Utilizing Architects to Aid in Construction Funding: Five Ways These Firms Can Help in Cultivating Donors and Soliciting Gifts

By Reetz, Gary | University Business, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Utilizing Architects to Aid in Construction Funding: Five Ways These Firms Can Help in Cultivating Donors and Soliciting Gifts


Reetz, Gary, University Business


FOR MANY CAMPUS BUILDing projects, the period following schematic design is critical to the project's future. With the proposed design illustrating the building's significant forms, program, functional relationships and scale, the project enters the fundraising phase. Design work on higher-education cultural projects--such as museums, studio-arts buildings, performance halls and affiliated classrooms, as well as sports facilities, alumni centers, and science buildings--often pauses following schematic design so that university leaders can raise funds for construction.

The juncture between schematic design, design development, construction documents, and construction, during which intensive fundraising occurs, can be a few months to a year or two. Yet designers are hardly idle during this time. Architects are increasingly participating in client universities' fundraising.

HGA Architects and Engineers provides significant assistance during this financial phase, in which donor cultivation and gift solicitations are essential to the project's continuation. We've developed five key services for clients that assist in and enhance fundraising efforts.

1. Visuals and Models

Visual and graphic images convey the overall scope, conceptual design, scale, and program of the project on its site. Providing clients with such visuals in a variety of media is a common architectural firm service. These visuals range from computer-generated images, 3-D models and animations to stills and renderings on paper. Clients use them in donor-cultivation videos and to generate interest in the project online. They also incorporate these graphics into glossy booklets, brochures, and other print material often created by the architectural firm.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The most popular visual is a real, physical project model. Even in this era of computer-generated walkthroughs and flyovers, which are spectacular animations, people still respond readily to physical models. HGA builds models as part of the schematic. Models can entice a donor to take the critical next step in substantially increasing their support.

Case in point: One model was of a simple structure that contained all of the program elements the client required. Another model included all of the program spaces but also reflected the spirit of the art form that would be housed in the building. The client approved both designs, but couldn't afford the more arresting, spirited design. During a meeting with a prominent philanthropist, however, the client showed the donor both models. The donor quickly and excitedly embraced the second option, and upped the financial gift to cover the cost of the more iconic design.

For a separate fee, architects can produce higher-end models--finely crafted works of sculpture constructed of balsa wood, often with color and finishes.

HGA can fabricate a case in which the model sits, like a fine gem in a jewel box. Clients can carry these suitcase models with them to town hall or community gatherings, and to meetings with state legislators, donors, or a board of regents. These models assure a dramatic presentation and the attention of the audience.

2. Dramatic Narrative

Architects can also serve as coaches on the key talking points for presentations and written material. These points are essential in developing a dramatic, compelling narrative explaining the need for the project, its history, signature design elements, and unique program aspects. We can help clients understand a project and its architecture on a deeper level so that they can more readily engage and excite donors.

Today's selling points for new or renovated projects may well include flexibility (in how spaces can be maximized by multiple users); adaptability (in how spaces can be easily reconfigured to support different functions); and the seamless incorporation of wireless technologies to support learning. …

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