Stephen Cotterill: At the core of all successful major donor programmes are relationships

08 Jun 2021 Voices

At the core of all successful major donor programmes are relationships. It’s time to put those to the test.

One thing the pandemic has done is lay to waste any lingering notions that we live in an equitable society when it comes to the distribution of wealth. Cracks have been exposed in the thin rendering of our economy, and the poor and marginalised have suffered more during this period – physically, mentally and financially.

The world’s richest got richer during Covid-19. The combined wealth of the 171 UK billionaires making The Sunday Times 2021 Rich List is £597bn, up £106bn, or 21.7%, on last year. Not that that should be a surprise; capitalism seeks out opportunities and those that have means and acumen will prosper from any change in dynamic, even if that is a globally disastrous one. It’s not necessarily malicious – I’m not suggesting Jeff Bezos is selling life-vests on the Titanic for profit or anything (although you probably can get them on Amazon). It’s just the nature of the beast.

They are also giving more. For the first time, donations tracked by The Sunday Times exceeded £4bn, up from just over £3bn last year. This shows why major donors are key to the recovery of so many aspects of civil society as we emerge from the pandemic. From arts, culture and education, to healthcare and medical research, rich benefactors can provide a lifeline for charitable organisations whose normal avenues to income have been shut off by the virus.

Getting your cause to the front of the queue is the challenge though. At the core of all successful major donor programmes are relationships. These require time, patience and sensitivity. It takes a cool head not to want to blurt out “please can we have some money?” during the first prospect meeting.

The networks and connections you have are no doubt complex and multifaceted. But the stakes have never been higher, and those  relationships will need to be tested. High- net-worth individuals need to step up and  fundraisers can encourage them to do that.


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