Case Study:

Wills Eye Hospital


Wills Eye was established in 1832 as a nonprofit specialty hospital whose clinical expertise and sophisticated diagnostic and treatment procedures make it a worldwide referral center. In the 1960s, Wills Eye began to develop subspecialty services for particular diseases of the eye. In 1972, Wills Eye affiliated with Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and serves as Jefferson’s Department of Ophthalmology.

As Wills Eye approached the 21st century, a new state-of-the-art, outpatient facility was constructed directly across the street from its inpatient facility. The new building opened in June 2002 and is considered one of the most advanced eye care centers in the world.



Schultz & Williams has been working with Wills Eye Hospital on various fundraising activities since April 2004 when it was engaged to conduct an audit of the development program in advance of the institution’s hiring of a new Chief Development Officer.


In June 2012, Carol Forte served as lead consultant for Wills Eye Hospital as it prepared for a potential $6 million comprehensive fundraising campaign. She prepared a series of collateral materials for the campaign, including a $6 million gift table; a menu of naming opportunities; a document describing institutional funding priorities for Wills’ research, patient care and medical education programs; a campaign fundraising timeline; and a capsule case for support.


In April 2019, Carol Forte and Eileen Hillman, both S&W Senior Consultants, came on board for an interim staffing assignment, with Carol filling the role of Interim Chief Development Officer and Eileen serving as a Writer/Manager of Special Projects. Originally set for a 3-month period, Wills Eye extended the contract for an additional 6 months, through the end of 2019.

The Challenges

The Wills Eye development team had been operating without an active Chief Development Officer for an extended period of time. The development team voiced a need for leadership to help define priorities and collaborate with the executive office, but also to actively engage with the daily heavy lifting. The lean staff was challenged to maintain annual giving; generate significant foundation and major gift funding to support bold new initiatives including a state-of-the-art surgical training laboratory, enhanced medical and continuing education programming, and a complete renovation of the residents’ facilities; and plan and execute special events.

Carol and Eileen established goals around optimizing use of the prospect management system to ensure timely acknowledgement and tracking of gifts and effective communications with donors.  At the same time, preparations for Wills Eye’s signature biennial event were well underway and required extensive writing, editing and organization in the creation of the program book, award presentations, and speeches on a very tight schedule.

A final key objective was to build up the major gift program and develop productive relationships with the medical staff to facilitate outreach to patients and articulate attractive giving opportunities that would match prospective donors’ interests and giving capabilities.

The Solution

Carol and Eileen worked closely with the Wills Eye development team on numerous initiatives including:

  • staffing of select faculty for major gift prospect review and donor outreach
  • researching prospective new donors
  • helping to plan and implement donor acknowledgement events including their signature Wills Eye Ball
  • supporting the team with sound counsel, written materials and strategic direction throughout

One of the findings that Carol and Eileen presented to Wills Eye was that their donor management system was inefficient and their database in need of clean-up and optimization. S&W Senior Director Garth Allen was engaged to help clean-up and optimize the Development Office staff’s use of their Raisers’ Edge database.

S&W’s relationship with Wills Eye continued through their hiring of a new Chief Development Officer in February 2020. Carol worked with Wills’ Human Resources Director to review resumes, make screening phone calls, and provide recommendations for onsite interviews. She also supported the new CDO as he gained familiarity with Wills Eye and its development program, ensuring a smooth transition and positioning the Wills Eye development program for ongoing growth.

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