From the Myth Smash­ers: Fundrais­ing isn’t a seri­ous pro­fes­sion’ — smash­ing that myth.

Vic­to­ria Andrews of the Mater Foun­da­tion deliv­ers a pas­sion­ate and full-blood­ed defence of the fundrais­ing pro­fes­sion and calls out those who think being a fundrais­er isn’t a real job’.

Written by
Victoria Andrews
October 24, 2019

I’ve been a proud fundraiser for seven years but sadly eight years ago I was not a proud fundraiser. I started my career in fundraising in a small marketing and fundraising team and we were often referred to our faces or behind our back as the colouring-in department and as a young fundraiser that made quite an impression. Leaders within my own business held what my team did in such little regard that I questioned what a career in fundraising would look like.

To the point that I avoided the questions and comments I'm sure you've all heard before when telling people you work in fundraising: ‘oh you get paid to do that I thought it was all volunteers’ or one of my favourites ‘If I gave a dollar to your charity how much goes back to the cause?’. I am ashamed to say I didn’t have the answers so I said I worked in marketing.  

A common myth that I’ve experience in my career is that fundraising isn’t a serious profession; it’s not a real job and sadly eight years ago I thought the same thing. 

The 2016 Giving Australia Report told us that an estimated 14.9 million Australian adults gave a total of $12.5 billion to charities and nonprofit organisations. 

That’s not billions of dollars generated because 14.9 million Australians woke up one morning and said ‘I’m going to give to charity today.’ Sadly not! Literature and practice tells us people give because they are asked. This begs the question I ask people: who do you think is doing the asking? Typically, it’s a fundraiser. It’s you and me; it’s all of us.

I'm here to tell you that YES fundraising is not only a serious profession but a very real and important one! 

Personally a turning point for me in in how I viewed my professional identity was funnily enough my first Fundraising Institute of Australia (FIA) National Conference. I left feeling inspired with a renewed sense of purpose as I met others who shared my passion for making a difference. I heard a saying at that conference that has stuck with every day since and that is: ‘we aren’t a not for profit industry we are a profit for a purpose industry.’  

Over the past eight years I’ve not only grown to be a proud fundraiser but have incredible respect for all who work in this industry.

On a daily basis we have to operate sustainable businesses that are held accountable to its commercial commitments and manage the enormous responsibility of ensuring  people’s donations are used in the most efficient way possible to maximise the impact the donor has on the cause they are so passionate about  - not to mention navigating the legislative requirements.    

We have to foster relationships with donors, understand the fine art of knowing how to ask, whom to ask, and when to ask. And manage their expectations in line with the business objectives.

And lastly but definitely not least are the relationships we have with the recipients of the funds. 

You can’t tell me that a role that has to balance those four areas on a daily basis is not a real job! 

And you know what? It’s hard and it’s not for everyone and a friend of mine recently said to me ‘I don’t know how you do it’ after I finished telling her the story of Jane and Val, which they’ve very kindly agreed for me to share with you.

Jane and Val are a dynamic mother and daughter duo, adventurous, larger than life personalities who became closer than ever in 2013 when Val, Jane’s mum, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Val was treated at Mater and since her treatment Jane and Val have become part of the Mater Chicks in Pink family and have raised thousands of dollars for women with breast cancer. Recently we learned that Val’s cancer had come back. I was now stage four and it had spread.  

We were floored. Sadly we knew exactly the fight this amazing woman whom we’d grown to know had in front of her because it wasn’t the first time we’d heard those words. In the middle of planning our largest fundraising campaign for breast cancer we were smacked back to reality as to exactly why we were here: for women like Val.

What outcome would Jane and Val be facing if this diagnosis had come 20 years earlier? Think how far we have come in medical research and treatment of not just breast cancer but all cancers.

The impact that fundraising dollars has had on breast cancer treatment in the past 20 years has been quite literally lifesaving. Val is back at Mater getting treatment and her spirits are high to the point where she ran a  five km fun run in 2018.

When you think about the impact and outcomes that have been achieved through the fundraising dollars raised for the many causes that we as fundraisers represent, to call us a not for profit is a disservice and to say fundraising isn’t a real job, is simply not true.

With public concerns about fundraising practices and over 55 000 charities asking for support, we’re forced to compete against each other instead of working with each other.  

We are a collective of genuinely passionate, highly skilled professionals, who have an unwavering commitment to making a positive difference in the world and if that’s not considered a real job and a career worth fighting for I don’t know what is.

And if I can borrow a tagline from one of my favourite fundraising events, RACQ International Women’s Day Fun Run:

Together we are powerful!

And if we don’t stand together for something we will fall for nothing!

About the author: Victoria Andrews

Victoria is a passionate fundraising specialist with experience in strategy development, marketing and communications, stakeholder engagement, transformational events and project management. For more than eight years Victoria has dedicated herself to serving the profit for purpose sector to make a positive impact in the community. During her time she has led various initiatives focused on peer to peer fundraising, community fundraising, direct marketing, regular giving, special events, supporter care and corporate partnerships. She is proud to consider herself a generalist fundraiser, and is well regarded for her strategic focus, creative mindset, high level thinking and ability to lead teams through significant organisational change. Victoria’s career has spanned the tourism, disability, medical research and health sectors. She is particularly passionate about addressing health issues, mental health, gender equality, women and children’s rights. 

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