If You Build It

August 10, 2015

Baseball may be an alien sport to most Brits; however, many of us somehow love Field of Dreams.  Kevin Costner, playing an Iowan farmer, goes against all sane advice to build a baseball diamond in a cornfield so that the legendary but infamous Chicago White Sox team of 1919 can return from the dead to play their beloved game once more. A great movie and one that often causes men to have ‘something in their eye’ during the emotional sporting reunion.

The idea of following a vision, when friends and colleagues advise otherwise, in order to achieve something amazing is something which most fundraisers have to face at some point in their careers. Even after we have done our due diligence, sought the backing of major donors, and been assured of the support of the Board, the doubters will be out there, suggesting we are too ambitious, too unrealistic, or doomed to fail. At this point we have a choice – procrastinate or press on regardless.

The most famous (mis)quote from Field of Dreams is ‘if you build it, they will come’, and it was this line that I often used when the doubters voiced their fears during Uppingham’s recent capital campaign.  Our main objective was to build a world class Sports Centre followed by a state-of-the-art Science Centre. In addition, and as part of the same programme of works, we planned to redevelop an Arts Centre, build a new pavilion, create a new Quad, and move our 1st XV pitch (Uppingham’s ‘field of dreams’?).  All of this would be a major challenge at any time, but even more so during the deepest economic recession for generations. Not to mention that the sums we were seeking to raise were exponentially larger than anything we’d attempted before.

In Uppingham’s case we were fortunate to have a senior management team and a Board of Trustees with total conviction that the boldness of the vision was justified. The message we delivered to our stakeholders was that there would be no compromises, no delays, and no cutting of corners as our plans were right for the School, right for our pupils, and right for the future. I’m convinced that it was this absolute certainty which gave potential donors the confidence to back our campaign and eventually led to its ultimate success. We had no doubt that we would deliver an outstanding project, on time and on budget, and consequently our donors had no cause to delay their support.

This is our award-winning Science Centre which we think justified the faith we had in our vision. I hope you will agree.

Perhaps now it’s time to watch Escape to Victory and see what Sylvester Stallone as an allied goalkeeper in WWII can teach me about Annual Funds.

– Patrick Mulvihill, Associate

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