Back-to-Back Campaigns: Maintaining the Momentum

Weill Cornell Medical College

Challenge: Weill Cornell Medical College had just publicly launched a $1.3 billion “Discoveries that Make a Difference” campaign on the heels of a successful $700 million campaign that funded a new state-of-the-art 13-story ambulatory center. At the dedication of the new Weill Greenberg Center, the lead donors to its $700 million campaign would be recognized. At the same time, solicitations for the new $1.3 billion campaign were getting underway, and the new campaign priorities and messages were being rolled out. Even in a city accustomed to a fast pace, the new campaign faced challenges with potential donor burn-out and message confusion.

Approach: As the medical college's Chief Development Officer, Susan Holt led a team that developed a program and supportive collateral materials that thanked and recognized donors by clearly delineating the previous campaign’s impact. In speeches, videos and building tours, the Building Dedication Team delicately interwove the new campaign messages and priorities. The collateral materials illustrated how the previous campaign had set the stage for the college to seize these new opportunities. The building dedication also introduced the new campaign chairman, an important nuance, but did not dwell on the new “Discoveries that Make a Difference” campaign.

Rather, to demonstrate the medical college's momentum and to steward vital relationships, the building dedication program celebrated the great accomplishments made possible by visionary generosity and simply positioned the next campaign priorities and messages. 

Outcome: After the building dedication program, major donors were given tours of the center and opportunities to interact with the college’s leadership, faculty and students. This set the stage for the new strategic plan and campaign. Interviews with faculty were displayed on continuous loop throughout the building, enabling self-tours as well as guided tours. The “Discoveries that Make a Difference Campaign” Steering Committee had already been recruited, and the first meeting of this leadership group was held the day after the dedication. Everyone was ready to continue the momentum and get down to the work of the new campaign. Demonstrating that success begets success, the building dedication created a meaningful sense of accomplishment and ownership by those who turned out to be the lead donors and volunteers to the $1.3 billion campaign.