Jo Garner FFIA, CFRE and Director at Strategic Grants – plus the winner of the Arthur Venn Fundraiser of the Year award – has well and truly contributed to the sector in her 22 years of service.
As many people did in the 1990s, when there was no formal university nonprofit qualification, Jo Garner landed in the sector by default, and since then has developed an exceptional career and a flourishing sector-based business.
In fact, Garner has directly been involved with successful government tenders and philanthropic grants totalling close to $100 million. She admits, however: “It’s important to note that one person can never claim sole responsibility for these outcomes. It is a team effort of which I have simply played a part.”
In 1994, backed up by a Commerce degree with majors in Marketing and IT plus two years’ experience in event management and hospitality, she accepted a role with Diabetes Australia Queensland and then moved to the Mater Hospitals’ Trust, now the Mater Foundation, before taking maternity leave.
But it was when a philanthropic grants consultancy opportunity presented itself in 2002 that her career took off: “It eventually led, in 2009, to me launching my company, Strategic Grants, where I work to increase the capacity of nonprofits to win philanthropic and government grants.”
Garner has also been a volunteer, educator, mentor and advocate.
She is committed to the academic advancement of fundraising, and as such Strategic Grants provides some pro bono support to the Australian Centre of Philanthropy and Non Profit Studies at QUT. She is also a founding member of Queensland’s first women’s giving circle, Women & Change, and was made a Fellow of the Fundraising Institute Australia in 2015.
Garner, who is considered one of Australia’s and New Zealand’s experts in the grants sector, cites passion, perseverance, and excellent communication and listening skills as qualities key to being a great fundraiser.
She says, “It often takes months or years for a nonprofit’s leadership to understand what’s required to run an effective fundraising strategy, and often a long time to build trust and show success both from internal and external stakeholder perspectives. It’s also important to listen to what an organisation’s challenges and issues are and then help fundraisers to develop a strategy that’s going to work within their operational confines.”
And Garner’s view on the biggest challenge facing the sector? “Lack of strong governance and leadership and a focus on implementing strong business strategies and practices.”