Changing Perceptions of Fundraising
24 September 2018 at 8:49 am
Katherine Raskob is CEO of Fundraising Institute Australia, the largest representative body for the charitable fundraising sector. She is this week’s Changemaker.
When young Australians think about what career they want to pursue, fundraising isn’t often an option that’s top of mind.
This is something Katherine Raskob is determined to change. She only recently joined FIA, but with an extensive background in communications and marketing, Raskob believes she can bring to life the stories and good work of fundraisers in Australia.
In doing so, she hopes to make fundraising an attractive career option, and strengthen the $12.5 billion charitable fundraising sector.
In this week’s Changemaker, Raskob discusses how she’s settled into FIA during a period of change, her goal to make every fundraiser an FIA member, and the major issues facing fundraising in Australia.
You joined FIA as CEO in July, what are some of your initial goals for the organisation?
There are thousands of charities in this country that are fundraising and they’re not all FIA members, and I would really like this to change so FIA truly represents the sector. I think a lot of people don’t know enough about FIA and the value we can bring, and so a marketing approach will help more fundraising organisations realise FIA is a peak body that can support them in the work they do.
But we also want to celebrate the stories and impact the sector makes on Australia, because our sector gets hit pretty hard by some bad stories. There’s one or two bad apples, and those stories get into the media and it leads to charity bashing. I would love to have a lot more really good stories out there about the impact fundraisers are making in Australia, so it isn’t overshadowed by one or two bad stories that we hear.
There are also education and training opportunities that we have, but they may not be suitable for everyone at the moment, so I’d like to grow the program so we can attract and retain members who want further education for their entire career – from junior fundraiser all the way up to head of fundraising or potentially even CEO. I hope during my tenure I can make FIA a bit of a broader offering so more people can be involved.
Looking further ahead, where would you like to see FIA positioned in the next five to 10 years?
I would like every fundraiser to be a member, and have a really compelling reason why they need to be members because we’re really important to their mission.
The other focus is around professionalism. Fundraisers often fall into their roles and they don’t think of it as a career. But it really is, and it’s a really important career. So I want to make sure I can help to train and develop the fundraisers to make it a career choice with clear pathways. So when you go to university and someone asks what you want to be, you can say “I want to be a fundraiser” because you know how important a role it is.
How did you end up working for FIA?
Before I was at FIA I was at ADMA, which is the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising. And ADMA is a member organisation that helps marketers to be better at what they do. This focus is very similar to the FIA model and makes it a good fit for my most immediate background.
But the bulk of my experience is in the marketing and communications area. Prior to ADMA I was at SBS for almost eight years, managing all their marketing and communications during that time.
And one of the things that I really like to do, and have done for my career in all of those roles, is work on how I can build communities of people who are passionate about what they do. So at SBS, I built communities of Australians who are passionate about SBS content, which included largely food, football, cycling and film. Likewise at FIA, I hope to build a strong community of fundraisers who are striving to be better at best-practice fundraising in their roles.
You came into this role during a significant period of change for FIA. How have you settled into the organisation amongst this upheaval?
It certainly has been a period of change. Earlier this year FIA changed their membership model and made it a more expansive offering for organisations to join. I think that was a really good move. And then around that time the previous CEO managed a re-brand. And I think that was really about signaling to the market that this is a really professional and credible association and letting go a little bit of our past charity vibe.
So for me, that’s an important change and we need to make sure people are aware of what FIA stands for. But having a new expression of that in our logo and the colours and our new website, means we have really great tools to get that across.
This is your first CEO role, but as you said your background has been in marketing and communications. Will this be a strong focus of yours for FIA going forward?
Yes definitely. Our previous CEO was really terrific at building a strong base for FIA, but my strengths are really in meeting with members and communicating to them about what our goals and objectives are and also being a strong voice for the sector, because FIA as an industry association should have that voice and it probably needs a strong communicator to be able to do that. So that is definitely why the board hired me – to be able to bring to life the stories and the good work that our members are doing and ensuring FIA facilitates this in its approach to membership.
What are some of the major issues in fundraising at the moment?
A major issue is definitely around regulation. It’s very heavy handed. There’s municipal, state and federal regulations and they’re all different state by state. If you’re operating a fundraising organisation across borders you have to think about which legislation applies to where. Obviously there are newer forms of fundraising using the internet, like crowdfunding and peer to peer platforms, and those absolutely cross borders. So it’s really challenging for them to operate legally.
None of is harmonised. It’s all over the shop and it’s really too much. Some of our members have more than one person just working on adhering to the various regulations and legislation that exists. That takes them away from doing the good work that makes an impact on Australia. That’s an issue that has been around for a long time. And while there’s various talk of different models of how we can streamline that, I think that will continue to be a challenge for a while.
Also, I think the sort of negative perceptions of fundraising do need to be changed and I hope I can turn those around. I think there’s still an issue where fundraisers are questioned about how much money they’re spending on admin expenses or how much is actually going to their cause and they’re always trying to justify their investments in technology or people or brands, and no other sector has to do that. That just feels unfair. And if we don’t change the narrative of the conversation about why it’s important to invest in fundraising, we will always be stuck with these perceptions. That issue doesn’t seem to be going away either.
Can you take me through a typical day as CEO of FIA?
FIA have a staff of about 15. And we work in a couple of different areas. So a critical part is overseeing the planning for our conference in 2019 and also the awards which are currently live. So we work with the conference and awards team to make sure the program is really solid, and we have the right speakers and presenters and content.
I do also spend a lot of time talking to members, either in person or over the phone. And even though I’m new to the sector and that that is a big part of my job now, I hope it will always be a really big part, to make sure I’m constantly touching base with members around issues and challenges and how we can add value to the sector.
We’re currently working on quite a lot of regulatory issues around various state-based legislation and the ACNC review and some of the areas of pending legislation, which takes up a lot of my day as well.
What do you like to do in your spare time away from work?
I am actually on the board of directors for Girl Guides Australia. It’s a really interesting organisation that helps girls to be empowered, especially in leadership roles. So I do spend a lot of my free time working on girl guides stuff. I also have a son who is 17, and we love to travel and play a bit of tennis. And he is very busy because he is doing his final year of school, so I try to support him any way I can.
And I’m originally from the US. My hometown is Minneapolis in the state of Minnesota, and I try to get back there once a year to see my family. I also spend a lot of time talking to them over WhatsApp and Skype when I’m here in Australia.
Is there anything you’re reading at the moment?
I do a lot of reading for work. There’s quite a lot of really great research around fundraising organisations and charities in Australia and overseas. So I spend a lot of time reading that, and also I’ve been reading all the submissions to the ACNC review.
I’m an avid reader in general, so I like to read the papers every day. And I’ve always got a book on the go, which are usually by Booker Prize winning authors because I like to read good quality fiction. But I’m reading all the time.