Liz Tait: What we're learning at the halfway mark of our most ambitious appeal yet

Liz Tait, director of fundraising at Great Ormond Street Hospital discusses how the charity's most ambitious appeal is going so far, and what the organisation has learned.

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We launched our Build it. Beat it fundraising appeal to private audiences in June 2022, before publicly launching it in April 2023 with our Charity of the Year partnership with the 2023 TCS London Marathon.

Raising money to help build a new Children’s Cancer Centre at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), this appeal was the biggest in our history, aiming to raise £300million to drive transformation in children’s cancer care. Whilst having such a big fundraising target was motivating, we were mindful of having such an ambitious target in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis. We have a long history in running capital appeals and were well aware of the challenges; you’re effectively ‘selling’ it to donors ahead of having all the plans confirmed and having to contend with the potential for things to change throughout, especially with a project of this nature and scale.

We split the campaign into two distinct phases, launching privately to high value donors, foundations and corporates first. In today’s connected world, it’s much more challenging to undertake a private phase of fundraising, particularly with the need to recognise the efforts of our corporate partners. This meant we launched our public fundraising appeal earlier than we might have done in the past.

Knowing we only had a short private phase compared to previous capital appeals, it was essential that we worked quickly, making sure our Fundraising teams had what they needed to garner support from our high-value networks. We sought ‘founder’ patrons and partners capable of pledging £1million+ and developed a range of giving opportunities, such as the lead gift of £50million we secured from the Grayken family for principal naming rights. We were also thrilled to secure a £20million gift from our long-term partner Premier Inn & Restaurants, a £10million pledge from Omaze and an incredible pledge from the Michael Uren Foundation. To help us reach new contacts, we have formed a Campaign Board, with John and Eilene Grayken as its co-chairs.

After a successful private phase, we were ready to launch to the public. We knew we had to make as big a splash as possible – particularly with such a long-term campaign.
We publicly launched the Build it. Beat it. appeal with our 2023 TCS London Marathon Charity of the Year partnership, using this once-in-a-generation opportunity as a springboard for an integrated public campaign. While we were very fortunate to be able to launch the appeal with such an iconic event, this also meant we had to balance multiple messages whilst seeking as much cut-through as possible.

We publicised the announcement using various different channels and fundraising activities. We built a cast of London Marathon runners representing different elements of cancer care at GOSH, including former patients, current families and families running in memory of their children. Their stories were deployed across numerous channels, bringing to life the urgent need for the new Children’s Cancer Centre.

Marathon day was one that I will never forget. Seeing the sea of purple line the streets of London; all the amazing staff and volunteers cheering proudly and the incredible Team GOSH runners, was the perfect pinnacle for the launch.

While we are thrilled with how the campaign is going, we are very mindful that it’s a five-year appeal, so we will need to work hard to keep it fresh and relevant.

We’ve had lots of learnings so far. We spent a lot of time developing our case for support with Hospital colleagues and the overall campaign proposition with Open Creates, to make it as clear and compelling as possible. We quickly saw the benefits of investing time, resource and effort in project management and will continue investing in this area throughout the campaign.

Investing in research and planning was also essential, understanding our donors and connections before our fundraising got underway in earnest was key. This helped us prioritise where to focus our efforts and meant that we were prepared in terms of due diligence.

In particular, we would recommend focusing on a transformational gift first. With our significant ambition, we knew we needed a £50million lead gift to achieve our goal. This made us really focused, and with a bold target, we had to be bold in turn.
A little over one year into the campaign, we are thrilled to say we have raised and secured pledges of £148.5m for the appeal so far, just about reaching our halfway point. This is testament to the amazing families at the hospital, the generosity of our incredible supporters and the hard work of all involved – it's been a true team effort.

It’s been a phenomenal start, but we can’t rest on our laurels and there’s still a long way to go to help make our vision of the Children’s Cancer Centre at GOSH, a reality. Find out more here.

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