Tracey Grobbelaar, Director of Development & Community Relations at Siena College, Melbourne, talks about its bold $1.25 million capital campaign.
F&P Editor Lise Taylor spoke with Tracey Grobbelaar, Director of Development & Community Relations at Siena College, Melbourne, about its bold $1.25 million capital campaign.
Siena College was established in 1940 as a medium-sized, independent, Catholic school for girls from Years 7 to 12. “The Dominican Sisters who founded the College built a school where young women could be inspired by the human person of Jesus Christ, follow their academic and cultural interests, believe in their potential and become passionate, lifelong learners,” says Tracey Grobbelaar, Director of Development
& Community Relations.
Siena College is located in one of Melbourne’s older areas, the traditional, middle class suburb of Camberwell. It is a medium-priced boutique school surrounded by large grammar and independent colleges. From an education provider perspective, the immediate geographic marketplace is highly competitive. The school has 740 students from 640 families and average yearly fees are $9,500 per student. Its annual turnover is $11,943,414 million.
The College had little previous experience of philanthropy, no established foundation and no annual giving or bequest programs.
What the College did have, however, were four imperatives:
- the enthusiasm of the principal and backing of the College board to commence the journey
- a willingness for the College to underwrite the cost of fundraising and not draw on donations to fund a capital appeal
- a declaration that long-term cultural change was the objective and not the dollar amount raised in the first capital appeal
- an envisaged building project (the St Catherine Centre) from which significant philanthropic leverage could be drawn.
Acting swiftly, the College created a new directorial position that would sit on the leadership team with an imperative to oversee the campaign and the development office. Simultaneously, it engaged the services of
Greg Campitelli, from Campitelli Consultancy, a nonprofit, sports and education specialist.
Siena College had already budgeted for a major, new three-storey complex – the St Catherine Centre. This facility was presented to the community as an $8.5 million effort that would be fully funded from investments and loans.
The campaign strategy that emerged emphasised that current parents needed to be reassured that fees would not suddenly increase to pay for the build and would only increase in line with CPI adjustments. The construction timeline saw that the build would commence in May 2014 and that the new centre would open in mid 2015 as part of Siena College’s 75th anniversary celebrations.
In May 2013, Siena College commenced the capital campaign. At the same time, it launched an alumnae engagement strategy.
Although Grobbelaar had no previous experience in terms of developing and running a capital campaign, she was ambitious and commenced the campaign together with a mentor and strategic direction from Campitelli. They set about implementing a $1.25 million campaign known as the Butterfly Campaign.
“Our mantra was built on the notion that together, staff, students, parents and alumnae could create a lasting transformational change,” explains Grobbelaar. “The butterfly image was a branded element that had been regularly used in the College’s revamped brand and style guide. The image resonated well and is one that connotes transformational changes in its lifestyle.”
Given that 2015 would be the 75th anniversary for the College, the project was then presented to the community to leverage that historic opportunity. As the St Catherine Centre itself was fully funded, a case had to be developed to provide non-critical but attractive ‘value-added-extras’ to both the building and other side projects that could leverage economies of scale if delivered at the same time as the building.
The case expanded rapidly and it was found that, in fact, four value-added elements, which were termed ‘pillars’, would resonate with potential donors:
To upgrade the proposed lecture theatre located inside the St Catherine Centre into an auditorium. This included extra features such as additional sound and lighting technology, improved acoustics and upgrades to the seating.
Student resource centre
To fully refurbish the current library into a modern, purpose-built, student resource centre, renamed the Albertus Magnus Library in honour of the Dominican scholar.
To transform an unused area of the College into an agora (a gathering place).
Convent and cloisters
To restore the convent and cloisters – the spiritual centre of the College – to become the new gateway to the College.
The brief provided to Grobbelaar and Campitelli was to develop a culture of philanthropy in the context of the proposed new building works, the St Catherine Centre, that were to take place.
An aspirational figure of $1.25 million to be raised over three years was set and presented to the community. The response was the development of a longitudinal, multi-pronged approach that focused on:
- rebuilding alumnae connections
- implementing a capital appeal to leverage the immediate opportunity
- establishing a vehicle that would segue to major giving/bequests after the conclusion of the capital campaign
- introducing annual giving
- establishing a bequest program
- mentoring and knowledge transfer.
Process and timeline
Campaign preparation began in 2013 and the project progressed over the next few years as follows:
2013 Campaign preparation involved leadership recruitment, collateral development (prospectus, DVD and website), a white paper about the benefits of establishing a foundation and the development of alumnae collateral. The Siena Society was also established to accommodate multiple types of giving, including a capital appeal, major gifts and bequests.
2013/2014 The private phase comprised organisation of advance gifts, the launch of the Butterfly Campaign in March, face-to-face and supplier asks, implementation and expansion of the alumnae reunion program and expansion of its database.
2014 During the public phase the College community was approached via direct mail, telemarketing and functions. In addition, the Siena Alumnae Association was formed and a careers showcase introduced.
2014/2015 Ongoing annual giving strategies beyond the scope of the campaign were implemented. These included a golf day to target suppliers, premium raffles, giving through fee renewal and a community fun run.
Alumnae were involved in 75th anniversary celebrations, a notable alumnae project was implemented, the St Catherine Centre was opened and the Siena philanthropic wall
2016 An alumnae ask strategy was developed along with face-to-face and community asks. The Alumnae Business Network Breakfast was implemented and a white paper developed for staff and committee recognition.
2016/2017 A bequest strategy was developed along with associated collateral and the program was launched.
The gift table
The gift table was based on an expectation that there would be 202 gifts of $1,000 or greater. This would deliver the envisaged 80% of the target. The remaining $250,000 would be raised via the implementation of annual giving, fundraising events, community and public fundraising (see the gift table above).
The Butterfly Campaign resulted in a significant leap forward at Siena College in establishing a culture of philanthropy.
A major donor was identified in alumna Susan Alberti AC, who funded Pillar 2 (The Susan Alberti Auditorium) and continues to support the College through philanthropy.
From the College’s perspective, the Butterfly Campaign delivered extraordinary results as measured by:
- rebuilding and re-establishment of alumnae connections, including an engagement plan and comprehensive reunion program – the database now contains 5,500 alumnae
- implementing a capital appeal to leverage the immediate opportunity and management of a campaign in its various forms to raise the money achieved
- establishment of a vehicle – the Siena Philanthropic Society – that would segue to major giving/bequests after the conclusion of the capital campaign
- introduction of annual giving
- establishment of a bequest program
- mentoring and knowledge transfer to a
In addition, the campaign has delivered some intangible gains, including:
- identification of a major philanthropist, with her extended network and the ongoing relationship providing future opportunities
- reactivation and reinvigoration of the Siena Alumnae Association
- increasing awareness of the Siena brand in the wider community
- increasing recognition capability by other Catholic secondary colleges of the work being done
- expanded engagement with the parent community and student community
- a deepening of a philanthropic capacity from the Siena Parents’ Association as evidenced by its contribution of the largest amounts of money ever given to the College.
Reflections and learnings
The following positives have resulted due to the Butterfly Campaign:
- it is the first capital campaign since the Building Futures Campaign that was held in the late 1980s
- a regular annual giving program has been initiated
- a recognition policy and a model for future fundraising has been developed
- all systems, procedures, giving methodologies, stewardships and the operational systems have been fully developed and bedded down
- raising awareness of the importance of philanthropy among parents, staff, students, past staff, past parents, suppliers and alumnae has occurred
- there has been a significant transfer of knowledge to key leaders, including the chair of board, principal and director of development.