The University of Sunshine Coast, a young and regional institution, recently exceeded its capital campaign goals. Andrew Pentland reveals the key success factors.
Building Excellence

In little over two years, the University of Sunshine Coast (USC) managed to exceed its capital campaign objectives, raising $71,000 above the $5 million target. Underpinning the success of the campaign, known as Building Excellence, was a high level of engagement from both the university and local communities.

The campaign wound up at the end of 2008, but was launched two years earlier in September 2006 to coincide with the university’s tenth anniversary.

The main objective was to raise funds towards three priority areas: a health and sport Centre ($3.5 million), scholarships and bursaries ($1 million), and campus enhancement ($500,000).

Being a young university, there was the inherent challenge of not having a well developed “giving pool” to tap into, i.e. the alumni base was very young and small, the donor database was modest in size, and there was no established culture of major gift giving. Add to this the fact that for some, giving to bricks and mortar is not an attractive proposition.

Engagement a Key Part of Strategy

Maximising engagement with the university community was a key part of our strategy, and thankfully our vice-chancellor took a very active role.

Once the potential major supporters were identified, our vice-chancellor was ready to tackle the campaign. Not all of our ‘asks’ were successful, but at least we presented our case and had our supporters consider major gifts that, a few years earlier, would have been unheard of from people living on the Sunshine Coast.

The USC Foundation Board, which comprises the vice-chancellor, a number of university graduates and governing body council members, also contributed major donations and set a leadership example for donating. When the campaign was publicly launched, about a third of the goal was already committed – a significant portion of which came from board members.

Alumni also got involved and the uni received its first-ever gifts from graduates. Support was popular for the establishment of Alumni Way, a pathway that leads from the central spine of the campus to the health and sport centre. A large sign – “Alumni Way” – now sends a strong message to our current students that those who came before have given something back.

University staff were also encouraged to give, and the first major payroll deduction program was launched. A total of $53,000 was contributed by university staff.

Localism Rules! OK!

The university’s engagement with the local community was another important factor contributing to the campaign’s success. This was due, in large part, to the positive image created by our vice-chancellor, who has been at USC from its earliest days. Locals have also witnessed the tremendous growth of the university since it opened in 1996.

Having gone from strength to strength, the university has helped fuel a sense of regional pride among locals, who are genuinely interested in seeing it, and in turn the community – flourish even more. Thus when the capital campaign was launched, the community enthusiastically embraced the new vision for USC.

Completing the campaign at the end of 2008 was also lucky. The global economic crisis didn’t really change the mood of donors until the very end of 2008, and by that time most of the major supporters had made their commitment.

Results Exceed Target

The campaign concluded on schedule at the end of 2008, with the original target of $5 million exceeded by $71,000. In all some 270 donations were received, and 75% of the total raised came from 5% of the donors.

Inspiring Future Donors

The campaign helped to strengthen the understanding of the role of the development office and the foundation. USC staff members became more aware of the importance of the work of these two areas and how they could help.

The campaign generated many important stories of giving and helping. For a young university, these stories are gold; they will provide the basis of future philanthropic support. Examples have now been set so that our supporters of tomorrow have a tradition to follow.

Key Learnings A lot of time and thought went into producing the case for support. This was time well spent. Having a good data management system in place before the campaign started was vital to the fundraising team being able to do its work efficiently. Keeping the momentum of the campaign moving also paid off, as did celebrating successes along the way and rewarding staff, which helped maintain enthusiasm and commitment.

USC Building Excellence Campaign Gift Table

Gift Amount ($)

No. of Gifts (Donors)

Total ($)

% of Target

1,000,000

1

1,000,000

20%

500,000-999,999

4

2,128,913

42%

250,000-499,999

0

0

0%

100,000 -249,999

8

801,559

16%

25,000-99,999

17

681,068

13%

10,000-24,999

14

179,937

3%

1-9,999

226

279,546

6%

270

$5,071,022

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