Value added - partnering with a fundraising consultancy

Phillip Rothwell To Shares His Experience

We asked Phillip Rothwell, Director of Development at the Warwick Independent Schools Foundation (WISF) to share his experience

As corporate members of the IDPE and having worked with schools across different sectors, we know that engaging a fundraising consultancy can represent a major strategic investment for many governing bodies. We asked Phillip Rothwell, Director of Development at the Warwick Independent Schools Foundation (WISF) to share his views on the value of appointing consultants and the experience of partnering with Gifted to deliver the £4m One Campus+ capital fundraising campaign.

Why did WISF need to engage fundraising consultants? 

A Development programme existed at WISF for several years prior to engaging a fundraising consultancy. We were beginning to have some success; for example, a recent capital appeal for a new school hall reached seven-figures. In analysing our results, we concluded success was due to a combination of hard work and good luck. We knew we were doing the right things and had established the foundations of a philanthropic culture, but we also knew that with some strategic planning we could be even better.

In 2016, WISF announced an ambitious £40 million capital development to relocate King’s High School for Girls to join the other schools in the Foundation on a single campus. This also represented an opportunity to take our fundraising programme to the next level and deliver something truly exceptional for our community. Having spoken to a number of other schools and universities, it was clear that we needed to conduct a feasibility study to ascertain our case for support and a transformational, but achievable fundraising target.

The governors and senior leadership engaged Gifted to undertake a feasibility study. The results of the study formed the basis for a new fundraising campaign that was inspired by, and endorsed by the school community. 

What should schools look for when they decide to appoint a fundraising consultancy?

The decision to engage a fundraising consultancy is never taken lightly in a school. Development teams are hard-working and often stretched, working to tight budgets. A school should understand the value that consultants will add to the Development programme. When looking for a fundraising consultancy for the first time, schools should look around at other successful peer development programmes and find out what they did, how they involved consultants and the best way to work with them. School development is a supportive profession and it’s not difficult to get advice from others who have been there and done it.

Since school development teams are small it’s important to look for a consultancy that shares your values and ethos. Ultimately, as a people business, the individuals from school and consultancy need to get along to get the best out of the partnership.

Schools should also look for authenticity when appointing a fundraising consultancy. This can be the authenticity of fundraising experience such as a proven track record of securing major gifts and delivering successful campaigns in a range of sectors. It can also mean the personal authenticity of the consultants with whom you will work; look for people who believe passionately in the value of philanthropy for the long term, and not just on short term success.

How has partnering with Gifted been helpful to your development plans?

Our partnership with Gifted feels like a journey. After engaging the team to do a feasibility study we retained their services for ongoing guidance with our new fundraising campaign. We feel that the partnership is becoming stronger and, consequently, more effective as time goes on.

The support of the Gifted team has transformed the way we think about our development programme. It is now much more strategic; the development team feels confident in the fundraising plan and targets, and the senior leadership and governors endorse and support the philanthropic goals of the organisation. Through our partnership with Gifted, Development is becoming a core part of WISF’s capacity to deliver transformational education opportunities to our pupils.   

If your school is looking to engage a fundraising consultancy to assist with the next big development challenge, please get in touch with one of our Directors.