Lise Taylor chatted with Hummingbird House Cofounder Gabrielle Quilliam about the capital campaign that raised a total of $10 million to build Queensland’s only hospice for kids affected by life-limiting conditions.

Lise Taylor chatted with Hummingbird House Cofounder Gabrielle Quilliam about the capital campaign that raised a total of $10 million to build Queensland’s only – and Australian’s third – hospice for kids affected by life-limiting conditions.


Capital campaign Hummingbird HouseA joint initiative between Hummingbird House Foundation and Wesley Mission Queensland, Hummingbird House is based in Brisbane’s Chermside. It was founded by Gabrielle and Paul Quilliam, also the cofounders of Hummingbird House Foundation. Gabrielle Quilliam says there are an estimated 3,700 Queensland children affected by life-limiting conditions. However, when she started advocating for Hummingbird House, there were 44 children’s hospices in the UK and there were only two children’s hospices in Australia. “There are now 53 children’s hospices in the UK. They established 11 children’s hospices in the time it has taken us to establish one!” she exclaims.

Quilliam has found that the decision to create the only children’s hospice in Queensland has been life changing both personally and professionally.

“As foster carers, my husband Paul and I experienced what it is like to live with and love a child affected by a life-limiting condition,” she says. “This compelled us to use our combined skill mix and networks to advocate on behalf of the many families we met who faced similar devastating challenges.”

The couple had both had a long history of working within large organisations and felt they had a depth of positive organisational knowledge that they could implement. “We had been looking for the right opportunity to work together to do good for our community – it was a case of being able to put experience into practice as partners,” explains Quilliam.

Inset shot 1 option 1Capital campaign vision

The Quilliam’s vision was to create a community-based support service that addressed a gap in services for children and families within Queensland. They were passionate that it would be sustainable and would be a service that was built with consultation, collaboration and creativity being the main drivers.

In real terms Quilliam says this vision ensured that Hummingbird House would provide best practice care for children affected by life-limiting conditions and their families in a warm, home-like environment.

“The concept of best practice care translates to every aspect of the service, from the clinical support the child and family receives, to the way our guests are welcomed to the house, through to the way we promote the work we do amongst the community in ensuring its sustainability,” she says. “Best practice for Hummingbird House means we consistently connect with, understand, respond to and engage with all our stakeholders via every aspect of our service.”

Implementation journey

Being brand new to paediatric palliative care, it was of vital importance that these cofounders built trust within the sector prior to engaging with donors. They had a firm belief that donors would want to clearly see that they were deeply embedded in the medical community and were an integrative part of the overall solution for the children and families they were advocating for. Quilliam says of most importance, however, was their ability to build trust with families which allowed them to share their stories publicly as to why they needed a place like Hummingbird House.

“In the first couple of years it was important to be trusted curators of the families’ stories and relentlessly pursue credible interactions with all levels of government in our advocacy as well as developing relationships within the sector,” she explains.

“We developed an overwhelmingly persuasive business model and case for support that would seek government funding and matching philanthropy.  Following the strategy of our business model we participated in both a Federal and State Parliamentary Inquiry into palliative care, which brought about favourable recommendations to support our cause.

The Quilliams held a deep conviction that if they were not able to convince state and federal governments to contribute significantly towards the capital and operational costs, then they were going to find it difficult to convince donors: “In July 2013 our persistence paid off and we had commitment by government to provide $3 million towards building Hummingbird House. This enabled us to then commence our major donor strategy.”

Strategic approach

Utilising our call to action ‘Help us build Hummingbird House’, their strategy was to share honest and transparent family stories with the public through their established relationships with high profile journalists.

Conveniently, the timing of this coincided with the weekend during Easter 2014 when they had the opportunity to meet with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who visiting Queensland. “This had been organised by our official twinning partner, East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices,” she says. “As a result, a powerful and persuasive Queensland-wide feature article was published The Courier Mail’s QWeekend, which brought two major donors to us, one with a $3.25million gift and the other a $500,000 gift. This more than matched the government’s contribution for us to commence the build.”

One of the critical success factors for the capital campaign related to the trust with families that the Quilliams represented. The say they also had an ‘excruciatingly compelling’ business case, strong relational skills developed across the sector and corporate partners who further advocated for them through their own networks. The couple had also built the brand. “We did not waver from our key messages,” says Quilliam. “There was a unique gap in this service delivery – we were not replicating existing services.”

Laying the foundations for the major fundraising effort did, however, require them to ‘exercise extreme patience and persistence’ – and to make a major calculated personal investment into the project, taking risks both personally and professionally – but it paid off!

The capital campaign finally raised $10 million, with $3 million coming from state and federal government, $3.75 million from the two initial donations and the remainder from the generous support of the Queensland community.

“Neither of us had ever fundraised; we had never been exposed to the fundamentals of traditional fundraising. So in many ways, our efforts were based around our own sense of how we would choose to be treated if we were a donor or how we would be compelled to give,” explains Quilliam.

“As we continued to seek support and advice around how to successfully raise community support, we made some fantastic connections with people we would now consider mentors and from whom we received some very wise counsel along the way.”

Aside from investing in relationships – no matter what – for others preparing to run a capital campaign, Quilliam’s key piece of advice is to ensure donors and decision makers not only understand the ‘project’ (we need to build a children’s hospice) but also the ‘passion’ (the finer elements of the vision). “This ‘passion’ comprises the things that make the ‘project’ become more than just a building,” she says. “In other words, we could have just built a building, but without the layers of considered thought and effort and family-centred design and consultation, it would not be the home away from home that we advocated for, and it would not evoke the overwhelming community support we have received.”


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