The University of Western Australia (UWA) is well on the way to raising $25 million for a new Business School, and Peter Leunig explains why the university’s efforts exhibit all the hallmarks of a textbook capital campaign.

Visionary leadership, an inspirational project, willing and able volunteers, and thorough planning have been the foundations of UWA’s successful Business School capital campaign.

Vision and Institutional Buy-in

Vice-chancellor Professor Alan Robson set a bold vision for the school with a new strategy and business plan under the leadership of Tracey Horton, Dean of the Faculty of Business.

The plan called for positioning UWA’s Business School as one of the most influential business institutions across Australia and Asia, specifically through the construction of a new building and the establishment of a Futures Fund to support high level research, academic appointments and scholarships.

The undergraduate and postgraduate schools were also to be integrated (a feat in itself) to create a world-class teaching, learning and research facility with a projected 30% increase in student enrolment over the next ten years.

By making the development of the Business School integral to the university’s overall strategic plan and goals, the ensuing capital campaign had the enthusiastic support of the university’s senior executive and senate. This top down, institutional-wide commitment was vital.

Powerful Volunteers Recruited

The project attracted an enviable “who’s who” list of influential alumni and corporate members from the local, national and international community.

A new board for the Business School was created with prominent businessman Mark Barnaba of Azure Capital as its chair. Other members include Wesfarmers board member and chair of UWA’s Senate Development Committee, Dr Tony Howarth AO, Wesfarmers chief, Richard Goyder, Woodside managing director and chief executive, Don Voelte, former Alinta chairman and investment banker, John Poynton AM, CSL director and Reserve Bank board member, John Akehurst, and leading scientist, Clinical Professor Fiona Wood AM.

This powerhouse of community leaders provide strategic direction and have ensured that relevant and meaningful connections were made with industry. They have also brought profile to the project and attracted an influential and active fundraising committee.

Chaired by Dr Howarth, the fundraising committee is a force to be reckoned with in itself. Its patron is Wesfarmers chairman, Trevor Eastwood AM, and other members include John Poynton, Mark Barnaba, and leading property developer Adrian Fini, who also heads up the wider WA fundraising committee.

Overseas chapters of the fundraising committee are chaired by UWA graduates under the guidance of Former British Airways chief executive and Newscorp director Sir Rod Eddington. Mr Brad Rosser is the London representative, while businessman John Willinge is UWA’s man in America.

Planning and Infrastructure

Although the campaign began in March 2004, much planning occurred for some years prior to the launch. An initial feasibility study recommended a fundraising goal of $10 million, but as plans developed this increased to $15 million and then $25 million.

Rhonda Flottman was appointed as campaign manager in March 2004, and it was at that point that everybody understood the university was serious. Rhonda immediately got to work skilfully weaving the objectives and plans together, and supporting the various stakeholders.

This involved widespread research and consultation with board members, the fundraising committee and the faculty executive to shape the campaign plan and produce extensive prospect lists. Using the expert knowledge and advice of staff and colleagues helped to foster a sense of ownership and built enthusiasm for the campaign at all levels. Then, as leadership gifts were secured, and the vision shared, it seemed natural for more volunteers and donors to come on board.

The fundraising plan called for partnering with large corporate sponsors, securing major philanthropic gifts from individual donors, and medium to smaller contributions from alumni and friends.

A series of private dinners hosted by board and fundraising committee members in conjunction with the vice-chancellor and dean have helped to cultivate major prospects.

Naming rights for lecture theatres and rooms, Professorial Chairs and other acknowledgement benefits have been offered to donors.

Campaign Wrap

To date $18 million has been raised from just over 100 donors. Supporters have made one-off gifts or pledges over 3-5 years, and the top gift was $5 million. The campaign will finish on target in mid-2008 to coincide with the launch of the new building.

The success of the UWA Business School campaign can be attributed to several key ingredients: institutional commitment from the top down; a dedicated blue chip board and fundraising committee who were prepared to make a significant personal contribution and then go out and ask; a visionary and skilled dean who understands the value of relationship building; and a professional and dedicated campaign team, backed up by a proficient and mature central development operation.

Peter Leunig was until recently the director of development at UWA. He has now taken up the post of executive director institutional advancement at Macquarie University.

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