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Not If, When — The Campaign That Is Creating Change

by | 30 Jul 2020

The eyes of the science world turned to The University of Queensland (UQ), based in Brisbane, Australia, this month as it started human trials in the global race to find a vaccine for coronavirus.

Whilst it will be months before the results of the trial are known, UQ’s Advancement team is making the most of the momentum that comes with being in the international spotlight.

Marla Edwards
Ted Wynn
Two of the University’s senior Advancement professionals, Ted Wynn, Director, Development and Philanthropy UQ Advancement, and Marla Edwards, Director of Advancement, Medicine and Health, spoke with Deann Stevens about the future of fundraising at one of Australia’s leading universities.
University of Queensland

Q. The University of Queensland (UQ) currently has a global profile as a result of the work it is doing to develop a COVID vaccine. What has that meant for you as fundraisers?

A. Ted: Coronavirus is the greatest challenge we all face at the present time. The COVID-19 vaccine under development at UQ was our call to action as a team. We all rallied across UQ Advancement to do all that we could to raise the private support needed to fast-track the vaccine. Likewise, our philanthropic partners also stepped up and we are grateful to the many UQ alumni, non-alumni donors, corporations, and foundations that generously contributed over $10 million to accelerate progress on the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, which has entered the first stage of clinical trials.

A. Marla: The pursuit of a vaccine and our road to recovery to mitigate the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 is one of our priorities.

Advancement has an important role to play to unlock resources and support our research to improve the lives of Australians. Hopefully it will lead to broader conversations with our donors about what they are interested in and also inspire an interest in STEM amongst our young people.

Q. Marla, you joined UQ just a few months ago with a remit to bring together the fundraising activities of 3 large faculties – Medicine, Health and Behavioural Sciences and the Queensland Brain Institute. Has COVID-19 helped or hindered that?

A. Marla: Our work is about collaborating more across the disciplines and working on integrated projects that can support bigger initiatives. And as a result of COVID-19, everyone is more willing than ever to work together.

The leadership of this University at all levels is around the table daily working through critical issues during this uncertain time. Our role as advancement executives is to professionally support the academic leadership to provide best practice fundraising advice for decision making.

Q. Ted, more broadly speaking, what impact will COVID-19 have for UQ’s Advancement operations?

A. Ted: Like all university advancement organisations, we have pivoted to virtual engagement. COVID-19 has changed the fundraising landscape for our entire profession and the post COVID-19 world will be a very different environment with a greater emphasis on the donor’s digital experience. That said, we’ve seen a significant increase in engagement over these past several months through virtual outreach.

Q. In October 2017, UQ launched “Not If, When —the Campaign to Create Change”, the first major philanthropic campaign in its history and the first major initiative of its kind by a Queensland university. How is the campaign going?

A. Ted: The campaign goes well. The UQ Campaign to Create Change is an appeal to make a difference for society by giving through UQ. The philanthropic dollars we have raised have accelerated transformative research and discovery like the COVID-19 vaccine and increased our capacity to offer scholarship support to deserving students in need. Philanthropic support for UQ has advanced a number of high impact programs in medicine and health, sustainable energy development, food security and agriculture, arts and culture, empowering vulnerable communities, and entrepreneurship and innovation just to name a few. I think the response of our philanthropic partners with regard to the COVID-19 vaccine appeal couldn’t be a more timely testament to creating change by giving through UQ.

Aerial view of Queensland
Two people in white coats in a laboratory

Q. Most organisations won’t come out of COVID-19 the same way they went in. Is it likely to reshape fundraising at UQ and, if so, how?

A. Ted: Greater efficiency, mission clarity, and agility will be the defining hallmarks of organisations in the post COVID-19 world. Organisations that are more entrepreneurial in spirit and quick to embrace predictive modelling tools and new engagement platforms will do well in the environment ahead. As Director of Development for UQ Advancement, I am very pleased by the resilience I’ve seen across UQ Advancement and UQ as a whole. In fact, we have developed and are rolling out a new UQ-led global engagement program that offers our alumni the unique opportunity through a new online platform to connect and share learning, growth and career development opportunities with one another.

Q. What have you learned about yourself as a result of COVID-19?

A. Marla: All of my on-boarding to this new role has been done virtually and I’ve been inducted into a large advancement team at UQ! Our working style has changed but the mission driven work of the team has not and reflects the values, vision and mission of the University. It is a difficult time but I have been able to design the work in a way that continues to bring the staff around an agreed agenda to respond to the rapidly changing environment we are currently navigating.

A. Ted: I’ve learned just how much even I can adapt to virtual meetings with donors and colleagues. COVID-19 has tested us all. For me, this experience has also reinforced the importance of remaining positive and, as a leader, how important that is for the team as a whole during challenging times.


  • Ranked in the world’s top 50, The University of Queensland is one of Australia’s leading research and teaching institutions
  • UQ’s 53,696-strong student community includes 18,620 postgraduate scholars and 18,074 international students from 134 countries

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