Education Fund (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
Northern Ireland’s Integrated Education movement is about
providing the opportunity for the children of the region –
Protestant or Catholic, any religion or none – to be educated
together, not apart. Segregation robs children of the chance
to learn, play and make friends with ‘the other side’.
The Integrated Education Fund was founded in 1992 in Belfast
with seed funding from the European Union, the local Department
of Education and two major philanthropic trusts. Its mission
is to provide a financial foundation for the growth of integrated
education in the region by enabling parents to build new schools
or transform existing ones.
In 1998 the Fund launched a campaign to raise £10m in
10 years to reach 10% of the school population. Given the lack
of pre-existing relationships, the sensitivity of the subject
matter and the absence of a natural pool of supporters (such
as alumni or subscribers) the decision was made at the outset
to run a major gifts campaign.
By 2002, momentum had slowed and the Board was concerned that
the Campaign was not hitting mid-term targets. One of
the key donors, a major Irish American foundation, shared their
concern and agreed to provide funding for external counsel.
Frankie Airey was commissioned to conduct a review. The brief
was to benchmark IEF’s fundraising against international
best practice while acknowledging the very particular set of
circumstances within which the organisation operates.
The main finding was that there was nothing intrinsically wrong!
IEF boasted a willing Board, skilled executive and fundraising
staff, and a small but growing donor base. However, it appeared
that the initial planning process had not tailored the standard
development principles to the Northern Ireland, and specifically
IEF, context. This had fostered an unrealistic expectation of
workload, division of responsibility and timescale among both
the Board and staff. In turn, this created a sense of disappointment
as the scale of the exercise became apparent and targets were
not being met.
In addition to advising on general tactics and processes, the
report recommended a clearer operational framework for the Board,
the wider volunteer network and the staff. This not only helped
to identify gaps in the external network but also, and perhaps
more important, reinforced unity of purpose and improved teamwork
across the whole organisation.
IEF applied the recommendations over the ensuing months. As
a result, annual income began to exceed target the following
year, and has consistently done so ever since.
The relationship continued after Frankie returned to Australia
and established Philanthropy Squared. She has returned every
2 years to provide objective analysis and guidance. As the organisation
grows in stature and confidence, the issues and challenges have
The 2004 review focused on improving communications with key
target groups and spreading the geographic reach of the volunteer
and donor base. By 2006, the total raised is over £13m
in cash and pledges – well over the campaign target, 2
years ahead of time. This strategic and operational review helped
to explore the very vision and mission of IEF as it prepares
its strategies for the next 10 years. It is interesting to note
that the donors themselves were among the most vocal advocates
for maintaining the pace and scale of the fundraising effort
in the years ahead.
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