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FIA Award Winner – Capital Campaigns under $5 million & Most Outstanding Fundraising Project

Winner – Capital Campaigns under $5 million & Most Outstanding Fundraising Project.

How Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research funded a new Professorial Chair.

Every 12 minutes, one Australian adult dies from a cardiovascular disease. To lead its vital heart research efforts into this condition, the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research decided to create a new Professorial Chair of Cardiovascular Disease. In March 2016 the Institute began a two-year capital campaign to fund this appointment, with a $5 million target.

There were a number of significant challenges to this ambitious fundraising target. There were few donors on Perkins’ database with an interest in heart disease and the capacity to make a major gift during the campaign. Cardiovascular research at Perkins did not have a high profile in the community. And the fragmented, competitive nature of the cardiology profession in WA meant a lack of unanimous support from cardiologists.

The campaign included a nine-month planning and advanced gifts phase that ran from March to November 2016, and a 10-month active gift-seeking phase that ran from February to November 2017.


The 11-member planning and advanced gifts committee, made up of key Perkins stakeholders, developed the campaign plan and established a database of prospective donors, ultimately growing to 650 prospects capable of making a gift in the range of $10,000 to $1 million.

They also developed the case for support, a media plan, a calendar of events and key messages. The committee kickstarted the campaign with a $1 million bequest that had been designated to cardiovascular research and added another $200,000 to the coffers.


Central to the campaign were 45 community figures, including a number of highly respected cardiologists, who accepted campaign leadership roles. Each supported the campaign with their time, talent and donations, and used their connections to invite others to do likewise.

Interestingly, the businessman first approached to act as campaign chair declined the role but made a suggestion integral to the success of the campaign: enlist two co-chairs to represent the business community and the cardiology profession. The campaign taskforce and the cardiology committee worked in tandem during the active gift-seeking phase; the former to approach prospective donors, and the latter to unite the cardiology profession behind the campaign.


An invitation was sent to every cardiologist in Western Australia to join the cardiology committee chaired by Dr Michelle Ammerer. A total of 20 cardiologists accepted the offer, which led to most of the state’s corporate cardiology practices making a financial commitment to publicly show their support.

The cardiologists became valuable advocates, influencing many individual donors to give and securing $386,500 in donations, including one gift of $250,000.

From left: Justice Wayne Martin, Ric Charlesworth, John Inverarity and Dennis Cometti


Four respected public figures took up roles as campaign ambassadors. They were sports broadcaster Dennis Cometti, Olympian and medical doctor Ric Charlesworth AO, cricket legend John Inverarity AO, and WA’s Chief Justice Wayne Martin AC.

The ambassadors shared their connections with heart disease, whether personally or from losing a family member. This led to coverage in a range of news outlets, which also provided additional talking points for face-to-face meetings with prospective donors.

Charlesworth also used his skills as a performance coach to chair the campaign taskforce, who were coached in ethical and best-practice fundraising principles, as well as being given orientation training, marketing collateral and admin support. The team of 15 made 96 approaches, securing a total of $3,713,550 in pledges.

The work of the taskforce and cardiology committee was complemented by seven well- timed recruitment, fundraising and thank-you events, ranging in size from 32 to 150 guests and in the format of leadership breakfasts and cocktail receptions.

Professor Girish Dwivedi


The campaign would likely have benefited from a feasibility study, and setting a hard finish date would have prevented a lull in the campaign during the planning and recruiting stage. But the arrival of renowned cardiologist Professor Girish Dwivedi from Canada in early 2017 proved the fillip the campaign needed, demonstrating Perkins’ ability to attract talent and reassuring prospective donors.




















As at 30 June 2018, the campaign had met its target, raising more than $5.3 million in pledges and donations from 72 donors, including 65 new donors. Alongside the bequest, the top three gifts to the campaign were $1 million, $750,000 and $600,000. The average pledge was around $73,000 and the median pledge was $25,000. The campaign also established several ongoing corporate partnerships. An international search for the Professorial Chair of Cardiovascular Disease is now underway, with an appointment expected by mid-2019.


All donors have been enrolled in a donor journey stewardship program that includes annual face-to-face meetings, a bi-annual director’s update and invitations to post- campaign events. Perkins is also looking at recognition opportunities to maximise a donor’s acknowledgement among their peers. All four campaign ambassadors accepted invitations to become Perkins ambassadors. The success of the campaign also spurred the next capital fundraising endeavour, the Fellowship in Genetic Disease Campaign.

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