Hank Goldstein was invited to the office of the then president of Cooper Union. George Campbell – almost without preamble – said “we want to raise $250 million - $100 million for bricks-and mortar and the rest, endowment.” Hank replied “Fine,” sketched out a gift table for a $250 million multi-year campaign – on the spot - and said “Dr. Campbell, if we can find the top 10 prospects at the levels required to make that goal, your campaign is ‘feasible.’ If we can’t it’s not.”
We were hired almost immediately and with the concurrence of chief development officer Ronni Denes decided against a conventional feasibility study, the usual approach. Instead we used the techniques – confidential personal interviews with key stakeholders, careful analysis of what we learned, diligent research and identification of key leaders and impact prospects. We didn’t ask anyone if the campaign was “feasible.” How would they know? How would we? Cooper Union had never before conducted a campaign this size.
As always volunteer leadership was key. But at the beginning the natural leaders – the board – was not quite ready to take on this project. The bottom line some eight years later is that a magnificent new classroom building, designed by renowned architect Thom Mann, has gone up – financed by a combination of philanthropy and a bond issue. The bricks-and-mortar goal was met; the endowment objective – dependent as it is on estate giving won’t be fully met for some years. But there is no question the school will get there. Led by Dr. Campbell the campaign was a triumph of grit, determination and the gradual evolvement of dedicated volunteer leaders: the board, alumni and friends.
Children’s Health Fund, founded in 1987 by pediatrician/child advocate Irwin Redlener, MD, (pictured at left) and singer/songwriter Paul Simon, is committed to providing comprehensive health care to the nation’s most medically underserved children through the development and support of innovative primary care medical programs and the promotion of guaranteed access to appropriate health care for all children.
When they came to Oram CHF was set to break out, intending to add sites to the already well established locations around the nation. The key fundraiser was, and mainly still is, Dr. Redlener whose passion for children, devotion to providing poor children with accessible first quality health care and irresistible salesmanship – along with Paul Simon’s willingness to help, his ability to attract other entertainers, smashing sell-out events and a top notch development staff were the basic ingredients for taking on a capacity building campaign with a goal at $100 million+. Oram’s role was to help CHF set a strategy in place, aid in designing specific tactics to exponentially upgrade the giving of current donors, identify new prospects, and train volunteers and staff in how to ask for mega-gifts. We also recommended that CHF ramp up estate giving and created a plan for doing so.
We also made one recommendation CHF ultimately followed and which is turning out to hold enormous potential: convincing CHF to get into cause-related marketing seriously and strategically. As a designated beneficiary of American Idol charity funds CHF saw the potential but needed to be convinced it had a place in ongoing fundraising. There was some resistance at first that soon gave way. A program is now in place.
The campaign is ahead of schedule and under budget.
Leadership is the magic ingredient. Our job as consultants is to help the project’s leaders be effective. We provide strategy, machinery, charts, maps, reasons why, and pushing, but it’s leadership — in this case, our campaign co-chairs Paul Renne, Richard Rubin and Sheila Schwartzburg plus advisory council member mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, who carried the world-renowned San Francisco Girls Chorus through to the $8 million goal for a new home.
In 2002, the SFGC’s rent doubled on the awkward space they leased for their 300-student chorus school. The increase meant an enforced move, probably out of San Francisco and into the margins. By the time The SFGC came to The Oram Group for help with a campaign, they had found a sponsor who was willing to “buy them a building” near their traditional central location. Our assessment work quickly revealed, however, that the “gift” required unaffordable payments to a long-term trust. Over a period of three years, we counseled the SFGC to eventual success and stability. We began with an assessment of a potential campaign goal, and we developed post-purchase operating forecasts with staff, looking at what type of building could be appropriate, affordable and sustainable. The Chorus located such a building nearby, but it was not for sale. We then guided leadership to convince lead donor Maurice Kanbar to convert his $4 million purchase offer into a true gift (“my angels,” he called the choristers); and we counseled the board how to convince the owner of the identified building to sell it, and to sell it at an affordable price. Finally, we managed the capital campaign, rallying hundreds of parents, to raise the additional $4 million needed. On October 1, 2005, the new “Kanbar Performing Arts Center” opened its doors to the spectacular sound of what has been called “the nation’s leading girl’s chorus.”