What it is really like to launch and run a successful $50M major gifts campaign

When the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) decided to leverage its upcoming anniversary as a major gifts fundraising opportunity, challenges such as a short lead time and an inexperienced team had to be overcome.

Despite these and other challenges, WEHI has gone on to build a very successful major gifts program that has so far raised $25 million and is on track to meet its goal of $50 million by 2019.

In this case study, Susanne Williamson will discuss important aspects of the campaign such as: the importance of a strong case for support; how the campaign served to focus and unify the staff and leadership team; how donors are recognised and stewarded; the importance of being flexible in meeting donors’ needs; examples of some of the marketing materials used to engage supporters.

Learning outcomes

  • Able to assess organisational readiness and have leadership skills to prepare organisation for a major gifts campaign.
  • Know what steps they will need to take to prepare for a major gifts campaign.
  • Appreciate the leadership qualities required of a fundraising professional guiding their organisation through the challenges of a major
    gifts campaign.

Who should attend: This session will be inspiring and informative for any fundraising professional considering establishing a major gifts program or intending to undertake a major gifts campaign. Particularly useful for those who feel intimidated by the prospect or are not sure if their organisation is ready for a major gifts campaign.

Session style: This is a case study based session that provides honest, behind-the-scenes insights into conducting a major gifts campaign. Focus is on engaging story-telling and offering honest insights from a fundraising practitioner (not a consultant).


Susanne Williamson (Australia)
Head of Fundraising, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research