Developing a legacy programme: looking back at the Dead Donkey Club
This week, we take a look back at the experience of Elizabeth College Foundation, a long-standing client, who developed a legacy programme with support from Craigmyle’s Geoff Howard.
The following words from journalist and broadcaster Bruce Parker, who was educated at Elizabeth College, reflected on the team effort to develop what became known as the Dead Donkey Club.
The Elizabeth College Foundation set itself a fund-raising target of around £1.3 million in 2007. In its sights were a new sixth-form centre development in existing buildings, upgrades of classroom accommodation in the junior schools, a housing cover for the school’s outdoor swimming pool and a new pavilion on one of its playing field sites.
From the mainland side of the English Channel, the assumption is that, in an offshore financial centre such as Guernsey, raising money is a dead cinch. Sweet talk a few fund managers, and you’re home and dry. The reality is very different. Yes, we did achieve our initial target and, yes, all our projects are under way but it took as much hard work to get there as it would have anywhere else.
Not for nothing are natives of Guernsey called ‘donkeys’ – amiable but stubborn and not easily parted from their money. And those who have the strongest connections with Elizabeth College are Guernsey families who’ve lived in the island for generations: many of the rich bankers and financiers have their children educated outside the island anyway. Wastefully, in my opinion, but that’s a discussion for elsewhere.
After the initial fund-raising thrust, Craigmyle’s Geoff Howard concentrated our minds on the next phase, legacies. Some of those on the original fund-raising committee didn’t quite have the stomach for the delicacies of death talk with ageing Old Elizabethans and, in truth, none of us relished it all that much.
We braced ourselves, however, and decided to go ahead with the formation of a legacy club. Membership would be open to anyone (or any couple) who made provision for the College in their will with a bequest. We would try to sell the club as ‘exclusive’ with up-market club events open only to members.
Sitting in his Hampshire garden one summer morning, Geoff and I agreed that the prospect of being a member of something called a ‘legacy club’ was just about as boring as it gets. So, capitalising on the islanders’ own self-parodying as donkeys, we launched the Dead Donkey Club. It would have its own tie (the tradaitional Old Elizabethan tie with a single donkey on it) and a there’d be a flag depicting a donkey, to be flown on the main college building whenever there was a club event.
Initially, many were squeamish about the title, hostile even. We soon discovered, though, that it actually brought smiles to people’s faces, which is exactly what we wanted. This was greatly helped by the appointment of Geoff Dorey, a well-known Guernseyman with a sense of humour, as the Honorary Chief Donkey. While we, the trustees and Foundation Committee, got on with the business of fund-raising, the Chief Donkey would organise the club’s social events. Generously, he has also paid for the new silk ties and there may be bow-ties to come, too.
To sell the Dead Donkey Club to potential members, we have had a range of social events and now have some fifty members. We sincerely hope that none of our members falls off the perch too quickly. When one does, the donkey flag will fly at half-mast. With its legs in the air, of course.
There are over seventy current members of the club and members who have already gone on to the stable in the sky have benefitted the College by a substantial seven-figure total.
Journalist and broadcaster Bruce Parker was formerly BBC South’s Political Editor, a presenter of BBC 1’s Nationwide and of the Antiques Roadshow. Craigmyle has worked with Elizabeth College since 2006.
Craigmyle provides a range of fundraising services to clients, many of whom work with us for many years. Read more about how we can help you with your legacy programme.