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Plenty of Appeal

20 July 2015 at 12:27 pm
Xavier Smerdon
In her role as the woman behind one of the biggest annual fundraising campaigns in Australia, the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal, Anne Randall knows what it takes to bring people together around a common cause. Randall is this week’s Changemaker. She spoke to journalist Xavier Smerdon.

Xavier Smerdon | 20 July 2015 at 12:27 pm


Plenty of Appeal
20 July 2015 at 12:27 pm

In her role as the woman behind one of the biggest annual fundraising campaigns in Australia, the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal, Anne Randall knows what it takes to bring people together around a common cause. Randall is this week’s Changemaker. She spoke to journalist Xavier Smerdon.

Anne Randall worked in the private sector before becoming Executive Director of the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal almost one year ago.

Since then she has survived her first Good Friday Appeal and is working on making the next one even bigger and better.

Working on one of the most iconic fundraising events in Australia, it is Randall’s job to carry the baton in a tradition that started almost 85 years ago.

The Good Friday Appeal started in 1931 when a group of sportsmen and journalists from The Herald & Weekly Times Pty Ltd (HWT) publication "The Sporting Globe" organised a sporting carnival in aid of charity and nominated the Royal Children's Hospital as a beneficiary.

In 1942, the Managing Director of HWT agreed that The Herald and radio station 3DB should promote an annual appeal on Good Friday. In 1957, Channel 7 joined The Good Friday Appeal and began the first day-long telethon.

In this week’s Changemaker column Randall talks to Pro Bono Australia News about innovative fundraising and making the Good Friday Appeal sustainable into the future.

I understand that you used to work at Melbourne Water and you came across to the Good Friday Appeal almost one year ago. What was it that drew you to the Not for Profit sector?

I have worked with some charities before on a volunteer basis but I hadn’t actually worked in the sector before this.

The Good Friday Appeal is such an icon in Victoria and it’s something that’s very close to my heart and very close to the hearts of all the community. It’s certainly a part of the Melbourne culture on Good Friday. It’s the biggest show in town and it’s for such a great cause.

It is the biggest show in town as you said, so is there an expectation that every year it will continue to grow in the amount of money it brings in for the hospital?

We’re grateful for every dollar we receive. We don’t really set targets around that but it’s been very pleasing to see it grow every year and this year’s total was fantastic. We don’t really say beforehand that we want to raise a certain amount of money, we’re just grateful for every dollar and we try to raise as much as we possibly can.

So what are you doing at the moment to continue that growth?

We’re looking at how we can work with the community to create more creative ways to raise funds. The community is so creative and already in my short time with the Appeal I’ve seen some amazing ideas for raising funds. Whether it’s hairdressers opening their doors and passing on every dollar they raise to the hospital or whether it’s the Phillip Island Lions Club having a penguin day where they try to beat the Guinness World Record for the most amount of people dressed as penguins in one place. The community is incredibly creative and that’s where all the great ideas come from and we just try to enable that.

It is known that lots of different community groups come together to raise money for the Good Friday Appeal, is that’s what you think is really at the heart of the event?

It is. It’s a great tradition for Victoria and everyone feels a real commitment. I think it’s because the hospital is a very special place in the hearts and minds of Victorians and I think we all have a link to the Royal Children’s Hospital, whether it’s our own children, siblings, neighbours or even ourselves, we’ve all required the services of the hospital and I think that people want it to continue to be a leader in paediatric care and I really do feel that Victorians feel like they own that hospital brick by brick and that they all feel a duty almost to raise funds for it every year. It’s quite amazing.

I’m going to play devil's advocate a bit here, but some people would say that our hospitals are publicly funded, so why do we still need to hold a fundraiser for the hospital when the Government should be putting that money forward anyway?

I think the Government does put the money forward for the hospital but we enable is to move the hospital from being a really good hospital to be being a great hospital.

What is it about your role that you really enjoy?

I really am amazed by the generosity of people. Whether it’s corporates or small communities, I’m just amazed by the willingness of people to become involved in the appeal. That has been for me an amazing experience just to see the way the community does get involved from all sectors, from the big corporates to the tiniest of organisations.

What I love about it is the generosity that people demonstrate but I also love the fact that we are able to contribute so much to the hospital. The hospital is actually able to prosper because of some of the money that we’ve been able to raise.

What are some of the more difficult parts of the job? Are there any aspects that you find really hard to achieve?

The start of the year, from January until about April 3 this year, I don’t think I had a spare moment. It was pretty frantic. The amount of work that goes into Good Friday itself, especially working with all the different fundraising groups, is quite a challenge.

I suppose the busyness of the role, which is its greatest strength as well, it sometimes can get a bit scary, but it’s all part of what it takes to raise $17.1 million.

Is that how much you raised last year?

Yes. $17,109,063.22.

Have you got that number in front of you or have you got it memorised?

No, I just remember it. I sometimes leave off the 22 cents though.

You are quite lucky aren’t you that there is a bit of a tradition built around the event and people mark the day in their calendar, so what advice would you give to other charities that want to try and build up that kind of movement around their fundraising campaigns?

I think it’s around engagement and having a real sense of purpose. People are very generous to the Royal Children’s Hospital because of the great tradition but also because of the support that we get from our big media partners in Channel 7, the Herald and Weekly Times and 3AW. I think there’s also the fact that what the Royal Children’s Hospital does is relevant to all Victorians and I think you need to find that sense of relevance to people to make them want to support your cause.

Another tip is that you’ve got to acknowledge your supporters. You’ve got to make sure that you thank them, work with them and that you really develop a strong relationship with them. I think that’s part of the secret here. My little team here has got fantastic relationships with all those different fundraisers.

Have you got any stories of people that you’ve met through your role that are really punching above their weight in the amount of fundraising they do?

Well it’s interesting because some of how fundraisers have been with us for a very long time. We celebrated a gentleman called Alex Carmody who’s been with us for over 45 years as an area manager in the Wangaratta area and he’s raised more than $2 million in that time. He’s really a key figure in the North Eastern community in Victoria and he’s just tirelessly coming up with ideas to raise funds, so he’s a very special man.

There’s also a man in the Gippsland area, Darryl Benjamin, who’s also been working with us for 35 years and is very well known in the community for his raffles and his tin rattling. He’s raised over $1 million for us.

So people like that who are not young anymore and have been doing it for a very long time, they are absolutely committed to the Royal Children’s Hospital and to raising funds for it.

What is it that inspires you to take on such a big challenge?

What inspires me to do it is the fact that it’s an appeal that touches all Victorians and it’s a wonderful hospital that has a very special place in the hearts and minds of the community.

I have family who were in the hospital for a long period of time and I remember as a child going to visit them and I’ve always found that the Royal Children’s Hospital is a very special place.

Do you feel a sense of responsibility to make sure it’s a success every year and how do you overcome that?

Oh absolutely. I’ve got to make sure that I’ve got a good program to grow the amount of funds that we receive but also to make sure that I’m developing a sustainable fundraising culture. We’re looking at new generations coming through as fundraisers and donors and it’s about making the appeal relevant to all sectors of the community.

I guess on the day you must be pretty flat out.

Definitely. My first interview on the day was at 6am and I finished at 3am the following day. But the interesting thing was I didn’t feel at all tired during that day because it was the most exhilarating and amazing experience. Nothing could have prepared me for that feeling. Just to see all the people that were working so hard to raise funds, it was just extraordinary.

Does it all work like clockwork behind the scenes or are there moments when it is a bit chaotic?

Oh it’s definitely chaotic, make no mistake. When you’ve got that many people doing all those different activities, whether it’s shaking tins or holding raffles or running fetes or whatever it is, it’s definitely chaotic. Somehow though it all comes together and I think it’s an Appeal that’s driven by the good will of the community and people are happy to be involved with a little bit of chaos because it means that we can raise $17.1 million.

If you know someone that you think would make a good Changemaker please email

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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