Why it pays to go private

Those of you who have looked into the dark art of launching a major fundraising campaign may have come across this concept of having a “private” phase and a “public” phase.

The perceived wisdom is you don’t launch and go “public’ until you have raised sufficient funds in the private phase. The private phase is spent securing the behind the scenes pledges and gifts in advance of your launch.

Why bother? Why not go public straight away? After all if you have to raise £20 million you might as well tell everyone from the outset. Isn’t the private phase just an excuse to delay the asks and make plans that you won’t use anyway?

Last week I was given this wonderful analogy over a double macchiato coffee, by our wise fundraising coach and advisor Carlos Miranda, which helped me understand what the private phase is all about.

“Think of it like a new West End Play announcing it’s arrival“, said Carlos (who admitted he only came up with the analogy this week when trying to get across the concept to a client).

When it goes public what has been organised? The lead cast has been selected and some big names are on the billing that already make you think this must be good –  in the private phase these are your major donors or big name corporates.

The key sponsors have been secured, the tour dates are booked, and the tickets are ready to sell  – in the same way you will need to have in place all the ways people can support your appeal – donate, fundraise, buy etc. Most importantly the story has well and truly been crafted and rehearsed – back in our world it’s the fundraising narrative behind the entire campaign that has been refined, tested and ready to share with audiences.

This means when you go public people will want to be part of this. They believe this will be a success.  That’s why a good chunk of any appeal target has been secured before you public (as a general rule its 50%). I’m also learning that the private phase is an opportunity to engage major supporters. It’s a great way to get their input (which can be so insightful) along with increasing the likelihood of their buy in and support.

So who do you want on your top billing on launch day? With so much to line up before you go public you can see the private phase isn’t about planning it’s about doing. So get cracking!

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