Donor-centricity, innovation, going virtual, making technology a fundraiser’s best friend, and tried & true fundraising strategies were the theme of this year’s FIA Awards.

The return of in-person conferences is a cause for celebration in itself. But this weekend the Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) turned up the celebratory dial even further by announcing the FIA National Award Winners for Excellence in Fundraising at their conference. Here we share the winners.

Most Innovative Campaign

Lighthouse Foundation – #BREAKTHEPATTERN

Like so much of the brilliant fundraising that has emerged in recent times, #BREAKTHEPATTERN was born out of pandemic-driven necessity.

Recognising that, in amongst lockdowns and social isolation, people were increasingly tapping into digital communities, the Lighthouse team turned their attention to what they describe as “unused digital real estate”.

This translated into a donation incentive. ‘Visual gifts’ – screen savers, social media banners and Zoom backgrounds – gifted to donors upon receipt of their donation, provided them with a shareable symbol of their support that spread awareness and encouraged peer donations.

Lighthouse Foundation has always had strong links to the art world and this is something the organisation capitalised on for the campaign. Indeed, art therapy can help traumatised youth (Lighthouse’s service user cohort) and so the tie-in between the campaign and the cause is clear.

Three of the charity’s artistic supporters, Cassie Byrnes, David Booth and Ken Done were invited to contribute to the campaign and some of their artwork can be seen here:

While proud to have raised more than $191,000 from #BREAKTHEPATTERN, the greatest campaign achievement was brand awareness. Social media engagement increased by 769% following the campaign and more than 5 million people saw the campaign via Zoom, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, pro-bono online advertising and billboards.

Read our article about #BREAKTHEPATTERN here.

Best Supporter Experience AND Most Outstanding Fundraising Project

MS Queensland – ‘Best at Thank You’

Even prior to the pandemic, the fundraising team at MS Queensland (MSQ) faced some harsh realities. At just 18%, their second gift rates were well below the industry average of 30%. Individual giving acquisition campaigns often took more than three years to break even.

It was time for action. With MSQ historically dependent on physical events and lotteries, a new fundraising strategy developed in 2020 aimed to diversify revenue with an emphasis on gifts-in-wills and individual giving. The cornerstone of that strategy was a mission to be the ‘best at thank you’. KPIs for exceptional supporter experience were embedded in the strategy and retention replaced acquisition as the top priority.

The results? In FY21, 96.4% of donations received a thank you acknowledgment, donor trust grew by 22%, and second gift rates increased by 144%.

The tactics? You’ll need to read our subscriber-exclusive article about the MSQ campaign to find out!

Fundraising Impact through Creativity

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre – ASRC Telethon on World Refugee Day

June 2021 marked the ASRC’s 20th year of being a ‘Home of Hope’ for people seeking asylum and the sixth ASRC Telethon held on the annual June 20 World Refugee Day.

The Telethon is a powerful campaign to engage Australians on the refugee issue and give people a way to participate in the solution (by making a donation), helping create a more welcoming, inclusive and fair Australia for refugees.
The organisation set an ambitious goal to raise $1.5 million from the 2021 event. A compelling creative campaign would be required to cut through the cluttered tax-time charity market and to compensate for the fact that less ambassadors were able to support the campaign in-person due to Melbourne’s lockdown restrictions.
The new proposition “Stand for welcome. Stand for change. Stand with refugees” – combined with striking visuals and compelling video creative that amplified the voices of people seeking asylum – spoke to shared values and the call to action, “It’s time for change”. This approach was rolled out across an integrated marketing campaign in the lead up to the event and during the live-streamed telethon through interviews, panels and other supporting digital communications like eDM and SMS/MMS. This was the most successful Telethon on record – raising more than $1.67 million from more than 5,000 donors (the most ever!) who stand in solidarity with refugees and make change possible.

Impact on a Shoestring

Bears of Hope – Choosing Hope

Choosing Hope is a walk of honour and remembrance in support of bereaved families who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss. The walk is not only a fundraising campaign, but also a support opportunity designed to connect bereaved parents and families to a larger community.

Before COVID-19 hit in 2020, Bears of Hope had organised seven in-person Choosing Hope Walks across Australia. By July that year, the team had to rethink how this event would continue in the ‘new normal’. They chose to embrace virtual and created the Choosing Hope Walk You Way, which resulted in the most successful and inclusive campaign yet.

To keep costs down, the small fundraising team of three created all of the design and marketing elements, from online resources, to email copy, to social media advertising and a video wrap-up of the campaign. They utilised a credit to have a new website created for the event.

The spend-savvy team also approached a long-term corporate supporter for a prize donation for the highest fundraiser, which helped drive participant recruitment and fundraising. They posted all merchandise orders themselves and outsourced to a printer to personalise t-shirts. Of course, once fundraising reaches a certain size and scale, it often makes sense to outsource more, but in this instance, the team proved that by getting the job done in-house and calling in some favours and discounts, you can achieve great things. Bears of Hope spent a tiny $13,756 on the campaign. But what did they raise? A very un-tiny $129,182 (compared to 2019’s $35,000).

Money raised from the event is primarily used to fund Bears of Hope’s national counselling and support group services, but the 2020 fundraising result meant the organisation was also able to fund more support packs, providing at least 1115 bereaved families with early-stage support right across Australia.

Impact on a Shoestring – Highly Commended
Bendigo Health Fundraising & Foundation – How a Christmas appeal enabled a centre for paediatric excellence

To read more about this campaign, click here.

Best Strategic Partnerships

Brotherhood of St.Laurence and Citi Foundation – Youth Employment

Through the support of the Citi Foundation, the Brotherhood of St. Laurence (BSL) developed the Creating Futures for Youth program in 2015. First delivered in Victoria’s Frankston-Mornington Peninsula region, the program moved in 2019 to another area of high youth unemployment, Melbourne’s North West.

The Creating Futures for Youth program supports young people experiencing disadvantage to pursue their career aspirations and build their capacity for an ever-evolving workforce. The program is built upon an understanding that recognising and nurturing young people’s talents and capabilities, instead of focusing on deficits, enables them to thrive.

To date the Citi Foundation has invested $1.3 million in the program, helping to support 700 young people since 2015.

Best Strategic Partnerships – Highly Commended
Australian Red Cross & Save the Children

For the Red Cross – Save the Children – QBE Global Disaster Relief and Resilience Partnership. Read more about this partnership here.

The Smith Family

For the Ampol – The Smith Family partnership. Read more about this partnership here.

Impact Through Events

Joint winner – Cancer Council NSW – The Longest Day

The Longest Day is a first-of-its-kind peer-to-peer golf challenge in Australia. It capitalises on the competitiveness of golfers, pushing them to team up with their mates to ‘tee off for a cancer-free future’ and complete 72 holes in one day.

In Year 1 (2013), the goal was to get 40 players to sign up. Mission accomplished and $40,000 raised. The 2020 campaign raised $1.5 million from 200 participating golf clubs against a budget of $650,000 with an ROI of 17:1. To date, participating golfers have raised a total $5,435,358.

Joint winner – Children’s Cancer Institute – CEO Dare to Cure

Reckon you could get into a snake bath, walk across hot coals, or stick your hand into a ‘mystery box’ of creepy crawlies? That’s what fundraisers were asked to do in the CEO Dare to Cure event.

The concept: CEOs or business leaders register for the event and pick from eight challenges or ‘dares’ which will all be performed on the same day. They then set about fundraising, with a recommended minimum target of $5,000.

In 2020 the event raised $1 million, up 42% from its original target of $700,000.

Impact Through Events – Highly Commended
Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research

For Walk for Women’s Cancer.

To learn more about the strategy and tactics from the Council Council NSW and Children’s Cancer Institute campaigns, read our subscriber-exclusive articles here and here.

Best Pivot Campaign or Initiative

Wayside Chapel – Long Walk Home 2020

Long Walk Home (LWH) is a 28km fundraising walk that raises much-needed funds for Wayside Chapel to provide support to people experiencing homelessness. The significance of 28km is that, in an average week, a person experiencing homelessness walks this distance looking for help, food, and a safe place to sleep.

The event launched as a pilot in 2018  and continued as a mass participation event in 2019 when 408 walkers raised $345,000 by walking from Parramatta to Kings Cross over the course of an evening.

In 2020, the walk was due to take place with 500 people on the evening of 30 October. However, due to COVID-19, the physical event was cancelled and pivoted to a virtual format. Participants were able to walk 28km over seven days on a path of their own choosing. The pivot was a huge success, with 2,461 people registering across Australia and the world, raising over $1 million for Wayside Chapel.

Pivoting LWH to a virtual event was, strategically, the best thing that could have happened for Wayside’s fundraising team. It transformed the campaign into and event that reached a significantly broader audience, lowered barriers to participation and increased its appeal across a much wider geographical area than previous years. The virtual walk provided unlimited spaces for participants to register, whereas the original physical walk was capped at 500 people for logistical reasons.

The outcome of 2020’s pivot was that fundraising income achieved a three-fold increase on the previous year; $1,025,000 compared to $345,000 in 2019. This staggering growth was achieved during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the toughest years in living memory.

Fundraising Impact Through Technology

Telco Together Foundation – Small Change Big Change

Small Change Big Change (SCBC) is an on-bill donations program currently focussed on the telecommunications (telco) industry, whereby mobile and broadband customers can choose to add a $1, $2 or $5 donation to their monthly bill in support of initiatives for young Australians.

For customers to donate via their telco bills, SCBC have consulted and coordinated with technical billing system providers to outline key technical and workflow considerations that allow partner organisations to implement a zero-rated GST line entry into their billing and customer management software programs. This then allows for the generation of a tax-deductible donation receipt attachment to a monthly bill once a customer opts into the program. By utilising billing systems and direct debit transactions, the program compliments an observed drop in the use of cash donations in favour of electronic transactions.Clever hey!

Once the technical billing platform supports the donation, Small Change Big Change works closely with telco partners to promote a donation call-to-action through their existing marketing channels including physical and online bills, social media, specific give-back campaigns, and integration with self service Telco application (app) services. In addition, telco partner staff are offered a shared journey with donors through the SCBC workplace giving and volunteering programs.

The Australian telecommunications industry currently has 32.5 million mobile phone subscribers and 14.7 million internet subscribers, so the potential for fundraising is vast. Currently the program has over 19,950 regular monthly donors, who have raised over $750,000. 100% of donations raised by the program are collected by the telco partners and remitted to the Telco Together Foundation in support of a wide range of education and engagement programs designed to promote good mental health, a strong sense of identity and connection beyond connectivity.

Fundraising Impact Through Technology – Highly commended
World Animal Protection – Digital Acquisition Gifts in Wills Campaign

Read more about the campaign here.

Supplier Team of the Year

Donor Republic – nominated by Foodbank NSW & ACT

Beth Campbell Bruce – Foodbank NSW & ACT:

“We started working with Donor Republic in FY16. At that time, we had no fundraising strategy and a program that made $300,000 a year from a donor base of only 165 people. In FY21 our fundraising program made over $6.6 million and we now have more than 78,000 donors.

Last year alone, we exceed our budget by $2 million net. That result enabled nine million meals, delivered to people in need in NSW and the ACT. We credit this success to our deep partnership with Donor Republic. We don’t consider them our supplier, we consider them to be part of our team – and this is one of the reasons that our partnership has been so successful.

Donor Republic helped us grow our income and donor base through a number of key fundraising pillars:

  1. Diversifying our portfolio. In 2016 we only had one revenue stream – events. Today, we have Direct Mail (both warm and acquisition), digital integration, and regular giving – including F2F, telephone conversion and digital 2-step programs. We also have ‘always on’ digital, and lead generation activity for gifts-in-wills and corporate programs in development.
  2. Regular reporting – which shows that our key fundraising programs usually perform above industry benchmarks. Eg. cold response rates are over 6% and second gift rates have been over 50% – and we believe these results are largely due to Donor Republic’s approach.
  3. Developing our proposition – hunger in Australia. Back in 2016, hunger was seen as an issue in the international aid arena, and hunger in Australia was not widely known about. Through the development of compelling marketing materials, Donor Republic has helped us spread this message so that Foodbank are now seen, not just as a logistics and distribution company, but as a humanitarian organisation that cares about the welfare of struggling Australians.

Donor Republic are a fundraising and marketing agency dedicated to the not-for-profit sector. Founded on a devoted passion of continuous improvement to donor and consumer centricity, what we love about Donor Republic is their constant support to ensure we achieve the results we need.”

Supplier Team of the Year – Highly Commended
Adflex Marketing

Nominated by the Royal Life Saving Society WA.

Engage & Experience

Nominated by Vision Australia.

Volunteer of the Year

Betty Webb – The Smith Family

The quintessential quiet achiever, Betty Webb has been volunteering with The Smith Family since 2001. Never drawing attention to herself and her achievements, she always focuses on the cause and how she can best support students and families in need.

Supporting the WA State office two days a week, Betty provides administration support to office staff in operations, admin and fundraising roles. Her commitment extends beyond office support to include fundraising events such as the annual Great Big Thank You and the Toy & Book appeal.

Betty began volunteering with The Smith Family after retiring from a full-time customer service role. Her service-focused background has helped her become an integral member of the Perth office. Betty prefers an early morning schedule and the team are therefore welcomed with a bright, cheery smile and hello first thing every Monday and Thursday morning – affectionately referred to as ‘Betty days’. Her commitment to her weekly routine has not wavered despite the challenges imposed by the pandemic.

Fundraising Team of the Year

Royal Flying Doctor Service Victoria – Team Fundraising & Philanthropy

RFDS Victoria’s vision is to ensure “Better Health, Wellbeing and Social Connection for rural communities”. The organisation believes that all three components are essential for individuals and communities to thrive. This vision is 94% funded by the fundraising team and the dedicated donors who respond to their request for support.

As well as increasing connection with their supporters in FY21, the fundraising team prioritised wellbeing and team connection as an antidote to the pandemic. The strong culture evident within the team is both strategically relevant (because it drives the success of RFDS Victoria) and strong (team members found new levels of resilience to deliver great fundraising outcomes during COVID-19).

For RFDS Victoria, team culture and better connection translated to the best fundraising performance on record, with a gross revenue of $11.8 million versus a target of $8.3 million in FY21. The team’s high levels of cultural adaptability, in a continuously changing landscape, to innovate, experiment, and quickly take advantage of new opportunities ensured they maintained vital services for communities and advanced the fundraising strategy, despite gloomy sector-wide predictions.

The team’s proudest achievements in FY21 led to:

  • An industry-leading, 12-month retention rate of 65% for face-to-face regular givers
  • 23% growth in major giving revenue
  • An impactful and highly segmented donor survey that provided insights for all areas of RFDS, not just fundraising
  • Effective advancements in data stewardship and analytics
  • A successful matched giving day, which unified the team behind a shared vision to launch a service dedicated to transporting palliative patients to a place of personal significance in their final days
  • Advancing the fundraising strategy with new funding sources including corporate partnerships and digital
Fundraising Team of the Year – Highly Commended
MS Queensland – Supporter Impact Team

Chair’s Award

Queensland State Committee

Read more about the FIA Queensland State Committee here.

Young Fundraiser of the Year

Tom Hansford – nominated by Alan White, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

Tom Hansford is a young and emerging fundraiser that the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) was proud to nominate for Young Fundraiser of the Year. Tom’s career, while still emerging, has led to significant success in a short period of time, and exists alongside a raft of volunteering and community development commitments to the social justice sector.

Currently, Tom is the Grants Coordinator at the ASRC, an institutional funding program that, in 2020/21, generated more than $10 million of income across more than 110 grant opportunities.

To learn more about Tom’s grant-winning magic and what lies ahead for this gifted fundraiser, read our subscriber-exclusive article here.

Young Fundraiser of the Year – Highly Commended

Alexandra Dobbing, Fundraising Institute Australia NSW Committee Member

Fundraising Champion of the Year

Joint winner – Cameron Kerr, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

To learn more about Cameron, click here.

Joint winner – Sister Angela Mary Doyle, Mater Foundation

To learn more about Sister Angela Mary, click here.

Fundraiser of the Year

Carl Young – nominated by Jennifer Doubell, Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation

Carl Young (CFRE) is both the Philanthropy and Fundraising Director at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation and former Chair of the Australian Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA), with more than two decades of senior fundraising experience at some of Australia’s leading charities. Carl’s extensive fundraising knowledge, appetite for innovation, attentive staff management and passion to enhance the reputation of charities amongst the Australian public, ensures his fundraising portfolio at Peter Mac continues to excel when benchmarked against industry standards.

To learn more about Carl’s outstanding fundraising achievements, access our subscriber-exclusive article here.

Arthur Venn Lifetime Achievement Award

Roewen Wishart – nominated by Vicki Rasmussen, Charlies Foundation for Research

Roewen is a leading Australian authority on high-return fundraising strategies for nonprofit organisations. He is a director of Xponential Group and, with over 25 years’ fundraising experience, he brings deep analysis to the overall development and review of fundraising strategy. Roewen’s experience and passion encompasses all areas of fundraising with a focus on strategy, major gifts, campaign development and gifts-in-wills.

To learn more about how Roewen gives back to the fundraising sector, read our subscriber-exclusive article here.


Our congratulations to all of the deserving and inspiring winners of this year’s FIA National Award Winners for Excellence in Fundraising. To access a full list of finalists, state winners and overall winners, click here.

To read our top tips from the FIA Conference 2022, click here.

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