In less than a year, the capital campaign to build a new Ronald McDonald House in Perth secured more than $22 million – 19 million of which came from its top 10 gifts. Sam Gibbs learns a few of the secrets to its success.

In 2008 when the Western Australian state government announced it would be moving its children’s hospital to a new site – more than four kilometres from the current facility – Ronald McDonald House (RMH) Perth was presented with both a challenge and an opportunity. As a refuge and service for more than 370 families of seriously ill children each year, the house’s proximity to Perth’s children’s hospital is critical to its mission. Prime land within walking distance of the new hospital had been secured for use by RMH, but a new building meant significant capital investment.

“This was our opportunity to build a bigger and better house for our families,” says Alison Salmond, RMH Perth’s executive officer. “Our current house cannot meet demand – with over 100% occupancy every night we are constantly turning families away.”

Project costs for a new house were established at $29 million, and $9 million was sourced from early gifts and investments, including a leading donation from Andrew and Nicola Forrest. Capital campaign consultancy Xponential Philanthropy was engaged to conduct a feasibility study and to drive the campaign to raise the additional $20 million.

The ‘Stronger Together’ campaign began in March of 2012 with a planning committee chaired by former Western Australian Governor, Dr Ken Michael AC. “Dr Ken Michael mentored us in the planning and execution of the project, how we developed materials, and how we connected with certain trusts and foundations,” says campaign director Natalie Campion. “He helped bring on board a truly outstanding leadership team.”

Peter Meurs, director of development and executive director at Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), was engaged as campaign chairman, and he and wife Maxine gave a significant personal gift. “I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity from the Western Australian community,” Meurs says.

Dr Michael followed on from his planning role to join Adam Gilchrist AM (long-term patron of RMH) as a campaign patron. According to Dr Michael the key to success in this – as in any campaign – was the delivery of its story to donors. “You must share the whole spectrum,” he says. “The need, the way in which it can be met, and the successes that have come out of this. Yes, there are emotional elements, but it’s a matter of applying the emotion so that it best suits the story.”

An ‘RMH Stronger Together’ film, produced by Lush TV, profiled the Western Australian families and children serviced by RMH Perth. “People don’t give to buildings, people give to people,” Campion says. “Donors need to hear the emotion directly from the families, and the film was invaluable.”

In conjunction with a case for support, the campaign team generated a suite of hard copy and digital tools to support volunteers in their gift conversations. An ‘Advocates Guide to Gift Seeking’ was developed to induct volunteers into the asking process, and Dalton Gooding, managing partner of accountancy Gooding Partners, was engaged as the campaign’s leadership gifts taskforce chairman.

Stronger Together was RMH executive officer Alison Salmond’s first capital campaign. Her advice for other first-time campaigners is to put on your business head.

“Take the word ‘fund’ out of capital fundraising,” Salmond says. “You are capital raising for a major project and have a great product to sell. Talk passionately about your business, not emotionally. Don’t go cap in hand.”

A “mind blowing” turning point for the Stronger Together campaign came in March 2013 with an $8 million Lotterywest grant, one of the largest grants made by Lotterywest in recent years. Charitable trusts such as the McCusker Charitable Foundation, the Stan Perron Charitable Trust, the Bendat Family Foundation, the Barrows Foundation, the SBA Foundation, and the Bass Family Foundation also made significant contributions to the campaign.

A gift of $5 million from BHP Billiton Iron Ore was announced in July, adding to an impressive clutch of gifts from donors such as FMG, Apache Energy, RCR Tomlinson, Brierty, Kais Contractors, EBM Insurance and Rapid Crushing and Screening.

The new Perth Ronald McDonald House will provide for three times the number of WA families than can be served by the existing house, and its construction is scheduled to begin in October. “We always work with charities and donors to achieve the best result we can,” Campion says, “but sometimes the result can be even better than you expected.”

On the road: talking beyond fundraising.

In addition to its major ask drive based out of Perth, the Stronger Together campaign hit the road in 2013 with an RMH ‘Regional Roadshow’, featuring events in Albany, Bunbury, Geraldton, Port Hedland, Karratha and Broome. A brainchild of Xponential Philanthropy’s early assessment of Ronald McDonald House Perth’s needs, the roadshow was designed to both meet the communications needs of RMH and to support the Stronger Together campaign.

“There were many layers to it,” Campion says. “The Roadshow raised awareness that the house is available to regional people; it shared the mission of the organisation with key individuals; it complemented submissions that were already put to different government bodies; and it complemented the generosity of existing donors such as FMG, whose operations are within those areas and whose generous staff pledged $200,000 individually. It helped Ronald McDonald House be available to regional people, and that is their remit.”

Stronger Together campaign gift table

Gift amount ($) No. of gifts in this category Total amount in this category ($) % of funds raised
$5 million + 2  $13 million 59%
$1-4.9 million 4 $4 million  18%
$500,000-999,999 3 $1.6 million  7%
$250,000-499,999 4  $1.25 million 6%
$100,000-249,999 10  $1.475 million 7%
$25,000-99,000 12 $545,000 2%
$5,000-24,999 16 $187,650 1%
Under $5,000 25  $22,000+
Total: 76 $22 million+  100%


Sam Gibbs

Sam Gibbs is the editor of Generosity, a new digital publication providing insight and inspiration to Australian donors and their advisors


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