Subscriber Exclusive

FIA Award Winner – Capital Campaign Under $5 Million & Most Outstanding Fundraising Project

Winner – Capital Campaign Under $5 Million & Most Outstanding Fundraising Project

With government funding drying up and after raising just $360,000 in 2015, the youth mental health research organisation refocused its efforts to smash fundraising targets. Andrew Sadauskas reports.

In 2015, Orygen urgently needed to secure $8 million for a new building, despite having just one fundraiser on staff and virtually no track record of seeking donations.


Orygen traditionally relied on government funding, having secured over $800 million over the past decade. This included funding for the establishment of Headspace centres and early psychosis services.

When the federal government initially ruled out supporting the capital project, Orygen was forced to look elsewhere. This was a major challenge, as its fundraising in 2015 represented less than 1.5% of its total funding.


With just one full-time fundraiser on staff, prioritisation was critical. Orygen put significant effort into finding internal and external sources for assistance, leveraging the extensive networks of the organisation’s executive director, Professor Patrick McGorry.

Orygen began its capital program by informally reaching out to high-net-worth individuals with an interest in mental health, which eventually secured around $450,000. However, a gala fundraising dinner for wealthy prospects failed to attract any potential major donors. A subsequent feasibility study showed the organisation’s small donor base would make the major donor effort slower and more difficult than originally anticipated.


A visual from the About Orygen book

Following the feasibility study, Orygen adjusted its focus and began to apply for grants from trusts and foundations as this would mitigate the need for an extensive donor list or pre- existing philanthropic relationships.

To challenge preconceived ideas about mental health, Orygen crafted a case study based on a volunteer from Melbourne’s leafy inner-eastern suburbs. While articulate and accomplished, she had achieved less than her twin sister who does not have a mental illness.

To support the meetings with foundation representatives, Orygen’s director of fundraising produced a ‘case for support’ document designed for a time-poor audience.




A major breakthrough came when Orygen identified a key stakeholder who helped to organise a series of roundtable lunches with a number of Australia’s largest philanthropic trusts and foundations.

Several were receptive to more meetings, site visits to meet Orygen staff, and eventually grant proposals. This led to $5.27 million in donations, including a $3 million gift. Off the back of this gift,  Orygen  successfully went back to the federal government and asked for an additional $5 million in funding for ‘the last brick in the wall’.  Orygen also secured two new corporate partners, including a major national supermarket chain, as a result of its networking efforts. These partners contributed $150,000.


Through its newly-developed fundraising expertise, Orygen smashed its initial $8 million target to raise a total of $12.76 million in just over 12 months. The extra funds were used to support a range of new mental health projects.

Along with securing the funds necessary for the new building, the experience helped to train organisation staff and volunteers in the art of raising funds.

The insights and networks Orygen gained in the process now form a foundation for its future fundraising efforts, including its current major gifts campaign.

Melbourne-based Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health is the world’s leading research and knowledge translation organisation focusing on mental ill-health in young people

Subscribe to access this article.

Continue reading your article with an F&P subscription

Join with other top fundraisers to receive insight, analysis and inspiration to help you raise more funds.

subscribe now for $1

Cancel anytime.

Already a subscriber? LOGIN HERE