For over thirty years, the Preservation Trust of Vermont has been helping communities save and reuse their historic places. Every now and then, though, it is helpful to take a step back and look at why we are so passionate about our work.
By Lisa Ryan
Know your project and have a clear understanding of why it is important to you.
The first step to developing a successful fundraising campaign for your historic preservation project is to have a clear idea of what needs to be done. Once you have a solid scope of work established, you can then communicate your plan to individuals, funding agencies and foundations. Before sharing your plan with the public it is important to understand why you and your group believe the project is important. It is likely you will discover that even within your team, there are many reasons why people care about the project and are willing to give. For some, it is aesthetic, for others there may be a more personal connection to the building or an event that took place there. If you are able to share your own motivations and interests and have a clear plan established, you will be well positioned to ask the community for support.
Think broadly about potential supporters and know how much you need to raise.
Setting a fundraising goal will help you to put together a list of potential donors. While some of your funding may come from grant sources, a good percentage will likely need to be raised from individuals. This group of individuals may include family members, friends, neighbors, local business people, alumni, or owners of businesses that you frequent and support. Encourage your fundraising team or board to provide a list of names and consider the giving capacity of each person. Think of your fundraising list as a pyramid with your largest donors at the top. Do you have any potential donors at the $1000, $5,000 or $10,000 level? For larger donors, offer to meet with them in person and share your vision for the project. Let them know your goal and ask them if they would be willing to support the project at a specific level. Remember, you are not asking for yourself, you are asking them to support the goal of the plan you have shared with them.
Find many ways to share your information with the public.
Now that you have some of your larger donations in hand, you can confidently reach out to a broader audience for support. A good fundraising letter can go a long way, but you may also consider working with your local newspaper to share information about your project. Invite the press to visit while your building is being restored or during volunteer events. Share photos and submit press releases to local newsletters or newspapers. If your community uses Front Porch Forum or Facebook, these social media sites can be a great way to share information as well. You may even want to leave a binder with photos and updates at the local library for interested patrons who are not online. If your community has a local radio station, consider talking about your project on the air. You may also want to follow up your fundraising letter with a phone call. It is amazing how much you will learn from your community and how much support you can garner from talking with people about your project.
Say Thank You!
Every donor at every level is significant! You might consider printing thank you cards with a photo or artistic rendering of your project. Include a personal note and if possible, have each member of your fundraising group include their signature. Thanking people publicly as the donations are received my also help you attract new supporters. Seeing who has given may motivate others to give as well. People will also be motivated by your success and inspired by the generosity of others.
And last but not least….
Celebrate your success! Having a community celebration is a great way to honor the people who contributed to your project and to invite the public to share in your achievements.