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Creating the Sydney Adventist Hospital’s Integrated Cancer Centre required raising over $20 million from a capital campaign. Here’s how Barbara Ward made it happen.

Creating the Sydney Adventist Hospital’s Integrated Cancer Centre required raising over $20 million from a capital campaign. Here’s how Barbara Ward made it happen.


capital campaignDuring the course of its strategic planning, the Board of the Sydney Adventist Hospital Foundation (the San Foundation) identified that opportunities existed for major developments in the treatment and improved care of cancer patients.
After preliminary consideration, the board came to the view that an Integrated Cancer Centre in the Sydney Adventist Hospital (the San) would build on the San’s existing cancer support strengths, be a significant national resource and position the hospital as a leader in the private health sector for Sydney’s Upper North Shore. It would also offer another highly valued service to this community.

Although the San already had a Cancer Support Centre, Jacaranda Lodge, in place – it was established in 1993 – the Board believed a more coordinated approach was required. What was envisaged was a ‘one stop’ management service with diagnosis confirmation and the formulation of a navigated treatment plan in one precinct/facility in the San Integrated Cancer Centre.

We named the campaign Yours for Life in October 2011.

Main objective and implementation

The key objective was to create an Integrated Cancer Centre as part of a $180 million development at the San. This Centre would be designed specifically to be a one-stop diagnostic, treatment and care facility. The Foundation’s aim was to raise a minimum of $20 million to build the Centre through a capital fundraising campaign.

The San Foundation’s campaign involved a number of fundraising teams whose leaders were members of the campaign ‘cabinet’ and oversaw the campaign management. This ‘cabinet’ included the planning committee, patrons and chairmen plus the leadership gifts, major gifts and community gifts teams. Recruiting quality campaign leadership was critical to its success and to that end Dick Warburton AO LVO and David Murray AM accepted the roles of co-chairmen.

The fundraising plan involved presentation of the case for support, the brochure and supporting documentation.
Research was done on high-net-worth individuals, corporations, trusts, foundations and others to offer them the opportunity to consider making an investment gift towards the campaign. Meetings were also held with various levels of government.

Team members would call on personally selected, known people who they felt had an interest in the community and were likely to be supportive of the San. They would also follow up on any leads. Contact was made through letters, interviews, meetings and small group gatherings at evening functions to educate people and gain their support.

Development phases

The actual capital campaign was broken into four distinct phases with individual financial goals and specific objectives established for each phase in order for its leaders to evaluate whether the campaign was on target.

Planning A comprehensive fundraising plan was developed. The plan included elements like lists of prospective donors and leaders, timetables, job descriptions for leaders and volunteers, a public relations plan and a table of contribution recognition.

Establishment Establishment included production of material collateral including a capital campaign brochure, profiling selected prospects, leadership recruitment, public relations and media. During these first two phases a number of important preparatory tasks were completed and the strategic foundation laid for the active phase as well as some advance gift approaches made.

Active The campaign co-chairmen were supported by the three divisional chairmen for leadership gifts, major gifts and general gifts, and their team members. Each divisional team was responsible for identifying their prospects within their nominated division and planning the most appropriate way to approach and ask for financial support. This phase was the central part of the campaign and focused on the actual cultivation and solicitation of major gift prospects, along
with public promotion of the campaign.

Post-campaign This final phase of completion and follow-on was a ‘catch all’ for outstanding solicitations remaining from earlier phases.

Our approach to our capital campaign

Major donors were the key targets of our donor database because they had been committed and had the capacity to give. Also included were long-term supporters who had not made a major gift but had stayed loyal to the Foundation and would consider a gift; corporates because they were a good fit and the campaign offered an investment opportunity for their businesses; community groups to raise awareness and for support; and identified prospects within their nominated sectors.

Our approach encompassed a range of calls to action. These included partnerships, major gifts, volunteering, small group meetings and events, sponsorships, breakfast programs and collaborating around lead introduction (including facilitating the ‘ask’ for support to be made). Three major dinners were also held with guest speakers The Hon John Howard OM AC and Peter Fitzsimmons. Ray Martin was the MC.

Contact was made as soon as the target was identified and the right team member with a connection could do so. Designated gifting opportunities were also available, which included permanent recognition in an appropriate form in the San Integrated Cancer Centre. The result? We had a 90% response rate and of that 88% conversion.

Critical success factors

A successful campaign requires leaders who are willing to make the ‘ask’ as people don’t generally make large gifts without that ask – people give to people. It has to be professional and the team passionate and committed. It also has to clearly articulate the case for support. Ours required us to demonstrate the impact cancer has on people from all walks of life, and the fact that cancer is not selective – it can happen to anyone.

The San has been providing a caring service in the community, demonstrating our living mission Christianity in Action for over 100 years. As I stewarded the campaign, and engaged and connected with donors and supporters, I also told of my own journey with cancer. My stewardship required a true belief in the cause, relationship management, networking and tapping into everyone I knew.

We had a very good team who approached a lot of prospects and as a consequence more money was raised, and because of our targeted approach in many cases the ‘ask’ was not really necessary. We also thanked and thanked and thanked our donors, sent newsletters to keep them abreast of developments and conducted hard hat tours so they had a sense of belonging. I would personally call them to catch up – communication is so important.

My campaign stalled at $14 million last year. Then a long-time friend/donor came to my rescue with a $7.5 million donation in June this year. This sealed the deal – the Centre and related areas will open in late 2016.

Main challenges

The San is a great brand but the Foundation lacked prominence as it had not been at the fore of the San brand. It was very challenging to not only convince people outside of the San but also internal stakeholders such as the executive, staff and volunteers.

Prior to this campaign the Foundation lacked engagement and did not cultivate donors for support, which had quite an effect on the campaign. There were very minimal relationships to build upon and as such it required an additional effort to get the ‘brand’ out into the wider community.

We took a visionary approach to these hurdles, not allowing any day-to-day obstacles to get in the way, and had a long-term focus. And we quickly empowered others and created a space of trust for growth. I am blessed it was a success and everyone honoured their pledges.

Key learnings

Finding an acceptable campaign process that leadership will commit to is critical to ultimate success. I would want to be involved from the initial stages rather than try to fit into someone else’s strategy and rework it. I would firstly create an internal culture of philanthropy that is rich in opportunities for patients, families and the community so they become engaged with the organisation. It’s good to remember that success may be just beyond the next failure and you’ll get there, not because you’re destined to but because you’re determined to.

Barbara Ward

Barbara has been Managing Director of the San Foundation for the past five years. She is responsible for the Foundation’s strategic and day-to-day operation, which includes fundraising. Barbara sits on a number of charity boards both nationally and abroad and has received many awards.

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