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It starts with you

14 November 2019 at 7:00 am
The annual FIA Conference returns in February to Brisbane’s Convention and Exhibition Centre. With a line-up of sought-after speakers from not-for-profit organisations, charities, fundraising agencies and consultancies around the globe, FIA writer Kim Carter looks ahead to the highlights.

Contributor | 14 November 2019 at 7:00 am


It starts with you
14 November 2019 at 7:00 am

The annual FIA Conference returns in February to Brisbane’s Convention and Exhibition Centre. With a line-up of sought-after speakers from not-for-profit organisations, charities, fundraising agencies and consultancies around the globe, FIA writer Kim Carter looks ahead to the highlights.

Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) will hold three jam-packed days of professional development in Brisbane in late February. 

Designed to educate fundraisers about the latest techniques, trends and developments in the sector, the annual FIA Conference – the largest event of its kind in the southern hemisphere – takes place from 26 to 28 February at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. 

Last year’s conference welcomed more than 800 professional fundraisers, many of whom return year after year, seeing the event as highly informative, with great opportunities to network.

The 2020 theme, It Starts With You, recognises the role fundraisers play in their organisations.

“A fundraiser’s vision can turn ideas into reality. They put the pieces together by bringing donors and causes into alignment and change the world in the process,” explained FIA chief executive Katherine Raskob.

The last day for early bird registration is Friday 13 December. Book before that date to save $400 on your conference ticket.

For 2020, there are eight masterclasses on offer and 70 sessions of curated content across seven tracks. There are 80-plus speakers, the most extensive line-up yet, including keynote speakers Ken Burnett and Esther Kwaku from the UK, and Annabelle Chauncy OAM from Australia.

The line-up also includes speakers from AgentsC, Rogare – The Fundraising Think Tank, Moceanic, Black Dog Institute, Mind U Services, Greenpeace International, Multiple Sclerosis Limited, Australian Red Cross, Oxfam Australia, Plan International Australia, Mito Foundation, Variety – The Children’s Charity, Queensland Police Service, Royal Flying Doctor Service, The Smith Family, the Deloitte Foundation, More Growth and the Fundraising Agency. View the program here

Exhibition hall at previous FIA Conference

On track with trends

The seven core areas of the conference allow delegates to focus on a particular theme or spend time across a range of topics. 

This year’s tracks focus on:

  • personal effectiveness
  • creativity and innovation
  • individual giving
  • middle and major donors
  • community, events and corporates
  • building trust and accountability
  • fundraising how to…

More details on the tracks are here. 

Raskob said the tracks for 2020 are aligned to current and future fundraising issues. 

“As a marketer, my experience tells me that the tenets of brand-building also apply to fundraisers and fundraising organisations. For example, it’s vital to have conference sessions in areas such as personal effectiveness, mindfulness and wellbeing to promote success and also to help avoid burnout and high turnover. Brands have been doing work in this space for a while,” she said.

“Fundraisers have also requested we provide sessions on innovation and creativity; many are interested in learning if an organisation is truly ready to innovate. We also believe fundraisers need to continue to work with FIA in building trust and accountability with the public, media and government regulators, which is why we are devoting a whole track to the topic.”

Alice Anwar, the 2020 program committee chair, said the 2020 program took into account delegate feedback from previous years.

“This program is by fundraisers for fundraisers,” she said. 

“The program we’ve created will help fundraisers to see and harness the opportunities available in the sector. For example, there are some great sessions on the next frontier (the middle and major donors), and thoughtful looks at community events and individual giving. I’m particularly keen on the fundraising how-to track, which is full of practical tips fundraisers can take back and apply to their work.”

She urged would-be delegates to make time in their schedules to attend.

“We’re all busy, but personal and professional development is critical to help you hone your skills and boost your career. Fundraisers should put aside their work for a few days to attend FIA Conference 2020, take the time to explore what’s new and get a fresh perspective to help them in their work. There is something here for every level of fundraiser,” she said.

Keen to keynote

For starters, the conference features three brilliant headline speakers. Ken Burnett, the world-renowned fundraising, marketing and communications expert and author of seven books on fundraising, will be in Australia for the first time in nine years for FIA Conference 2020.

Burnett will deliver a plenary session on the future of fundraising, a full-day masterclass on the use and misuse of emotion in the new age, a presentation on maximising the donor experience (middle and major donors track) and a session on providing a brilliant donor experience (fundraising how to track). 

Also coming to FIA Conference 2020 is Esther Kwaku, founder and chief executive of the UK-based The Nerve Network, an agency/social change enterprise that’s supercharging the brilliance of people living in remote, low-income places. Kwaku is the creative force behind the agency and is a self-professed rebel with a mission who wants to change up the way we tell stories.

Kwaku will give a masterclass on how fundraisers can find the power and magic in their storytelling. She will also deliver the opening plenary of the conference and discuss her storytelling work on the ground with the “young, talented and transformational” in the personal effectiveness track.

School that rocks on the fundraising front

Closer to home, Annabelle Chauncy OAM, chief executive and founding director of the School for Life Foundation, will deliver the 2020 Syd Herron Oration, an annual address given by an exceptional Australian fundraiser.

At just 21, the social entrepreneur and leader started a multinational NGO, with operations in Australia and Uganda. Over the past 10 years, she and her 120-plus team have built three schools in rural Uganda, providing education to 1,000 students and outreach to thousands more. In the process, Chauncy has built a national brand and engaged thousands of supporters, raising over $8 million in five years. 

The conference will also feature these hot-topic sessions led by local and overseas experts:

  • A conversation starts with a ripple (Louise Baxter, Starlight Children’s Foundation).
  • How to… develop and refresh your regular giving program (Lizzie Borwick, Amnesty International Australia and Dan Geaves, Marlin Communications).
  • Latest lessons from Canada for better fundraising results (Paula Attfield and Steve Thomas, Stephen Thomas Ltd, Toronto, Canada).
  • How an iconic Australian charity adopted a new fundraising approach (Belinda Dimovski, Australian Red Cross).
  • The lowdown on gamification that works: from people who know from their experience (Marcus Blease, Donor Republic; Natasha Duncan, Multiple Sclerosis Limited; and Paige Gibbs, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research).
  • Experiencing tough data regulations in the UK: implications for Australian fundraisers (Olivia Jary, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation).
  • How to work more effectively with your board (Benjamin Cox, Gold Coast Hospital Foundation).
  • How to… learn from some epic fundraising failures (Jonathon Grapsas, Flat Earth Direct).
  • Mental wellbeing in the fundraising space (Nigel Harris and Greg McGahan, Mater Foundation).
  • Human-centred design: a new approach to better creativity and donor engagement (Dr Ruth Knight, QUT ACPNS Alumni Chapter).
  • Rewards of reaching every group and sector in our very diverse society (Mide Akerewusi, AgentsC, Toronto, Canada).
  • Confessions of an FIA Codebreaker (Katherine Raskob FIA CEO and mystery speaker).
  • Opening the lid on success stories such as The May 50K campaign and raising $2.1 million in a first-year campaign (Susan Williams, MS Research Australia and Luke Edwards, Elevate Fundraising).

New start-up alley at exhibition

During tea breaks and lunch, fundraisers will also have time to browse the conference’s annual exhibition. Featuring 40-plus suppliers to the sector, the companies offer a range of technical support and consultancy services for fundraising campaigns. 

And for the first time, a new “start-up alley” will form part of the exhibition, featuring the latest and best start-up technologies and ideas for fundraising organisations. 

Time to get social

But it’s not just about work. FIA Conference is also about networking – catching up with old fundraising friends and making new ones. This year, the conference features six social events, including the annual welcome drinks, emerging leaders’ reception and a gathering for those who are FIA Fellows or have the CFRE credential.

New for 2020 is a speed networking function, ideally suited to first-time conference attendees.

The highlight of the fundraiser’s social calendar is always the Fundraisers’ Gala Dinner (Thursday 27 February), to be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. The gala evening is where fundraisers can celebrate the sector’s best work of the year, honour the year’s most accomplished fundraisers, teams and volunteers, and decompress after a full-on day listening to presentations.

For 2020, conference organisers are taking fundraisers back to the year that FIA started (1968) with a 60s-themed gala dinner that also celebrates 52 years of life-changing fundraising. Get ready to dig out the mini-skirts and bell-bottom trousers! Tickets and more information:

You can register your attendance and find more details about speakers and sessions at And, like always, keep up to date with conference announcements on Twitter: #FIAConf2020.

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