Five minutes with … Michelle Folder

On the air: Michelle recently participated in an on-air auction with the 7HOFM breakfast team to raise funds for HCM.

What are the joys and challenges of working in a regional city?

There are many joys. If someone is working in fundraising in Tassie, I probably know them. It’s a small, collegial group.

Networking is a way of life down here. We have monthly lunches and regular emails on what we’re doing. Say someone wants to put on a gala, we can all pull out our diaries at lunch and check dates, so we don’t compete at the same time. The camaraderie and sharing culture that you tend to find in fundraising is well reflected here in Tassie.

The disadvantages? I’d say fundraising here is behind the mainland by a few years and we’re playing catch up and trying to get cultural change happening in our organisations to be more aware of and respectful of fundraising. Also, there’s the research issue. Most research on the sector comes from the US and UK. When there is Australian research, you would be hard-

pressed to find a Tasmanian focus. You’ve got to extrapolate the findings and take into account the differences between the island and the mainland!

You sit on the FIA TAS State Committee. What are you doing for Tassie fundraisers?

Fundraisers here are often one-person shops working in isolation. We’re bringing the Tassie fundraising community together and delivering as much professional development as we can at an affordable cost. We often use technology, so if people at the north end of Tasmania can’t come to Hobart for an event, we can dial them in via Zoom or hold a video conference, so they don’t miss out.

We have our first-ever forum on 20 September which we’re very excited about. We have compelling speakers including Donor Republic’s Co-Founder, Marcus Blease; Amplify’s Fundraising and Communications Strategist, Paul Bailey, and The Smith Family’s Gifts in Wills Manager, Jakki Travers. More to come!

You’re also on the FIA Board of Directors. What would you like to accomplish?

I’m honoured to be working with such incredible and experienced fundraisers from around Australia. At board level, I find myself championing the cause of regional fundraisers and trying to build understanding that what works on the mainland will not always work in Tasmania. I’m also keen to ensure our membership offering is of value to all members, not just fundraisers in Sydney and Melbourne. Hopefully, I’m getting there!

I’m also interested in the struggle fundraising has in being seen as a profession. I would love to see more fundraisers proud of what they do and the community more aware that we’re not just rattling tins in the street or organising the school fair, important as those things are. I’m on the FIA Professional Identity Sub-Committee, led by Meredith Dwyer, and we’re working on some initiatives to help create change.

What is the most pressing issue the Tasmanian fundraising sector is facing?

The most immediate operational challenge is the scarcity of staff and good talent. When you advertise, you might get one or two applicants if you’re lucky. Finding someone with fundraising experience is hard! What you end up doing is headhunting and training people who you think are trainable. You have to be prepared to teach them.

Our professional identity project will help, and I’m pleased FIA is now offering a Stepping into Fundraising course, which should help attract more people to the sector. We need to promote fundraising as a real profession with a pathway, not just something you fall into.

What do you do in your spare time?

I’m the president of the board of my kids’ school, a small, local community school in Hobart. Both my sons have autism, and I’m a single mum, so it’s great to be a part of such a supportive community.

I like spending time with my incredibly supportive parents, and to read and go for walks in the wilderness. I also love quilting, drawing and knitting. Doing these traditional crafts somewhere in the bush is my idea of heaven, even if it sometimes makes me feel like I’m turning into a little old lady!

Read more about Hobart City Mission here