When Lise Taylor attended the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand’s 2017 annual conference, she discovered an organisation ready to tackle the future of fundraising.


FINZ conference 2017Over the past year the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand (FINZ), which held its annual conference at Rydges in spectacular Queenstown from 3 to 5 May, has been through a period of upheaval with its CEO and a number of staff departing.

Now that the organisation’s new CEO has settled in – David Irving started in late 2016 – and great new staff are in place, the Institute is set to make a host of positive changes for the future.

Irving moved from running an IT consultancy, of which he is still a shareholder and director, to CEO of Life Flight Trust for five and a half years where he enjoyed the feel-good factor of saving 1,500 lives a year via the nonprofit’s rescue helicopters and air ambulances.

“I enjoy having a purpose to the work I do and I learned everything I know about fundraising from the fundraising manager at Life Flight Trust. I’ve also been a member of FINZ for a number of years and am passionate about fundraising,” he explained.

“Fundraising is changing quite dramatically and although the economy makes fundraising difficult on the one side we have the new world of digital fundraising on the other side to make the most of. We have a great team and the next few years are going to be exciting. I’m looking forward to being a part of New Zealand’s fundraising sector and we have set some simple targets: to increase membership, educate current and new members, and educate the general public and government about how fundraising works.”

Master classes

Participants were spoiled for choice with three master classes available on the first day, followed by two days packed with sessions presented by national and international speakers.

Of the master classes, the highlight for me was UK fundraising expert Stephen George’s in-depth and entertaining presentation on the critical building blocks needed to transform a bequest strategy for future success.

For the other master classes Clive Pedley and Iyanthi Wijayanayake from Giving Architects presented on impact measurement and impact reporting while others attended Michael Whitney’s session on revolutionary fundraising. This focused on mobilising donors and volunteers and making the most of the latest in digital opportunities.

This first day was capped off by a cocktail evening sponsored by New Zealand fundraising recruitment agency Execucare – thanks go to Director Hilda Bostwick for an excellent networking event! 

Thursday’s sessions

On the morning of the Thursday, new FINZ CEO David Irving formally launched the conference and the all-new FINZ team. Technology was the topic of conversation, with Irving informing the packed room that FINZ was taking a more digital approach to everything it was doing, initially with its quarterly magazine for which he is expecting to quadruple the number of subscribers.

He was also encouraging of all members to work towards CFRE accreditation, saying, “There are currently 21 CFREs in New Zealand and we would like to encourage our members to take on this internationally recognised qualification. Fundraising is now a profession – not just a job – and I intend to make completing the CFRE accreditation less daunting by introducing FINZ-recognised steps to work towards along the way.”

Other matters mentioned were the introduction of a FINZ Education Trust – essentially a charitable entity designed to raise funds and award scholarships and grants to members – a drive to lift membership of individuals and organisations, and the introduction of a new range of member benefits that would be rolled out over the next year.

In summary, he stated that the nonprofit sector is the glue that holds New Zealand in place, and those organisations and people who adapt to changing fundraising dynamics will do better than those who don’t: “We have to create the FINZ of the future.”

Afterwards, incoming President Kate Russell commented, “FINZ is in a new area of growth, providing benefits to members and a solid structured and meaningful national education program. My immediate goals would be getting us on a really solid financial footing, providing a visible and easy to navigate professional development pathway, and continuing to be a respected voice with the media and government on nonprofit issues.”

Prior to introducing the speaker for the opening plenary – US digital fundraiser Michael Whitney, who worked on Bernie Sanders’ campaign – Pareto’s CEO, Dearne Cameron, discussed the Pareto 2016 benchmarking results in reference to New Zealand and referred to some incredible technologies, including interactive video as used by WWF , the Run Gropher automated SMS system, virtual town hall meetings and Facebook Spaces virtual reality.

Whitney referred to the work he did for Bernie Sanders’ campaign, saying it made US$236 million from 2.8 million online donors. The average donation was $27. For Whitney, the underlying driver of online success is the message, and he said campaigns should be empowering and integrated with a two-way, horizontal supporter/organisational relationship.

Other excellent sessions on the Thursday included Clive Pedley from Giving Architects presenting on social impact investment and Moceanic’s Sommer Davies on seven solutions to fixing your fundraising problems today, while Abby Clemence from Infinity Sponsorship gave an enthusiastic talk on structured, strategic sponsorships.

FINZ award winners

The day ended with a ride up Queenstown’s Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak, champagne in hand, to the Excellence in Fundraising Awards Gala Dinner, which was held in the beautifully presented function room at the top of the mountain. In between the award presentations Clown Doctors New Zealand’s Professor Thomas Petschner entertained the crowd – sharing how laughter is always the best medicine – hence the attractive red nose I’m displaying in this image!

Incoming President Kate Russell MCed announced the FINZ 2017 awards and the winners were:

New Zealand Post Award for Excellence in Direct Mail
Hospice North Shore

Flightdec Award for Excellence in Digital Innovation
Cherie Reid
The Child Cancer Foundation

Strategic Grants Award for Excellence in Grants
Sarah Chong
Dolphin Theatre

ASB Award for Excellence in Sponsorship
Lisa Rudolphe
Auckland War Memorial Museum

FINZ Award for Excellence in Donor Development
New Zealand Red Cross

Execucare Award for Best Newcomer
Grace Brennan
Victoria University of Wellington

Include a Charity Award for Excellence in Bequests
Adrienne Bushell
Nikau Foundation

Soar Print Premier Award for Excellence in Fundraising
David Lawson
Christian World Services

The last day: Friday

During the first session on the Friday – Fundraising is everyone’s business – four presenters nutted out responses to some curly questions about how the fundraising sector functions in New Zealand and the ideas just kept coming from on stage and in the crowd. These included:

  • Start promoting fundraising as a career option from the early high-school years
  • For fundraisers to be encouraged to develop the ambition to become CEOs of nonprofits
  • Question why marketing people have status but fundraisers don’t – no university courses?
  • FINZ needs to run leadership courses, teaching everything from conflict management to leading small teams
  • Encourage CEOs and board members to attend conferences
  • FINZ to run days for CEOs
  • Fundraisers to give to their own charities and to other organisations so they know what is going on in the sector
  • Senior fundraisers in large organisations to become board members of smaller organisations
  • Fundraisers to find board mentors.

Later, an excellent session on public speaking from Outward Bound’s Karla Paotonu was was a hit with everyone in the room, and the day ended with Stephen George’s entertaining and informative closing plenary on how to become a great fundraising leader to ensure your organisation’s success.

To find out more about FINZ, click here.



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