FIA Set for Brand Refresh in 2018
20 December 2017 at 11:57 am
Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) is set for a “brand refresh”, with CEO Rob Edwards and a number of long-term directors stepping down in 2018.
Edwards has been the CEO of the peak body for the fundraising sector since October 2011. At FIA’s December board meeting, he informed directors he would step down from the role in June 2018.
FIA board chair Nigel Harris will also be stepping down, concluding his two-year term as board chair and six-year tenure as a director, at FIA’s annual general meeting in March next year. He will be joined in retirement by several other long-term directors.
Edwards told Pro Bono News that he felt it was time to move on after six years leading FIA.
“I’m a full believer that there’s a time and a place for different leadership and having been with FIA for six years now, and steering a process of significant transformation, I think it’s time now for someone else to take that up and take the next step,” Edwards said.
Looking at how the fundraising landscape had changed during his tenure as CEO, Edwards admitted FIA faced issues maintaining relevancy in the early part of the decade.
“When I came on board with FIA six years ago, it was like a lot of other associations these days, in that they faced the issue of relevancy. I think that associations generally in the old days used to be the place people came for information,” he said.
“But these days people can get information from all sorts of places. You have to give people a compelling reason to belong. So the challenge we faced was to make it more relevant.”
As Edwards prepares to leave FIA, he said the organisation was in a better position to remain relevant, with a number of important initiatives implemented over the past few years.
“I think it’s far more relevant than it had been. But there was a series of steps we had to take to get there. One was to change the nature of the board of directors… if we were going to make some big decisions about the effect of FIA on the sector, we needed to have some very senior people around the board table to affect those decisions. So we actually achieved that,” he said.
“Another thing that made us more credible, was to put together a structured, formal, education program that provided fundraisers with a pathway to training. That wasn’t the case in the past, it was a bit ramshackle back then.
“Now we have certificate and diploma programs, and a whole range of skill-specific courses. So it’s about engaging with constituents and providing them with a pathway of education.”
Edwards said the focus for FIA during the last six months of his tenure would be implanting the FIA’s new self-regulatory code.
“Probably the most important body of work is the rollout of our new code. We’ve been working for the past 12 months on this new self-regulatory code of practise that comes into effect on 1 January,” he said.
“We now have to be working with our members to ensure they understand their obligations and compliance with the code. And have our new code authority in place, whose job is to ensure our members comply with the code.”
As Harris and other directors step down next year, James Garland will assume the role of FIA chair. Garland’s board will then oversee the transition of executive leadership by mid-2018.
Edwards said FIA would be going through a “brand refresh” in 2018, while ensuring there was a seamless transition to the organisation’s new leadership.
“Our next couple of steps over the coming months will be going through a brand refresh. So FIA will look and feel very different in the next six months,” he said.
“What I was anxious to do when standing down was not making my departure the first thing incoming chair James Garland had to deal with. We need to get these other bits of work underway, so when James comes on it’s a relatively seamless changeover.”
Edwards added that FIA would continue to be “the voice of reason in the sector” well into the future. However he urged those in the sector to embrace FIA’s new method of self-regulation.
“I think the sector itself faces significant challenges. We still work within a hotchpotch of state-based legislation that many have tried to fix but haven’t been able to fix completely,” he said.
“We continually see fundraising cast in a very negative light in the media. FIA will be taking a very positive position on that in the next 12 months, to be the voice of reason in this sector. We continually have to fight the issue of the cost of fundraising. That’s something that we will have high on our agenda.
“And clearly, we have put a lot of work into our new self-regulatory mechanism and the challenge I have put to the sector is for them to step up and support it. This will show the government that self-governance can work.”
Prior to commencing at FIA, Edwards spent 18 years as CEO of the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA). But while Edwards said he would certainly not be navel gazing, he admitted he was not sure what the next step in his life would entail.
“To be honest, I haven’t given it a huge amount of thought and I suspect I need to do that over the next six months now the decision to stand down has been made,” he said.
“It’s been a privilege to be at FIA during this period of significant change and credit needs to be given to the board for giving me licence to make these changes.”