Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health

fundraisingfutures client wins Fundraising Institute Australia’s 2018 Award for Excellence in Fundraising, Principal Award for Most Outstanding Fundraising Project. Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health – Orygen Capital Program

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Why fundraisers need to embrace the new norm … volatility

There has never been a better time for fundraisers to lead on change.

To create great fundraising in the institutions we serve we no longer have a choice, all of us must lead on change.

Most of my for-purpose organisation clients are in a change-management process but by the time they’ve completed the process, with social and technological change accelerating exponentially, they need to start again! It’s a pointless exercise in which fundraisers and fundraising teams are as frustrated as the rest of the organisation.

We know, from our daily experience, the hierarchical structures and processes our for-purpose institutions have used for decades are no longer up to the task of winning in this faster moving world.

The greatest challenge fundraising leaders face today is how to stay competitive amid this constant turbulence and disruption. To meet the challenge we need to embrace volatility, to embrace it with lean thinking and agility.

Fundraisers in organisations sometimes experience a volatility embracing moment, a “thinking wrong” moment, where the mind opens to the possibility of leaders leading at all levels, yielding a totally new way of working both in their fundraising team and across their organisation; just imagine that!

“The world has seen enough appointed committees. Then there’s bureaucracy, rigid accountability, metrics that measure certain things that are relevant right now but discourage people from trying new things.” (1)

That’s why there has never been a better time for fundraisers to lead on change in their for-purpose organisation.

That’s the why, to learn how to lead on change is why we created FIA’s Fundraising Change Leadership course.

If you’re serious about leading change within the fundraising sector, your organisation, and the mission you serve, consider this …



(1.) John P. Kotter Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus  Harvard BusinessSchool.




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Wise Monkeys Leadership Challenge

Do you have a positive, step up ‘exit strategy’ from your current fundraising position? What’s your moves management plan for it? What skills do you require to successfully implement that plan? Are the skills you need primarily fundraising best practice skills or leadership skills? Are you confident you can answer these questions without work-shopping them with your peers at a wise monkeys choice … Fundraising Change Leadership course?

What is Australian and international research telling us about successful fundraising managers and leaders? How do you stack up? Is it YOU … or your employer’s leadership style, organizational structure/culture that’s holding you back?

I challenge you to join me at a Fundraising Change Leadership course to find out what YOU can do about it.

Fundraising Change Leadership is more than a cute title linking fundraising professionals to the growing field of change leadership in for purpose institutions. Fundraising change leadership can transform a fundraisers career, and by do so, can also become transformational for institutions and causes. At the course fundraising leadership relevant academic research and for purpose organisation case studies are work-shopped; challenging you to reassess your fundraising career, to transition from a fundraising practitioner to … Manager, Leader, Change Leader


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Becoming a Fundraising Maestro

Why do relatively few successful fundraising professionals become not-for-profit CEOs or board members, let alone serve on the senior management executive team?

This question needs answering, when you consider that for many Australian not-for-profit organisations, fundraising provides the largest source of income and the dollars to deliver new, transformative programs and services.

Now more than ever fundraisers are required as leaders. It is they who have the knowledge that can help the Australian nonprofit sector navigate through a time of flux, when the very concept of philanthropy/nonprofit income is being redefined by the arrival of venture philanthropists, impact investors, crowdfunding and social media, all of which is growing not-for-profit organisations’ funding and market reach.

An urgent need to invest in leadership capacity-building

Pro Bono Australia’s 2015 sector survey, Gauging the State of the NFP Sector, identified nonprofit capacity-building as a priority – particularly investment in education and training relating to leadership and management, strategy and governance – given the pace of sector growth and change, and the challenges and opportunities this presents.

It is gradually starting to happen. As not-for- profits seek to manage accelerating change and invest in leadership capacity-building, more executive fundraisers are joining their organisations’ executive teams.

And more fundraising managers are being challenged to lead on change, which is a
key leadership responsibility. It’s no longer enough to simply respond to the evolving environment, to just manage change. The most effective fundraising leaders today create change in their organisations, and impact organisational culture.

As the 2012 paper What Makes Fundraising Truly Great, by Professor Adrian Sargeant, Jen Shang and Clayton Burnett, states:

“What was distinctive about the approach of the [fundraising] leaders we interviewed was their ability to discern complex systems at play within their organisations and consciously manage those systems to achieve the outstanding fundraising they sought to create … what seemed to us to be unique 
to this group was an ability to think clearly about themselves, what they could offer the organisation and how organisational systems could be managed to create the environment for fundraising to flourish.”

But be careful what you wish for

The challenges that face fundraising leaders are the same for many departments and managers in all types of organisations. That is, they feel disconnected from the main action at the executive table.

The request to be represented at the executive team level of course is not limited to those in fundraising. It’s echoed in IT, marketing, human resources and more. The motivation is to have a voice and to be able to use positional power to bust through the vertical silos of organisations. Including the corresponding dysfunctional behaviours, turf wars, lack of collaboration, and resource battles that are collectively given the label of ‘internal politics’.

The lack of board level engagement, 
cross departmental support, and inclusion 
in strategic discussions, is often more a symptom of the organisation not operating effectively, than an indication of a conscious decision to exclude fundraising from these conversations. Again, other departments can find themselves in the same situation.

Therefore, fundraising managers need to be careful what they wish for. If they gain a seat at the big table they might find that all their issues still exist, the internal politics are alive and kicking, except they are now part of the problem too!

Having direct power is not as powerful as you may think. The power to influence others can be far more effective, as people you are influencing end up doing things because they want to, not because someone told them to do it.

The importance of creating harmony

The ultimate answer is to have the entire organisation work effectively, together, aligned to the outcomes of the mission/ purpose statement. As opposed to the turf wars between departments, where internal metrics create competition that leads to non-collaborative behaviour.

The good news is that fundraising leaders are in a unique position to wield their influence across the depth and breadth of an organisation.

The funds they raise are what powers organisational functions. That means their role can legitimately enable them to embed themselves within every department, and thus become ‘sponsors’ of change, 
as described in the 2014 edition of Best Practices in Change Management by the research company, Prosci, which states that “during a transformational organisational change, leaders throughout the organisation are expected to sponsor the change.”

Fundraising leaders can attend the team meetings of other departments – whether finance, marketing, operations or programs – and gain an understanding of how the organisation works and interacts, with the message of: “I am hear to listen, learn and to see if I can help”.

Just like a maestro needs to know how to have the entire orchestra playing together to the same beat, cadence and feeling, fundraising leaders need to know how to have their organisation aligned, to enable the fundraising development function to embed and flourish across the organisation.

They need to know what motivates people and teams and how to transcend the silo walls that exist inside most organisations today so that they can all play together, harmoniously!


F&P Magazine | April / May 2016


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Fundraising leaders … ‘consider your exit strategy’

As I sat in the lecture theatre listening to angel investor guru Dr Tom McKaskill present on … ‘Venture capital investment and high value exits’ … I kept thinking about how fundraising leaders might apply a high value exit strategy to benefit their careers and the organisations they serve.

Maybe I was just daydreaming when McKaskill said … business owners, entrepreneurs and investors are locked into an old paradigm about value creation being based on proven profitability… because I was hearing …flawed fundraising cost ratio discussions and damaging short term fundraising budgeting.

Maybe I was just daydreaming when Mckaskill said … but this is not what ‘acquirers’ are evaluating. They are looking to the future and assessing what return they will achieve on their investment … because I heard ‘donors’ in place of ‘aquirers’!

But after McKaskill said … thus it is the future potential of the business which is much more important than its past. As soon as we accept this view, we can be proactive about creating a future which can deliver a much higher value to the buyer than what can be shown from past results … I realised I wasn’t dreaming after all! That’s what fundraising leaders accept too, and that’s what they invest in with donors and with the institutions/causes they serve.

So when should fundraising leaders start planning their next career move? By applying ‘exit strategy’ they should consider when they might leave an organisation before even agreeing to work with an organisation – when considering applying for a new position or when considering providing fundraising counsel for a new client. As McKaskill says they need to be … looking to the future and assessing what return they will achieve on their investment.

If you can’t deliver a strong return on an organisation’s investment in you, don’t invest in them. You need to be able to ensure the ‘right’ organisation makes the ‘right’ investment in you before committing your skills to create new strategies and work practices delivering higher fundraising returns on investment over a prescribed period of time.

You need to be able to assess, prepare and deliver a three to five year fundraising business plan. You need to know the critical timeframe in that plan when the return of investment in you is at its peak – because that’s the point at which you need to apply your exit strategy.

It’s in your best interest that you leave at the point of greatest return and least reputational risk.

It’s in the organisations best interest because part of the fundraising business plan you prepared includes succession planning strategies, team building, fundraising professional development and fundraising corporate culture strategies.

Thanks Dr Tom McKaskill for reminding us that fundraising professionals … need to focus on strategic exits if they are to achieve a high return on their investments.

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