lot more we can all do to learn from fundraising approaches in other countries.

How do you transition from the big capital appeal phase before the opening of a new Maggie's Centre to the everyday fundraising needed for sustainability?

Firstly we build the first five years revenue costs into each Capital appeal and ensure that our donors are also invested in our future. The five years running costs then allows you to develop your community and corporate fundraising programme and build a volume of supporters to fund your operations whilst major donations naturally decline. Many Maggie's capital fundraising boards transition to become revenue fundraising boards which ensures that their networks are taken on a journey from a capital to a revenue fundraising need.

A robust database and data collection helps to ensure networks, cultivation or stewardship plans are not lost following the campaign. This is all of course supported by a robust fundraising strategy and structure.

It takes time for the income to step up from a standing start, even when you are doubling the income ever year. You have to bear in mind that you are on the site of a busy hospital where there is usually lots of charity activity from causes with well-known profiles, so it takes time to find your own niche and support.

What tips or advice could you give to fundraising teams embarking on capital appeal fundraising?

Make sure that you have an exceptional board and/ or appeal board of well connected individuals who are prepared to 'ask' and put the effort in, that you have robust plans and clear timescales in place so that you engage those people within pre-defined timeframes.

Regular, clear and transparent communications are key especially around scheme delays and setbacks. To have a clear and detailed campaign strategy in place and if you don't have campaigning expertise within your organisation, recruit a dedicated resource or Fundraising Consultant to support this. Be clear on your table of gifts and obviously look to find the largest possible donations from the fewest donors. Always keep in mind the transition to revenue funding and build the first few years' requirements into your capital campaign.

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