Capacity Campaigns

Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute

Campaign Background

Melbourne’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute had decided to embark on a Capacity Campaign as the means to raise $50 million for research. Like its more commonly known capital campaign sibling, a capacity campaign is a special, “whole of organisation” effort to raise funds above “business as usual”. As the name implies, these funds will lift the organisation’s capacity to have impact. Capacity campaigns have been used to start a new ongoing program, to expand an established service, or for a fixed-term project with ongoing benefits.


To raise $50 million
To engage the Board in a landmark campaign
To grow and develop relationships with major donors
To acquire new significant donors

Strategy and Execution

Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute needed to scale up its impact on heart disease and diabetes. They identified the need to increase the brainpower available through expanded research teams, to improve the network of learning among researchers and more widely, and to provide better technology for the research. When these needs were gathered, it expressed how they would improve prevention and treatment of heart disease and diabetes and presented a large and exciting aspiration for donors.

The Institute sought assistance from Xponential to provide campaign strategy and philanthropy team mentoring. A review of strategy recommended focussing on projected impact rather than the organisational need. To emphasise this, Xponential recommended the adoption of ‘YOU’ as the campaign theme. It was all about YOU.

The next major strategic recommendation was to engage the Board in the campaign and for the Board to be seen as leading the campaign. We met with each board member individually explaining the importance of their leadership to the campaign and encouraging each one to give “a gift you can be proud of”. We activated their involvement, selecting the level and intensity of involvement suitable for each board member’s circles of influence. As some board members saw the successful result of others’ involvement, that encouraged them. Several of the largest gifts to the campaign came from finding linkages via board members to people who had little or no prior involvement with the Baker.

Explaining the campaign process was also undertaken with the Baker’s scientific leaders. The process that leads to large philanthropic donations is both a science and art. The science, for example in the pipeline methodology and cultivation planning. Then the art of relationship development and asking for a big gift.

Having all of the Institute’s leadership on the same page gave them confidence in the philanthropy team and the capacity campaign. As they saw results of new and flexible funding, they told that story to their peers. They became more ready and willing to be part of impact reporting and experiences for donors.

Xponential lead the Baker philanthropy team through almost constant interrogation of its prospect pipeline. In-depth prospect research was especially important in finding linkage and connections to potential donors and continues to underpin Baker’s major gift program today.

Results and Impact

Baker’s largest gift was $5 million, family gift. ‘Discovery’ meetings established what was most important to them was ensuring that their grandchildren did not have to endure a particular health problem. We also learned that naming recognition was important to them.

Equally exciting was a $1 million gift from a “cold” donor who attended the first prospect engagement dinner “Big Hearts and Brilliant Minds”. This was a “live” test of our case for support, and from our prospect research we learned of this person’s interest area of “big data”, which aligned well with one of the capacity needs our researchers.

The ‘YOU’ campaign raised $52 million from philanthropy enabling the Baker to commit $100 million to increase the impact of its research on heart disease and diabetes.