A $1B campaign, a historic bequest, and a campaign for a care facility with students at its heart. We explore several university fundraising campaigns reaping rewards.

March was a big month for Australian philanthropy, due in large part to significant gifts bestowed upon the university sector. The University of Melbourne, La Trobe University and Deakin University are all deservedly enjoying the fundraising fruits of compelling projects and expertly executed campaigns.

Whilst dollars raised vary substantially between the three institutions, all have experienced an impressive and highly engaged response to their fundraising ask. Let’s look at what they set out to achieve.

The University of Melbourne – celebrating the conclusion of a nine-year campaign 

Last month, the University of Melbourne officially ended the most successful fundraising and engagement campaign in its history.

Believe – The Campaign for the University of Melbourne commenced in 2008 and launched publicly in 2013. Since then, nearly 30,000 donors have made more than 73,000 individual gifts to the university, its colleges, and affiliates. Visionary philanthropic support and committed volunteers have together enabled world-changing research, student support initiatives and major infrastructure projects.

The target

When the campaign launched publicly in 2013, it had an ambitious goal: to raise $500 million by the end of 2017. Thanks to more than 20,000 donors worldwide, the university officially passed this mark two years ahead of schedule.

The goal posts changed on the back of this success. In March 2016, then-Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis AC launched a second phase of the campaign, with the aim of raising $1 billion by 2021 and engaging 100,000 alumni in the process. It was to be the largest-ever fundraising commitment for an Australian public institution, and the largest public university philanthropic campaign ever conducted in the Asia-Pacific.

“Over the course of the campaign, donors have contributed more than $1 billion.”

Then there were the goals for what would be done with the enormous amount of money raised, should the target be reached. These were:

  • ‘A healthy life for all’ – research and improvements in clinical care and illness prevention.
  • ‘Answering the questions that matter’ – tackling education reform, global health and legal practice.
  • ‘Creating a more sustainable future’ – driving the change necessary to succeed in an economy increasingly driven by the need for sustainability.
  • ‘Driving innovation and entrepreneurship’ – providing the support, knowledge and resources needed to take big ideas and develop them into innovative enterprises, products and services.
  • ‘Inspiring the next generation of leaders’ – nurturing the best and the brightest by growing scholarships, financial aid, mentoring and internship programs, supporting and enriching education opportunities for Indigenous students, and strengthening relationships with industry and international institutions.
  • ‘Making Melbourne great through culture and arts’ – developing world-class facilities that inspire future generations of Australia’s most talented artists, musicians and sportspeople.

The approach

Donors have been presented with an array of options to support, and their generosity has enabled research across multiple and diverse fields that include identifying targeted treatments for growing numbers of ovarian cancer patients, saving the endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoot from extinction through genetics, and enhancing technologies that improve brain function for those with epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

Significant gifts have also funded projects which have transformed the university’s campuses, including the Melbourne Arts Precinct in Southbank.

Engagement has played a key role in the campaign, with impact felt across the student and alumni community. The campaign has established 473 new scholarships and awards funds, supporting thousands of students. In 2021 alone, more than 1882 students received philanthropic-funded scholarships or awards. The University also engaged more than 100,000 alumni during the campaign, with more than 8,000 of them mentoring over 16,000 students. The Bertalli Family Foundation is one example of philanthropic support that has played a key role in student support, with the foundation making a gift that has provided seven rural students with financial assistance throughout their three-year degrees.

Over the course of the campaign, donors have contributed more than $1 billion. During that time, the university has published an annual report titled ‘The impact of your giving’ as part of a program of stewardship activities.

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor, Professor Duncan Maskell, believes philanthropy is an important part of both the university and the community more broadly.

“The best universities recognise that philanthropy brings major benefits to future generations, not only of scholars, students and alumni, but of nations and communities everywhere,” Professor Maskell said.

Read more about the Believe campaign here.

Melbourne University

La Trobe University receives historic bequest

La Trobe University is the recent beneficiary of one of Australia’s largest single donations to a tertiary education provider, receiving $45 million for its life-changing research into autism.

The significant gift was made by the late Olga Tennison, a compassionate Brisbane-born philanthropist with a life-long interest in autism, sparked by a family connection.

Olga’s connection with La Trobe spans more than a decade, and in 2008 she was responsible for the establishment of Australia’s first research centre dedicated to autism – the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC).

Mrs Tennison died in January 2021, at the age of 92, leaving the $45 million gift to La Trobe in her Will. The gift is endowed and will be held in perpetuity to support the work of OTARC.

La Trobe University Vice Chancellor Professor John Dewar AO said the gift demonstrates the potential for any university to attract a significant donation. “If a university’s research is impactful enough and aligns with the passions of a donor – as it did in this case – it can lead to quite extraordinary outcomes.”

More on this extraordinary gift, and the contribution Olga Tennison has made over many years to La Trobe’s autism research, in this video:

Deakin University students to provide palliative support as part of a Geelong fundraising initiative

Anam Cara House is a Geelong nonprofit and, as a palliative care facility – ‘a home for people living with a life-limiting illness’. On 31 March the organisation launched a giving day with the ambitious goal of raising $1 million in 12 hours – aptly name ‘The Million Dollar Challenge’. By 8pm that night, they had reached a final result of $1,293,436.

Every donation was tripled, with matching support provided by local businesses and philanthropists such as legal firm, Wightons Lawyers, media support provided by Krock Geelong & Bay939 Geelong and ambassador support given by Geelong Football Club player, Tom Hawkins, who lost his mum to cancer in 2015.

During the campaign period, Anam Cara House featured a constant stream of emotive videos, media coverage, matcher spotlights and calls to action – as exemplified by their LinkedIn page.

The funds raised will be used to build a new 20-bed facility at Deakin University’s Waurn Ponds Campus. Stage 1 of the development is underway and will open in late 2022, with 12 bedrooms and palliative day care. This early phase has been made possible with funding support of $5 million from each of the Australian and Victorian governments alongside $6.3 million from the Geelong philanthropic and corporate community. A further $2.2m grant was recently received from the federal government. This grant, along with a funding provided by an unnamed philanthropic supporter will ensure that the complete 20-bedroom $21.5 million project will be delivered. Anam Cara needs to raise an additional $3 million to be debt free – hence initiatives such as the giving day.

So, where does Deakin University come in? They are not the primary fundraisers, as you may have gathered from the information above. But they are key stakeholders in this important project for the Geelong community and for the progress of palliative care more broadly.

Aside from the new home being located on the university’s grounds, Anam Cara has a teaching and research agreement with Deakin that will see medical students gain experience in working with people living with life-limiting illness. Health students and researchers will be embedded in the facility – learning, listening, caring and innovating with Anam Cara staff, volunteers, guests and families.

To learn more about Anam Cara, and how its fundraising both benefits and engages Deakin University students, click here.

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