University of Wollongong

University of Wollongong

Be true to yourself

This is a story about the power of being you.

It was a moment of opportunity. Here was an energetic young institution, grounded in its region of New South Wales, Australia. It began to realise it had a distinctive story to tell – rooted in its history of opening up education to train local engineers and scientists during the post-war boom. As senior leaders started to believe in fundraising and expectations rose, it was time to take a bold new step.

When the University of Wollongong (UOW) came to us, they wanted to aim higher with their philanthropy. Their questions: What was realistic? What was sustainable? And how to broaden a culture of philanthropy across the institution? There were many universities in Australia with their own fundraising ambitions – how could Wollongong create something true to themselves?

From the start, it was clear this was a meeting of minds. In Monique Harper-Richardson and her Advancement team, we found a group of people who share our passion for how the best work happens. Namely, when you take the time to understand each other and forge a strong, personal partnership. It meant that distance was never an obstacle. Soon, this collaboration became one of our most cherished.

Together, we got to work – fast.
To illustrate the power of philanthropy to people across the organisation, we started with the plan and the story. With both, we were mindful to set the institution on its own path. This was no copy-cat approach. We wanted to give them the courage to carve out a distinctive space, true to themselves.

The story we crafted together focused on impact, commitment to opportunity, and the University’s authentic drive to innovate. The five-year fundraising investment plan was a turning point, a catalyst for the institution. Rather than mimicking what had been done elsewhere, it articulated what Wollongong could achieve, and with what level of support.

As the partnership progressed, so the More team evolved to respond to changing needs. After Catrin and Joanna created the plan, Nik helped rethink how best to engage alumni in ways that supported the UOW strategic direction. To further unlock the biggest gifts, Ken looked at the intricacies of US giving and Siôn at Trusts and Foundations. And, once Ben had drafted the Case for Support, Rosie and Adrian helped apply it to regular giving.

The result? For the first time, philanthropy was recognised as an engine for growth at UOW. It formed part of the strategic plan. More senior leaders were involved. And the University demonstrated capacity to manage remarkable transformative gifts. As Monique puts it: “More showed us the art of possibility. We started to believe that this can happen at Wollongong. We just need to stay true to who we are.”

What they say
“More never looked at us as a small institution. They saw us through the potential we had and framed the conversation in a different way. They looked at us as an interesting and distinctive long-term partner. They wanted to focus on what was right for us. They asked: ‘How can we work together to make Wollongong the best institution it can be?’ It sounds so simple, but it’s a courageous approach. They said: ‘You need to be you. You need to embrace, celebrate and amplify your distinctive vision’.”

Monique Harper-Richardson, Director of Advancement

What we say
“From the very beginning, we saw an institution playing to its strengths – its youth, geography, values and personality. This doesn’t mean lowering ambition or expectation in relation to older and larger universities. It’s about instilling that sense of ‘this can only happen here. We can do this better than anyone because of who we are. This great work is us.’”

Joanna Motion, Partner