Five minutes with…Rebecca Miller, RSB Fundraising Team Leader and SA/NT Committee Chair
You’ve worked for the State Theatre Company, Guide Dogs, RSPCA and as a consultant amongst other things. Nice diversity. Tell us a bit about these roles.
I started my career in fundraising almost 20 years ago at the RSPCA and was there for over six years. I loved the role and the organisation. But, as you can imagine, watching the terrible things some people do to animals every day for so long can wear you down. I needed a job that was going to restore my faith in humanity, so I went into a role at the Leukaemia Foundation. And it certainly did.
From there, I moved on to Foundation Daw Park, raising money to fund research into veteran health and care, and then to the State Theatre Company. The arts is a very different environment to mainstream charities and I just loved the diversity and the people around me.
After that, I moved to Guide Dogs, consulted for a year, and then came to Royal Society for the Blind, which is where I am today. The diversification in the roles and organisations has been invaluable to my personal development. My biggest learning is that whilst each organisation presented different challenges and motivations for giving, the fundamentals of fundraising remained basically the same.
The Royal Society for the Blind (RSB) is a venerable organisation going back to 1884. Was the heritage one thing that attracted you to work there? What was the appeal?
Working for an organisation that is over 134 years old has its pros and cons. There’s the trust that comes with being such an iconic brand in your state and the loyalty this brings with donors which is just fantastic. However, the historical factor sometimes makes it difficult for some processes to move forward quickly.
The appeal of working at RSB was being able to work in a vision-focused organisation again (I had previously worked in the optical industry for 11 years in another life before not-for-profits and also for Guide Dogs SA/NT) whose main focus is not the brand or the bottom line but the outcomes in the lives of our clients. That was evident from when I first walked in and still is today.
We were also about to venture into a period of fundraising growth which I found incredibly exciting. I had been working with Darrin Johnson (previous Chair of the FIA SA/NT Committee) through FIA and knew he would be my boss. Knowing your new boss and yourself work well together and complement each other is always going to be a recipe for success!
What are the joys and challenges of your work as fundraising team leader?
My joy is definitely seeing the difference we make in people’s lives. That sounds corny, right? But essentially, it’s why I do what I do. It’s what motivates me to get up every morning. I love being able to contribute and feel that I’m doing my part in making the world a better place. I lead a good and happy life, and being able to give back to the community each day makes life worth living.
Fundraising is not an easy job, far from it. But as long as I work in an organisation that I believe in, that makes a real impact and has real and measurable outcomes, challenges can be overcome.
What do you think has been your career highlight?
Being able to experience the absolute selflessness of some people. Not everyone gets to see this side of people. I’m very lucky.
You’ve been involved with FIA for several years, serving as Chair of the SA Showcase, member of the State Branch, then Deputy Chair of the Branch. What attracted you to volunteer for FIA?
I was simply asked to help by volunteering on the Committee back in 2003, and apart from a two-year break, have not looked back. I love that I can be a part of the excellence of this sector and contribute to the professional development of fundraisers at all levels. We all do such an important job in our communities and we should be motivated, not necessarily by raising the most money, but by making the most positive impact we possibly can.
You’ve now been appointed Chair of the State Branch. What are your priorities? Is there one thing, in particular, you want to accomplish in the next two years?
My priority will always be to bring the best educational opportunities to South Australia for the sector to learn and become some of the best professional fundraisers in the country, while also achieving FIA’s strategic objectives.
In the next two years, I would like to see a more connected and cohesive network of fundraisers within the state coming together and sharing ideas on a more regular basis. I would also like to create a sub-committee in the Northern Territory so they, as a sector, can also benefit from regular professional development.
South Australia is a very small fundraising community. Why is it important for local fundraisers to be part of FIA?
Education, ethics and networks. I don’t think I’ve met a single senior fundraiser who has not benefited in some way from the education FIA has provided them over the years.
What do you think the local and national sector will look like in five years’ time?
The sector has evolved and grown in both number and sophistication over the past 20 years. I’m hoping we see fundraising viewed as a profession in its own right by other sectors. I truly believe we’re all developing greater networks across the country and this is largely due to conferences and seminars and the benefits people see in sharing ideas. It’s an exciting time to be a change maker and I’m looking forward to the next five years.
What are the challenges for the local sector? What can FIA do to help?
I think each state experiences individual challenges at different times and a lot of them are able to be overcome with a bit of innovation and support. I think it’s imperative that FIA is there on a state and national level to listen to members and assist them in increasing their skills and knowledge by providing high quality, professional development opportunities.
When you’ve got time on your hands, what do you like to do for fun?
My relaxation therapy is to cook. It’s my escape and I love it. I get a bit sketchy if I haven’t baked in a while. For fun, my husband and I are into classic and vintage scooters (Vespas and Lambrettas). We travel all over Australia and the world on different rallies, have a massive network of friends and made some amazing friendships that will last a lifetime. I’m currently organising a four-day international scooter rally in Adelaide over the Australia Day long weekend in 2019 with a friend from the UK. Spare time? What spare time? ????