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March 9, 2015

How scaling back capital campaigns helped two hospitals raise more

Daily Briefing

Fundraising leaders at two Toronto hospitals have opted for a new donation strategy: Ditching capital campaigns in favor of smaller, more personal fundraising drives, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.

Each year, capital campaigns bring big costs for hospitals, and charity leaders tend to become burned out quickly, which can lead to high turnover rates. Two Toronto hospitals have thrown down the gauntlet on traditional fundraising strategies, opting instead to rely on smaller campaigns.

Anette Larsson, campaign director at Toronto Western Hospital, now runs smaller funding drives, such as a $20 million campaign for diabetes research and a $15 million drive for an eye care center. Larsson says not being tied to a capital project has allowed her to spend more time with donors, board members, physicians, and other hospital and community leaders, which she previously was unable to do.

The 'new' hospital philanthropy: From capital projects to population health

Since the hospital has implemented the new strategy, new gifts and pledges have increased from $16 million annually in 2000, before the fundraising switch, to more than $100 million last year. This year, the hospital is expected to raise nearly $145 million.

Tennys Hanson, president of the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation, says its two hospitals have increased donations by at least 8% annually under the new strategy—allowing it to raise as much as it would have through a capital campaign for the two facilities.

How they do it

Instead of a capital campaign, the foundation pairs 10 senior development officers with trustees who can act as a "board champion," to help raise money for areas of health care in which they have interest.

In addition, fundraisers work more closely with the physicians and medical researchers that donations will most affect. For instance, Larsson is currently looking for at least $100,000 in donations to support the foundation's Campaign to Cure Arthritis and works next door to researchers leading the charge to find prevention and treatment methods. This, she says, has allowed her and her colleges to "create a true partnership" with the medical staff.

Ten surgeons each gave $125,000 to the arthritis campaign, and one patient matched the doctors' donations, with a gift of $1.25 million. Larsson says the campaign was quickly able to raise $35 million, noting, "When people heard the doctors are putting their own gifts on the table, it really surprises people."

Forgoing capital campaigns also has kept fundraisers more satisfied and has helped to decrease turnover. In addition, the foundation has been able to hire higher-level fundraisers—including individuals who previously held high-pressure jobs like development officer—because the lower-stress environment is more palatable.

Junior fundraisers also handle more administrative duties than senior development officers. Debbie Eyton, VP of major gifts at the foundation, says, "People hated all the administrative stuff and they love the autonomy we give them."

Larsson says, "This model of fundraising is unique" and it "has made me very happy" (Hall, Chronicle of Philanthropy, 3/1 [subscription required]).

The takeaway: A unique approach to fundraising through small, personal campaigns boosted fundraising at two Canadian hospitals—all while increasing fundraiser happiness.

Interested in learning how to execute smaller, more targeted campaigns?

Read our Mini-Campaign Playbook to understand:

  • How to identify and foster a pipeline of prospective mini-campaign priorities
  • Several mini-campaign volunteer structures and how to choose the most appropriate model
  • How to cultivate, solicit, and steward a targeted set of donors and new prospects
  • The role and expectations of a mini-campaign manager
  • How to streamline campaign communications to optimize resources and outreach


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