Funding an Environmental Graphics Project
“So how are we going to pay for it?”
This is a common question asked when someone brings up the idea of an environmental graphics project – i.e. a facility environment enhancement project containing wall graphics, 3-dimensional signage or channel letters, banners, pin-mounted prints and plaques, window graphics, etc. These are not cheap undertakings and, depending upon the size and complexity of the project, they can run in the tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In order for these types of projects to become a reality for a university, they must first be thought about in the proper perspective by the owner. Almost always, these projects are capital expenditures and not merely routine marketing expenses. As capital expenditures, they must be viewed as and handled similarly to construction projects. Handling them as a marketing expense typically results in two problems: a grossly inadequate budget to successfully complete the intended environmental graphic project and the starvation of other departments that rely on the actual marketing budget that was originally established to help support them.
Construction projects are comprised of two types of expenses: direct and indirect expenses. Direct expenses include costs such as materials, equipment, labor/installation, freight/delivery fees, services and utilities. Indirect expenses include costs for design and engineering, project marketing and fundraising, procurement and/or financing, and other pre- and post-construction expenses. Cumulatively, these are considered “the project cost”.
Just as the cost of generating the cash required to pay for a construction project is considered part of the project cost, likewise, proper marketing required to generate appropriate funds to pay for an environmental graphics project is part of its overall project cost (the capital expenditure).
Too often, an owner’s project budget process stops once they have added up the cost of design, materials, freight, equipment rental, and installation. Accounting for the advanced marketing of the project (and possibly post-construction marketing) in order to generate appropriate project funding is overlooked or taken for granted. Giving this real cost little consideration can be a very costly mistake – no pun intended.
When planning the marketing aspect of an environmental graphic project, several components should be included. One component is the methods to be used to get a message about your project to your funding sources (i.e. fan base, donors, etc.). Another component is the methods to be used to process receipts for those who wish to contribute to the project. Another component is the methods to be used to keep interested parties informed about the project progress so that they can remain ‘engaged’ in the project until completion or until adequate funds are secured for the project.
Powerhouse’s sister company, Old Hat Creative, provides a number of effective methods for universities to generate funding for these sorts of projects. One method is to employ a fundraising website specifically geared to promote the project, to encourage financial support and participation, and to facilitate contributions. Examples of this method are shown here: http://coliseumrenovation.com/splash.php and http://www.finneranpavilion.com/. Another method is to use digital messaging and/or videos thru social media or email to reach your target audience. Remember, however, that not all of your target audience accesses social media and the quality of the content (the message) that is pushed to your target through this method is critical.
These methods are effective because they incorporate proper target identification and messaging, educate the target on the project objective, enable them to visualize the ultimate outcome, engage them to participate, and integrate them into the process allowing them to monitor progress. While there may be other ways to market and fundraise for projects, these methods have proven to be consistently productive.
Whether you’re executing your project in several phases or tackling the entire project at once, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to funding environmental graphics projects. The key to success is approaching the funding question with an open mindset, evaluating all of the options available to you, and getting other supporters on board (whether that’s internal staff or external constituents like alumni and fans). The good news is that well-designed graphics can last for quite a while, allowing your investment to not only pay off over time but bring added value to your facilities and programs.