Peter Dalton explains how two fundraising vehicles can transform your organisation.

When a donor makes a donation, is it to the for-purpose organisation or to the beneficiaries of the organisation – to the people, animals or the environment the donor cares for? Ideally it should be both. Aligning your branding, positioning and communications with ‘why’ your organisation exists – with its mission – connects staff, volunteers and supporters with positive emotions for your organisation and its cause. It’s an alignment that can be transformational. Such transformation can be achieved, surprisingly, with two fashionable fundraising vehicles – a comprehensive capital campaign and an emotional fundraising proposition.


Start With Why author Simon Sinek writes: “WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money – that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is our purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?” The genius and success behind the University of Melbourne’s Believe campaign is that it’s both a comprehensive capital campaign and an emotional fundraising proposition. Believe is the why of the University of Melbourne. Believe is why a donor or a fundraiser or a volunteer or staff member, gets behind the cause and stays loyal to the organisation and its mission.

Framing a fundraising campaign’s communications with why gives donors hope, provides positive feedback, and fosters connection and trust in a shared mission to make the world a better place. The Believe campaign’s tagline highlights the comprehensive nature of the campaign. It’s ‘the Campaign for the University of Melbourne’, but it’s also positioned as a campaign for all of us. “Thanks to thousands of donors worldwide, the face of Melbourne has changed forever. Believe – the Campaign for the University of Melbourne – is more than a philanthropic initiative. It is an extraordinary effort that is helping this institution change the lives of future generations…The impact of philanthropy has seen us become more engaged in the community, creating public value and helping advance society,” said Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis. The Ivy League universities in the US have been running comprehensive capital campaigns for decades. Harvard has raised US$9.1 billion as part of The Harvard Campaign, which was launched in 2013 and surpassed its target of US$6.5 billion in 2016. While slogan- free, the campaign is all about Harvard’s commitment to advancing knowledge and generating ideas to solve the pressing issues of our time.

I was privileged to work at Cambridge University Hospitals from 2008 when the University of Cambridge was running its first comprehensive capital campaign. It’s 800 Campaign aimed to raise £800 million to celebrate its ‘800 years of people, ideas and achievements that continue to transform and benefit the world’. Yes, another campaign for all of us! This truly transformational comprehensive campaign raised over £1 billion. The University upped the ante in 2015 with Our Dear World, Yours Cambridge campaign designed to showcase what Cambridge had already achieved (gravity, evolution, computers and pulsars) and what it could achieve (clean energy sources, longer lives, quantum computers and parallel universes) with £2 billion in donations. Half of that total has been reached already. Over at Oxford, the Oxford Thinking Campaign set a target of £3 billion and is nearly there with £2.66 billion in donations.


Traditionally viewed as an exercise to raise funds for ‘bricks and mortar’ projects, comprehensive capital campaigns are more strategic than the typical single-purpose capital campaign. They are always aligned to the institution’s global strategic plan and focus an organisation’s energies into one campaign with multiple goals and revenue sources. It’s this aspect that enables ‘sight-setting’ for ‘mega gifts’, which is exactly what we are seeing in the tertiary education sector in Australia and NZ. More and more capital campaigns in this sector are morphing into a comprehensive capital campaign model to raise funds for endowments, research, scholarships, new or expanded services, and new staff – including more fundraisers thereby investing in the fundraising function itself, arguably the most cost-effective investment of all. But what about other for-purpose sectors? Given their transformational nature, why aren’t we seeing more comprehensive capital campaigns in the arts, health, welfare and environment sectors?


There’s a lot of noise in fundraising circles about what ‘emotional fundraising’ actually is and how it may be applied to transform for-purpose organisations. At its heart, emotional fundraising is about relationship building – connecting the organisation’s broad base of stakeholders, not just donors, to its why, its mission, to drive better outcomes. Emotional fundraising can complement and enhance ‘relationship fundraising’ – Ken Burnett’s inspired, donor-based approach. Building relationships through emotional fundraising communications showing the positive impact created by supporters and staff builds loyalty. And emotionally satisfied donors, staff, volunteers and other stakeholders feel needed and appreciated, connected by their shared vision and mission to make the world a better place. Yes, for all of us!

That’s why Great Ormond Street Hospital in the UK adopted an apparent emotional fundraising positioning: ‘The child first and always’. “This principle guides our decision making and drives us all to do more for sick children here and around the world – regardless of the challenges and obstacles we face,” said CEO Dr Jane Collins in the Hospital’s 2007/2008 Annual Report. Just to be clear, it’s the whole organisation – Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust and Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity – that’s been transformed by the shared values the campaign promotes. In fact, when you go onto the GOSH website, ‘The child first and always’ statement is more prominent than the logo. It is a powerful, emotional statement connecting the institution and its mission to its community.


In 2002 I was appointed Director of Fundraising at Austin Health, a major public teaching hospital in Melbourne. The hospital was undergoing a major campus re-development, and with cancer services spread over three campuses in out-dated facilities there was an urgent, compelling clinical need for a new integrated centre. My fundraising team was asked to assess the potential to raise $50 million for what was to be called the Austin Health Cancer Centre. On the face of it a successful campaign seemed feasible. After all, we were talking about raising funds for cancer care and research in a well respected and leading cancer care hospital. But we advised the CEO that in our view Austin Health was not in a position to launch a major philanthropic capital building campaign for a new centre and certainly not for $50 million.

So, what was the problem? Austin Health wasn’t the only public health cancer centre of excellence in Australia, nor even Melbourne. Austin Health is based in North Eastern Melbourne, 15km from Melbourne’s CBD. There and in Melbourne’s inner suburbs, several high-profile hospitals provided cancer care to patients from wealthier postcodes, including major philanthropists, trust and foundation representatives, and other well networked Melbournians, many of whom served on the boards of these hospitals’ foundations. To raise anything like $50 million, we would need to reposition our reach to a much broader market.

A few years after advising the Austin Health CEO and board of ‘the problem’, I was interviewed about the solution we had found: “It is a very difficult task to come up with the one person who would be respected locally, nationally and internationally; who has an association with cancer and a legitimate profile and reason to care. And that shortlist ended up being a list of three people: Olivia Newton-John, Olivia Newton-John, and Olivia Newton-John. So frankly, if we didn’t get Olivia, we wouldn’t be raising $50 million dollars for a new Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre.” We did get Olivia on board and her extraordinary personal journey became our campaign. We focused on a single, powerful statement: “I felt alone and scared.” Yes, it was Olivia Newton-John who told us she felt alone and scared when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. People from Australia and around the word connected with Olivia and her reaction to a life-changing diagnosis.

Would donors from around the world have connected to and donated to an Austin Health Cancer Centre in the same way or scale? Probably not. The emotional fundraising repositioning of cancer services at the Austin Hospital was profound and far-reaching. Every day when a clinician, nurse, researcher, administrator, cleaner or volunteer walks into the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre they are reminded of why Olivia lent her name to the centre: it’s the same reason why they are there.

For any organisation, a comprehensive capital fundraising campaign is a major undertaking, but when conducted carefully and strategically it can profoundly influence an organisation’s finances, operations and culture. When combined with emotional fundraising, it can be truly transformational.

Peter Dalton CFRE Peter is a fundraising leader, passionate about transitioning for-purpose organisations from good to great through fundraising leadership. He was FIA’s 2016 Arthur Venn Fundraiser of the Year. In 2018, Peter’s fundraisingfutures client, Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, won an FIA Award for Excellence in Fundraising for its capital campaign.

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