When Royal Grammar School (RGS) Guildford decided to run a Giving Day to increase awareness of their Twenty for 2020 Bursary Campaign, they knew that success wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Up until this point, their community and events hadn’t been focused on fundraising, and so clear planning and strategy were going to be crucial to elicit change.
They decided to bring in Hubbub to tailor and support their Giving Day journey. Nothing could have prepared them for the incredible impact their Giving Day was going to have!
Once the day's success had been realised, Georgie Grant Haworth, Director of Development at the RGS, was keen to share what she and her team had learned. In this Q&A, Georgie shares with us the journey they experienced, as well as her top tips for anyone else who might also be considering a Giving Day.
Hubbub: What aspirations did you hope to achieve through running a Giving Day?
Georgie: Ultimately, we wanted to raise our profile across our entire community - parents, alumni and current staff - for our Twenty for 2020 Bursary Campaign. To do this, we needed a high-profile, professional event that was recognisably a ‘fundraising’ event for a community that has not, in the past, been philanthropically aware.
The Giving Day was stage two of a three-stage process to kick-start a regular giving programme. We hoped to gain new supporters, boost our prospect pipeline for our campaign, prepare the ground for our forthcoming telephone campaign and get our community excited about our long-term vision for RGS: to be needs-blind. It was also an incredible opportunity to reconnect our fantastic alumni with our institution.
H: Would you say that these ambitions were realised?
G: Undoubtedly – and more. Initially, our Giving Day was predominantly an awareness-raising exercise. To have raised over £130,000 and recruited 300 new donors is wild.
H: What did the profile of giving look like at RGS prior to running your Giving Day?
G: Although we had loyal, regular donors, the scale was on a much smaller level and over a long period of time. On average we had 350 regular donors (mostly parents) giving between £7pcm and £1200 per annum. We then had around 50 campaign donors giving between £1509 and £19,000 per annum to our Bursary Campaign, pledged over seven years. Finally, we had between 10-30 one-off unsolicited gifts each year.
H: What was the response among key decision-makers and internal partners?
G: Unexpectedly positive and supportive. The School understood why we needed to raise our profile and were prepared for the necessary disruption in and around Giving Day to support that. In fact, they wanted to do more!
The long-term benefit
H: Besides increasing donor participation, how will your Giving Day success be felt within the RGS community?
G: There will be an increased understanding of the RGS Bursary Programme, what it does, why it matters, alongside our long-term ambitions for the School to be needs-blind. Ultimately, if there was an increased sense of ownership of this project across the whole community, that would be an incredible result. We showed that we can do something that is really precise and professional... which is not always how fundraising has been seen.
We’ve also shown why investment in fundraising matters as this will be vital for the future of fundraising.
The emotional edge
H: How do you feel running a Giving Day differs for the schools' sector than for others?
G: We have the emotional edge – a personal connection that outstrips what universities have by a country mile. That’s a real benefit and one we believe schools need to play on. It’s about figuring out what makes you unique. What will your alumni really remember? Use it. Make films. Tell a story that sparks a memory. Tap into that emotional connection. Those childhood memories are strong, far stronger and more important to most people than their university ones – but people need to be reminded.
In contrast, we have very small numbers of potential supporters. If a normal Giving Day can expect a 1-2% response rate, that’s not super hopeful for schools. It was therefore even more important that our Giving Day was not just about fundraising but really utilised major gifts and donors.
The top tips
H: What would you tell others who are thinking of running a Giving Day?
G: I would say, think very carefully. Above all else, consider how you are going to resource it. This is not something you can just bring people in to do.
A partner like Hubbub is invaluable (there’s no way we could have done it without them), but it takes man-hours and a real commitment to connect with your audience. The potential value is enormous and stretches much further than just the money raised… but you will have to work hard to get there.
Particularly for schools, Giving Days can play a very valuable role so long as each school understands the work, resources and investment required. It’s so important to fit a Giving Day into a wider programme of activities and take advantage of the opportunities available beyond fundraising.
H: Why did you decide to partner with Hubbub for your Giving Day?
G: I had attended a Hubbub Giving Day seminar and was super impressed with the knowledge and engagement of their presenters. I then met and spoke to other members of the Hubbub team and felt very confident that they would work with us as partners to make our first Giving Day a success; which they absolutely did!
A Giving Day is not something that just anyone can consult on. They take real understanding about how you can not only create a successful first Giving Day, but also how you can take that success and weave it into every part of your programme from there on out. Bringing in a partner like Hubbub is just as much about sustainability as it is about success.
The extra mile
H: Do you feel that this partnership aided your Giving Day success?
G: 100% – the tech was spot on, but much more importantly, the team were with us every step of the way; properly engaged, working with us and taking us through it all step by step.
They were there to teach, guide, help us to effectively strategise, encourage us through any of the tougher times and, most importantly, celebrate the impressive end result! I cannot praise Hubbub highly enough. They were properly invested in our success; we saw them as part of the team. In addition to learning a huge amount, we had great fun. It sounds corny, but this is what partnership can - and should - be like.
H: What happens next for the philanthropic world of RGS?
G: In addition to feeding into our telephone campaign, the Giving Day has given us excellent ammunition for our case to increase our fundraising resources and to target parents in our future fundraising. Previously, this is something that the organisation has been wary of.
The Giving Day response – nearly 60% of donors were parents – shows that parents are keen to be involved so we can go forward without fear. Led by the parents, we then have a greater opportunity to influence the next generation of OGs for fundraising in 20 years time.