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Meet Alan White, Fundraising Manager, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, one of our ‘Movers ‘n’ Shakers of 2018. Alan says “We need to be disruptors, break barriers, take risks – like any other sector…”

“We need to be disruptors, break barriers, take risks – like any other sector…”

Alan White, FUNDRAISING MANAGER, ASYLUM SEEKER RESOURCE CENTRE

 

Alan White began his career in the sector while a student at Bond University. Dissatisfied that the culture of philanthropy was stagnating in the student and alumni community, he took on the role of Philanthropy Council Manager.

“I remember the day I knew I’d found something I could make a career out of. It was the first time we raised funds to provide a number of students with a bursary to fund their semester textbooks or a small laptop. This person came up to me and said: ‘Thank you, that was enough for me to get a new laptop charger that I otherwise couldn’t afford.’ I thought to myself, ‘Wow, there’s really something to this.’ That’s how I got hooked for the first time on what philanthropy can do. I’ve become a very strong believer that we can make change to individual’s lives, no matter how small it may seem. That’s important to me.”

His success in this role encouraged Alan to build his knowledge about the sector and volunteer with various nonprofits. After graduating with a Master of International Relations (Business), Alan took up fundraising roles with Oxfam Australia and the Mater Foundation. He joined the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) in March 2017 and recently completed a Master of Business (Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies) at OUT and is very active in the sector, including as an FIA state committee member for Victoria.

APPROACHES, ACHIEVEMENTS AND CHALLENGES

Since joining, Alan has helped ASRC smash its Winter Appeal target by more than 80%, surpassing $2 million for the first time in the organisation’s 17-year history. He was instrumental in securing more than $650,000 for ASRC’s 2017 Telethon on World Refugee Day, as well as the 40% growth in the 2017 Christmas Appeal, which raised over $1 million for the first time.

For Alan, the job allows him to put the knowledge and learning he’s received from other people in the sector into practice. This includes a strong personal commitment to sustainability, transparency and ethics.

“My broad approach to fundraising is that the profession and the industry is there to provide a platform to activate people’s own philanthropy, their vision, their mission, and the values they align with to allow them the opportunity and pathway to make change,” he says.

“My ethos has always been, because you’re facilitating something for someone else, to be honest, be transparent, be engaging  and provide them the opportunity to be that changemaker they wish to be. That’s my role.”

Alan’s approach to fundraising was on full display during the Digi.Raise 2018 conference, when he delivered a session on the same day as the Telethon on World Refugee Day.

Extensive use of digital technology was made before the Telethon, including sending warming emails to potential donors and building Facebook lists from people who had clicked ‘like’ on social media content ahead of the event, along with extensive A/B testing of messages. During the Telethon, Alan’s team extensively leveraged email, SMS, Facebook’s event and live-streaming tools, Twitter’s video tools, as well as a more traditional call centre.

“It’s all about positive storytelling, which is led beautifully by our marketing team telling the stories of people with lived experience. By also partnering with a diverse range of ambassadors and people in the community who care about the issue, they can give voice to the importance of the day through our networks and their own,” Alan says.

This year the event included matched funding ‘hours of power’ at 9am and 5pm, supported by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers and Lush Cosmetics. “For one hour, and one hour only, we concentrate our message across all channels around a clear call to action with our partners. We do this on SMS, Twitter, Facebook and via email. The fifth channel is our ambassadors, influencers and partners who care about our cause and spread the word extensively,” says Alan.

“Matched funding can work really well when it’s based around a special moment in time, and that’s what an event does. That can be any event, be it a political event, an environmental moment, an emergency situation, or a global day of celebration or awareness.”

In 2018, the Telethon reached new heights, raising more than $860,000 in 16 hours.

THE BIG PICTURE

Alan believes it’s important to continue disrupting the fundraising sector by innovating and always looking to do things differently in order to engage with people through their preferred communications methods.

“I think for people to respect our sector and industry, big picture, we need to celebrate the work we do, be thought-leaders and continue to push ourselves and the boundaries of what’s best practice, both for our donors and beneficiaries. If we don’t, the public will continue to disengage with our work, even though they’re connected to the cause.

“We need to be disruptors, break barriers, take risks – like any other sector does in Australia – and be really proud of the work that we do, and not be focused on defending it all the time.”

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