The 2023 Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) annual conference was a great success for the Strategic Grants team. Not only did we get to connect with old and new friends, we also left feeling inspired, motivated, and refreshed with additional knowledge and skills to help our clients take their fundraising efforts to the next level. 

Below are some of the key takeaways from just a few of the many amazing sessions we attended.  

A culture of cooperation – by Naomi Lehrer and Jo Garner 

Naomi Lehrer, Philanthropy Manager of Royal Flying Doctor Service Victoria, provided some insightful advice for optimising your fundraising program internally by providing education and building collaboration between teams, in discussion with Jo Garner, Director of Strategic Grants. Key suggestions include inviting donors to informal thank you meetings with your CEO and collaborating with the project delivery teams through structured and streamlined feedback and data capture. More highlights below! 

How can you convince your CEO to meet donors? 

  • Start small, choose an approachable donor to start with.  
  • Give your CEO as much information about the donor as possible before the meeting.  
  • Work with the CEO’s EA to make time in the diary for meetings.  

How do you best engage with donors? 

  • Donors love a little back story that no one else knows.  
  • It’s not about the ask – it’s about thanking and getting to know a donor. 
  • Start small and casual with donor events – you don’t need a three-course lunch! A casual lunch in the boardroom works beautifully.  
  • These meetings are just about thanking and building the relationship.  
  • When the gift comes in later, the CEO should thank them directly. 

How do you optimise your relationships with the project delivery teams? 

  • Create a project template and update it yearly. Project delivery teams complete this and your fundraising teams can provide guidance on the depth of information donors expect, in addition to referencing the project plans for funding applications.  
  • Include your project delivery teams in the application processes. It means they know what the donors need and expect and it helps with collecting information for donor reports.   
  • Provide them with clear instructions on what information you need or want for outcomes reporting.  
  • If you can, meet with the project delivery teams regularly to discuss projects and upcoming funding applications.  

Emotions are not what you think – by Fiona McPhee 

Fiona (Fi) McPhee, co-founder of Philanthropy and Fundraising, discussed three internal structural conflicts that organisations face when trying to improve fundraising growth, namely culture, investment, and communications. She highlighted the use of emotions in fundraising as a key contention, creating a barrier between fundraisers and their non-fundraising colleagues.  

Fi used a study that examined the behavioral data of over 100 organisations to identify the key behaviors that enabled organisations to resolve this conflict and maximise growth. These behaviours included; whole organisational education around fundraising, a focus on the relationship between emotion and mission, and a culture of collaboration.   

Key takeaways 

  • Great fundraising organisations employ transformative, sustainable and mission driven growth that meets donors’ needs.  
  • Examples from the cross-organisational study of successful fundraising implemented cultural change based on education [what does the fundraising team do and why] and the power of emotion.   
  • Emotions are a resource for motivating for-purpose organisations to work collaboratively according to their mission as well as providing a basis for powerful communication with beneficiaries and donors alike. Confront the “culture clash” between non-fundraisers and fundraisers in the organisation to create a collaborative culture.   
  • ”Whole org fundraising” the whole team supports and engages with the fundraising team, organisation-wide training on fundraising.  
  • Fundraisers need to inspire their programs teams with the possibilities their work can bring to the organisation’s mission and beneficiaries.   
  • Emotions are the “why” we do what we do. They help us find common ground among all stakeholders (service delivery, program leads, fundraisers, beneficiaries, donors etc.). They open the conversation and the logic of “how” and “what” follows.   
  • Help non-fundraisers to see donors as partners with shared goals and values rather than being intimidated by them or seeing meetings with them as a waste of their over-stretched time.   
  • “Fundraising is the truth well told”. 
  • Conclusion – tackle the debate around emotions and fundraising with your org – it will pay off.   

Creating effective fundraising partnerships with Indigenous communities – by Dean Yibarbuk and Stacey Irving 

This was a fantastic session from Dean Yibarbuk, Traditional Owner of Djinkarr, NT, Co-Chair of the Karrkad Kanjdji Trust (KKT) and Director of Warddeken Land Management, along with Stacey Irving, CEO of KKT. It provided thought provoking takeaways and questions on which to further reflect.  

Key takeaways 

  • KKT was set up for fundraising communities and the ranger program. 
  • Donors wanted to fund something specific so the trust asked the community what they needed and they decided the priority was  a primary school. 
  • The Trust raises funding for educating future custodians, investing in women rangers, safeguarding culture and supporting people on country.  
  • KKT structure is five Indigenous directors and 4 non-Indigenous directors. Partner organisations are Aboriginal Land Management organisations, and the Trust raises funds for these organisations.  
  • The Focus is on major gifts; building relationships with funders and communities.  
  • Rangers travel down to meet donors in Melbourne and Sydney. There is a photo exhibition in Sydney and they connect with funders on zoom sessions.  
  • Funders and donors go up to Arnhem Land by invitation after relationships are established, not as an incentive to give.  
  • There is a great emphasis on teaching, incorporating language into fundraising and sharing stories with funders.  
  • The work is represented the way communities want – that means using language.  
  • Philanthropy ensures that there’s independence from government funding.  

Key questions for further discussions. 

  • How can non-Indigenous clients ensure that the voice of the communities they are trying to reach/serve are heard in their program development and fundraising processes?  
  • How can non-Indigenous clients lend their weight to supporting an Indigenous organisation working in the same area to deliver the services they want? Can they facilitate funding rather than seeking funding from Indigenous focused funding sources? 
  • What role can primarily non-Indigenous organisations have in mentoring and training Aboriginal grant seekers, grant writers and fundraisers? 

This is just a very small sample of the content-rich conference program. Invaluable for all working in the sector. Congratulations again to FIA and all the committees on building such a highly comprehensive and diverse program. 

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