Fundraising through coronavirus
20 April 2020 at 8:34 am
The fundraising sector is up against a lot of challenges amid the outbreak of COVID-19, but Steffi Chang, the head of large gifts at Plan International Australia, is determined to keep fighting for what matters. She’s this week’s Changemaker.
Chang’s first job as a front-line fundraiser lasted three months. While this might seem like no time at all, it was enough for her to get hooked on the industry for the long term.
It’s now been nearly a decade since that first job, and in that time Chang has developed her skills in the sector, working with large charities such as the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and fundraising agency, Public Outreach Australia.
While the fundraising sector, like many other sectors, has been seriously disrupted by the outbreak of COVID-19, Chang is confident in overcoming the challenges ahead by embracing Australia’s generous spirit in times of crisis.
For her efforts Chang was named this year’s Fundraising Institute Australia young fundraiser of the year.
In this week’s Changemaker, Chang discusses what attracted her to the sector, a day-in-the-life of a fundraiser, and how she overcomes challenges.
How did you get into the sector?
I started on the very front lines as a face-to-face fundraiser in my first ever job at an agency called Public Outreach. I was in that job for about three months, which is not very long for most jobs, but very long when you’re a face-to-face fundraiser.
It really sparked something in me when it came to advocating for the causes that I loved. And so I was actually doing public outreach for several years in various roles. And that’s really what got me hooked.
What was it about the sector that you loved so much in that initial role?
Just being around other young people who were equally concerned about the impact they were having on the world. I know face-to-face can sometimes have a bad rep in the industry, but on the very front lines of it, we just had a group of very passionate young people who cared about the environment and humanitarian causes, medical causes, and it was just really inspiring.
How are you managing the challenges the fundraising sector is facing at the moment?
We’re just trying to grapple with this situation and fully understand how this has impacted all our donors and their capacity to give. What I’m hearing from a lot of people, especially in my area of major gifts, is that more than ever, people understand the importance of generosity, especially for those who are more vulnerable than them. You do have people who are privileged to be in a position where they can give during times of crisis.
So what I’m hoping in the coming weeks is that I’ll be able to reach out to them and have a conversation about that and hopefully ensure that they’re still able, willing and eager to give.
What does your day look like as a fundraiser?
It looks a little different now. But in my last role my day was always very varied. You never really had a typical day in the office. Some of it was in the office preparing proposals, and making phone calls, and other times you’re meeting donors and program staff.
At the moment, I’m working from my home office, using a picnic table as my make-shift desk. I’m dealing with lots of calls and letters, and e-mail correspondence. So I’m hoping that my donors, if and when I get in touch with them, will be happy to have lots of web conference calls because that’s what my day currently looks like.
What do you love about your job?
I think the thing I love the most is the people that I work with. They are so passionate about what they do and give so much of their time and their life to something that is bigger than themselves. And also, of course, those donors who are just so inspiring, especially at a major donor level. The amounts that they give and the generosity that they have, even when they’re going through personal upheaval, is pretty incredible.