After 37 years of service, Coastguard Taranaki needed to replace its key rescue vessel, but its capital campaign to do so had stalled. Dominique Leeming and Graham Cowling explain how they re-launched it with an award-winning campaign.

Caption: An example of the boat Coastguard Taranaki raised NZ$1.16 million to purchase.

Coastguard is the charity saving lives at sea in New Zealand, but the engines had stalled on Coastguard Taranaki’s NZ$1.16 million capital campaign for a new rescue vessel by early 2010. Hoped-for funding from local industry wasn’t forthcoming.

Yet Westgate Rescue had been in service for 37 years, including 25 years performing rescues in the United Kingdom before being brought to New Plymouth in New Zealand. It is the only large dedicated rescue vessel that can launch 24/7 on the north island’s rugged west coast, but it has become costly to maintain and lacks the abilities of newer rescue vessels, so the time had come to replace her.

Giving the campaign a new spark

To re-ignite the capital campaign, Coastguard Taranaki president and project leader Graham Cowling recruited the help of local businessman Colin Hunt in mid-2010. Meanwhile, Coastguard Central Region employed fundraiser Dominique Leeming on a part-time basis to help with fundraising activities and projects across the region, bringing a valuable knowledge and resources to the revived effort.

It was agreed that we take the campaign back to square one and start afresh by conducting a fundraising feasibility study. The first interview set the tone for the rest of the study, as we were advised that Coastguard Taranaki needed to raise its profile in the community and that this needed to be addressed immediately. However, the feasibility study showed widespread recognition of the need for the new rescue vessel and general support for a fundraising campaign.

View: the capital campaign pamphlet here.

The feasibility study interviewees also raised the need for Coastguard to overcome some negative views about the organisation. Most participants agreed that oil and gas industry support was possible and as a result two local Coastguard supporters were identified who could help open the door to key industry leaders. Both people were approached and agreed to become involved in the campaign.

Pounding the pavement for support

Coastguard Taranaki had one real strength in that the lead gift was effectively secured from within the wider Coastguard organisation. The combined amount put forward from Coastguard NZ and Coastguard Taranaki was 36% of the target, which was certainly a huge positive when approaching grant makers, donors, and sponsors for support.

The feasibility study also laid the foundation for another major gift from retired businessman and long-time Coastguard member Darcy Mace, who confided that he had previously dreamed of giving NZ$1 million dollars to the organisation. The purchase of several rural properties after selling his business meant Mace no longer had the available funds to give at that level, but he indicated he would give NZ$10,000 towards the campaign. Some months into the campaign, however, the Julie and Darcy Mace Trust committed NZ$100,000 to the campaign.

Applications for grant funding were submitted during the campaign’s quiet phase, and TSB Community Trust committed NZ$150,000 – the maximum grant available to the search and rescue sector.

Public push to bring campaign to a close

Once 62% of the required funds were raised an event was held to launch the public phase of the campaign. After the launch a private trust whose representatives had been in attendance pledged NZ$50,000 to the campaign.

Even with two key individuals that had links to the oil and gas industry, it took several challenging months before we were able to secure a meeting at Todd Energy’s corporate headquarters in Wellington. This meeting lead to an offer of naming rights sponsorship, which added NZ$227,000 to the campaign.

By now we had around NZ$950,000 raised and were on the home straight, so Cowling, Hunt and Mace agreed to underwrite the rest of the campaign. We carried on fundraising and held an event hosted by Fitzroy Yachts, while a direct mail appeal to the wider community was also run until all the funds needed were raised.

As a result of the successful campaign, AMF Boat Builders was contracted in February to build a new AMF 1170 quick response rescue vessel. To be known as Todd Energy Rescue, the vessel is currently under construction in Wanganui and we are now looking forward to welcoming her into her home port of New Plymouth.

From the comfort of a successfully completed campaign, we learnt several positive lessons:

  • The inclusion of a professional fundraiser is a necessity in capital campaigns.
  • A very determined project leader is also essential to provide the drive needed to see the project through to a successful conclusion.
  • A campaign chair who has strong people skills and a persistent and positive character is valuable beyond measure.
  • When there are negative perceptions, it is possible to overcome these by involving the right people from the local community who are respected and influential.
  • Most importantly, we learnt that when all the large players in the community have declined involvement in your project, by involving the right people and making the right approaches (sometimes on a number of occasions) you can still gain their support.

This campaign won the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand’s Major Gifts and Capital Campaigns Fundraising Award using classic capital fundraising campaign principles, and has established a model for how the wider organisation now approaches capital campaigns. Three similar campaigns to raise NZ$1.2 million for New Zealand’s only marine ambulance and two Coastguard buildings which were destroyed in the Canterbury earthquake are now being undertaken.

Figure A: Coastguard Taranaki’s capital campaign gift table


Gift amount (NZ$)

% of goal




Todd Energy



TSB Community Trust



Julie and Darcy Mace Family Trust



NZ Community Trust



The Southern Trust



Herworth Hall Society



Taranaki Electricity Trust



The Lion Foundation



Oakura Kayak Club



Urenui Boat Club






General public donations







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