Five minutes with…Hazel Grunwaldt

Best in class: Hazel Grunwaldt is the assistant director of development and alumni relations at the University of Western Australia.

Making the grade as a uni fundraiser

Hazel Grunwaldt talks to FIA’s Kim Carter about why she loves fundraising for the University of Western Australia.

What does the assistant director of development and alumni relations do at the University of Western Australia? 

I work across the university with my team to raise funds for various projects and scholarships. Life is never dull in such a varied role.

How did you come to find your way to the university? 

I was made redundant at my previous role and to be honest, the position came up, and I thought it sounded interesting. I applied, and here I am.

You worked for a children’s hospital in NSW and a disability charity previously. Have you found the university community to be different from the other groups where you’ve worked? 

In some ways, the challenges we all face are similar: the need for funds is never-ending. But I have found the university to be the most varied in terms of what people can support. It’s also the biggest organisation I’ve worked for, which means we have more stakeholders, but that’s what makes the job interesting.

Australia doesn’t have the same long history of educational fundraising that they do in the USA, but that’s changing. What’s your take: are we still behind?

I feel like we have a significant advantage here in Australia: yes, we’re still a little behind other countries, but we have the benefit of looking at what has worked and not worked in the UK and USA which means we can leapfrog forward here.

The philanthropic landscape is very different between the US and Australia. We can pick and choose what will work here, which is a great position to be in – especially when boards/decision-makers want evidence of success. We can look to other markets and find that evidence.

Would you say universities are, at their core, charities like RSPCA or UNICEF?

We all want to build communities that support us. Universities tend to be looking at global challenges over the longer term; for example, the cure for cancer will be found at a university. It’s more challenging for us to show immediate need, given our research tends to be over the longer term.

What are the joys and challenges in your work? 

So many! Where to start? I have the best team, honestly. I think it’s the people you work with that make or break your work experience and we have the best team. I love working with everyone here, so I consider myself very lucky. In terms of challenges, there are not enough hours in the day! I think all fundraisers experience that. There is always more we could do, more amazing projects that are deserving of support, but I can only do so much.

What are some of the projects you’re working on now at the university?

We’ve just launched our new vision for the next 10 years, which is exciting. UWA is very much focusing itself on the Indian Ocean Rim, and I’ve been working on several projects in our oceans/marine space for a while, so that fits perfectly.

We also have a fantastic youth suicide prevention project called Young Lives Matter, and our research in various cancers such as blood cancer and Mesothelioma is world-class. Our biomedical engineers have developed a product for surgeons to help reduce the number of women who have to have additional surgery after a lumpectomy. Our work is so varied and has such an impact. We finished the New Century Campaign at the end of 2017, which raised $430 million, so we are consolidating that and stewarding our amazing donors in the best way we can.

What’s different about the University of Western Australia compared to other Australian universities? What gets your donors excited about the uni?

UWA was founded on philanthropy, and I think that makes us truly special. We were established for the welfare and prosperity of the people of Western Australia, and that’s as important today as it was in 1911. We want our research to have a real-world impact; we’re providing scholarships to young people who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to come to university who will go on to be change-makers. People don’t give to UWA though; they give through UWA to an area they’re passionate about. If donors have a passion for cancer research, music, the arts, they can give through us to make an impact. That’s pretty special.

If you could make something special happen for the university, what would it be?

I would love to be able to provide support for early-career researchers to have more stability in their work – these are amazing young researchers whose whole employment can hinge on whether or not they get a grant. It would be great to be able to change that to give people more stability to focus on their work and on changing the world – which is where their focus should be.

Capital celebration: Hazel and staff celebrate the New Century campaign which raised a cool $430 million.

You sit on the FIA WA State Committee. What attracted you to the volunteer work, and what do you get out of it? Are WA fundraisers particularly challenged in getting professional development?

I have so enjoyed my time on the FIA WA State Committee (I just resigned). Initially, I joined as I had just moved to Western Australia and wanted to meet some other fundraisers and thought FIA would be a good way for me to network and know what professional development opportunities were coming up. 

I also wanted to give back. I’ve been in fundraising for my whole career and have had some amazing mentors both informally and formally, and I wanted to be able to do that for other people. It’s challenging in WA to have access to personal development opportunities as things like the conference are usually run on the east coast and that puts it out of the price range of a lot of organisations. But the local state committee has been running a state-based fundraising forum for several years now, and we also offer locally based educational opportunities throughout the year to benefit our members.

You were a judge for the 2020 FIA Awards. What category were you looking at, and what were you looking for? Naturally, we won’t discuss the winners at this time!

I was part of the panel looking at the Best Strategic Partnership and Fundraising Impact Through Creativity categories. There were so many fantastic applications; it was a tough decision for the committee to make but stay tuned for the winners…

What do you think is the most pressing issue the fundraising sector is facing today? 

I think recruitment of professional fundraisers continues to be an issue and I know this is something FIA is looking at nationally. Until we recognise fundraising as a profession for skilled migrants, we have to think of ways to train people for our sector, and that’s a challenge with limited budgets and capacity. Donors are also becoming more and more sophisticated, which is fantastic but with new forms of philanthropy come new challenges for organisations to adapt and ensure new ways of giving are in alignment with the organisation’s mission.

What do you like to do in your spare time? 

As a full-time fundraiser and mum of two, I don’t get a lot of spare time, but I do love reading, and it’s scientifically proven to help your brain to switch off. I don’t mind admitting I have a love for all things Bachelor, Bachelorette and even the Real Housewives!