Despite never having conducted a capital fundraising campaign before, St Vincent de Paul Society (WA) Inc. took the bull by the horns and raised more than $6 million. Kate Selth takes up the story.

Like all successful capital campaigns, St Vincent de Paul Society (WA) had a clear and urgent need.

Vincentcare is the Society’s network of 14 accommodation sites across the Perth metropolitan area for homeless people and those with mental illness. Established in 1996, Vincentcare was providing approximately 20,000 bed nights and 46,000 meals a year. However, by 2003 it became apparent that increasing demand was quickly outstripping current capacity.

The decision was made to undertake a capital fundraising campaign to provide additional housing, a centralised administration area and an endowment fund.

As the Society lacked in-house capital fundraising expertise, John Pritchard of Fundraising Consultancy Services was engaged to manage the campaign.

After completing a feasibility study the campaign was launched in September 2003 and a number of community-minded local identities quickly lent their names and influence to the project. Michael Perrot took on the role of campaign chair. Michael is the chairman of Troika Securities and his father was a member of “Vinnies.”

Denis and Ann Cullity of Cullity Timber, who are known for their charitable work and contribution to the business community became the campaign co-presidents. Other leaders to provide assistance included campaign patrons The Most Reverend Barry J Hickey, the Honourable Justice Neville Owen and Kerry Stokes AO. In all some 50 volunteers were recruited onto four different committees.

While the Society wanted to make the most of its existing dedicated donor-base during the campaign it was also conscious that funds raised annually through its Winter and Christmas Appeals should not be negatively impacted.

Other challenges included communicating the needs of homeless people and those with mental illness, dispelling myths around these issues, and putting a human face to the cause. A video was produced that proved to be an excellent tool in illustrating the work of Vinnies, and the use of research and statistics also quantified the plight of people experiencing mental illness and homelessness.

The initial campaign target of $3 million was quickly surpassed and even a revised target of $5 million was exceeded by more than $1 million. Financial support came from individuals, corporates and government sources such as the Department for Housing and Works.

Lotterywest, which has been a strong supporter of Vinnies in WA over many years, made a grant of $1,514,000 for furnishings, equipment, an administration building and two vehicles.

Pledged donations are continuing to come in and the housing project, which is to be built in Midland, has recently gone to tender.

Vincentcare director Ann Garrity says her clients are already looking forward to having their own self-contained accommodation. “The new units will have a huge impact on the lives of our residents and will provide them with dignity while allowing their individual needs to be met respectfully,” she said.

The results achieved by the Vincentcare campaign were recognised earlier this year when the Fundraising Institute of Australia (FIA) named it “Most Outstanding Fundraising Project in 2004.” President of St Vincent de Paul WA Brian Bull said the campaign had been an overwhelming success. “We have long seen the value of Vincentcare’s 24 hour a day/365 days a year support when most other agencies and support networks are closed.

“It is reassuring that so many in the community saw the value of the project and joined with us in our vision to continue to provide support with dignity to people when they most need us,” he said.

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