How We Raised It episode 1 : Global financial crisis, Simon Mordant, 3 months and a call from Anthony Albanese

How We Raised It episode 1 : Global financial crisis, Simon Mordant, 3 months and a call from Anthony Albanese

November 2021
How we raised it

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From the verge of bankruptcy, Liz Ann Macgregor shares the extraordinary story of engaging artists, audiences, government and donors to secure Australia’s largest philanthropic gift for contemporary art at the time, and the Museum of Contemporary Art’s (MCA) transformation into the world’s most visited contemporary art museum.

Episode 1: Welcome & Intro

Welcome to the first episode of How We Raised It, a podcast that explores the extraordinary stories of mega gifts and multi-million-dollar philanthropy campaigns from the arts leaders who delivered them.

During the past decade in Australia, we’ve seen more record-breaking multi-million-dollar gifts announced than ever before. These gifts have transformed the cultural sector for the benefit of dancers, actors, writers, researchers and audiences everywhere – but, while we celebrate the philanthropists behind them, the stories of how these gifts came into being often remains hidden.

How We Raised It draws back the curtain to hear directly from the individuals who made these campaigns happen. We’ll meet the leaders of some of Australia’s greatest arts companies – The Australian Ballet, Sydney Theatre Company, the National Library and others – and hear how they galvanised Boards, fundraising teams and donors into making the impossible, possible.

The host of this series is me, Melissa Smith, with almost 20 years’ experience in philanthropy and fundraising, and Australia’s only Global Fundraiser of the Year. I’ve established fundraising programs at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Opera House, as well as in the university sector where I’ve raised millions of dollars from philanthropists here in Australia and overseas. As a result, I’ve had firsthand experience of crazy targets being set that seem impossible to achieve, as well as those sleepless, mid-campaign nights when the challenges seem too big to overcome. And I’ve been there when a donor says yes to the sort of multi-million dollar gift that has the power to change lives and communities, and makes your heart jump to the back of your throat.

I now advise CEOs and Board members nationally across the for-purpose sector on how to achieve their noble ambitions in philanthropy and fundraising. Through this series, which has been commissioned by Creative Partnership Australia, I aim to celebrate transformational impact through philanthropy.
Join me as I explore the role of leadership in securing philanthropic investment at scale, demonstrate the power of philanthropy on a national scale, and champion CEOs, Boards, fundraisers and philanthropists to deliver outstanding philanthropic partnerships in their own organisations.

Welcome and enjoy How We Raised It….

Melissa's key learnings from the story:

  1. Have a bold vision. The trajectory Liz Ann MacGregor took MCA on from financial bankruptcy to the largest gift to contemporary art at the time and the most visited contemporary art museum in the world took extraordinary effort, resilience and most importantly, vision. She completely turnaround the perception of, and how people engaged with the MCA. She mobilised a whole range of stakeholders to help her and her Board collectively achieve that vision – staff, artists, media, government, philanthropists and the general public.
  2. Do the work. Liz Ann spoke about the original unsuccessful attempts to for a new building with enormous public pushback against original designs. She and her team quietly worked through a new approach, ensured it is incredibly robust, undertook extensive consultation and had a comprehensive business plan to back it. Because when you finally secure the funds, you have to deliver – the MCA capital redevelopment was shovel ready and delivered in record time.
  3. Perseverance come what may. Few could have anticipated as the MCA launched its campaign, the global financial crisis would hit and many donors would be impacted including an original cornerstone donor. Even fewer would have anticipated such an enormous gift pledged by the Mordant Family, with a 3-month timeframe to deliver the remaining government commitments. Liz Ann took the extraordinary highs and lows of this campaign in her stride and kept going. Her persistence and resilience was driven by an unwavering belief in contemporary art and the role it can play our community.

Recommendations to apply in your own organisation:

  1. An extraordinary vision can galvanise a community to collectively achieve that vision.
  2. Ensure your case is compelling, robust and can be delivered.
  3. Mega gifts and multi-million dollar campaigns are hard. You need personal and organisational resilience and perseverance. To find this, draw upon what compels you to do the work that you do, and the impact it has your community.