Five minutes with Ginta Orchard FFIA

What attracted you to the fundraising sector?

I started in event management with a degree in Recreation Management. I then worked in event management in the disability sector moving to London to organise the first London Special Olympics. I then worked in London for nearly 10 years in event management and also organising fundraising events.

When I returned to Adelaide the only event work was in the fundraising sector. I started at Spastic Centres SA managing Go Casual for A Cause which expanded to charity management thanks to the FIA who taught me everything I needed to know to become an Executive Officer. 

Your professional goal is said to be: “to make the world a better place, yes, my little bit does count.” How do you put this into practice?

I always want to make a difference. Working at the NeuroSurgical Research Foundation and raising funds for life saving neurosurgical research. It is not just my job – I believe I need to lead by example. Not only do I work for the NRF I personally fundraise as well through entering the City to Bay and other peer to peer events.

How did the NeuroSurgical Research Foundation evolve and what does your work as its executive officer and secretary entail?

When I started at the NRF in 2002 we had 400 donors and a website. We did not have a database and I was only working 20 hours a week. We now have nearly 9,000 donor records with 5,000 active records and 4 part time staff members. We are extremely active in social media and peer to peer fundraising. These new channels has enabled us to spread our message and grow with an increased national impact without increasing our workforce too much.

You’ve been at NRF for 20 years. That’s a long time in fundraising/marketing. What is the attraction? What makes it a special place to work?

The introduction of social media and peer to peer fundraising has excited me and kept me highly engaged with fundraisers. Working here is never quiet or boring every day there is something new. 

You’re highly skilled at events. What sort of events do you organise for NRF? How did you pivot during the pandemic?

Coming from an event management background I actually find events easy to organise. They just come naturally to me. We organise Gala Dinners for up to 400 people to small High Tea events and Quiz Nights. A highlight of my career was working with SA Police on Ride Like Crazy for 10 years raising funds for brain tumour research.  Our largest annual event is the City to Bay and during the pandemic we supported participants running and walking locally.

NRF is a small foundation and you’re very reliant on volunteers. How do you keep them motivated? How did you manage volunteers during the pandemic?

Our volunteers have all been impacted by neurosurgery either by having their own lives saved or a loved one. Sadly, many volunteers come to us as a result of losing a loved one to a neurosurgical condition because they want to make a difference. The cause is very personal to them so it is not difficult to motivate them. They want to actively raise funds for neurosurgical research. They can see the amazing research their fundraising is funding.

Joys and challenges of your job?

Working with our volunteers, fundraisers and donors. The great thing is linking these people with the researchers and neurosurgeons which their contributions are funding. Additionally, our research and neurosurgeons are all actively engaged in the NRF work and are active fundraisers and volunteers themselves.  For instance, at the City to Bay one of our brain tumour survivors raised close to $5,000 and at the end went to the BBQ to get her sausage. Her neurosurgeon served her and thanked her for fundraising while she thanked him for saving her life the year before. She could not believe he and his family had come and supported the team!

My greatest challenge is working with families who have lost loved ones to terrible neurosurgical conditions. However, by working with them on raising much needed funds in their memory I have seen this help families remember their loved ones and leave a lasting legacy like equipment and scholarships.

What are your hopes for NRF?

The great thing about working for the NRF is the support from the neurosurgeons and researchers and that I can connect them with donors and fundraisers at all times. It is great that the NRF is growing however I never want to lose that connection and direct line. I would like the NRF to gain public exposure and support while retaining its link to the fund recipients.

Best piece of career advice you ever received?

Unfortunately, I cannot remember the speakers name, it was a SA FIA event. The speaker encouraged us all to have a go, just do it. It may not be perfect but you can not benefit if you do not try. That is my motto – we can do that. So, this leads me onto the next question.

How does a small charity like NRF cut through the clutter to obtain funds? What have been some of your favourite campaigns to work on?

Even though we are small we do a bit of everything. Events, peer to peer, bequests, direct marketing, social media and e-appeals. I still remember vividly after a FIA seminar once again going back to the office and setting up a Facebook Page. Sitting there go wow, what now? Then we recruited our first City to Bay Team who I supported through Facebook posts and we raised $8,000. We have raised over $50,000 in one City to Bay alone and over the last 8 years we have raised more than $320,000. Social Media and peer to peer has made this possible.

In 2009, you were the first South Australian entrant to the FIA Fundraising Hall of Fame. Do you remember it?

At that time, we were a very small organisation competing with very large charities with large fundraising teams. Maurice Henderson encouraged me to enter the awards. At that time, I was still the sole staff member and it was great to win against charities who had far greater resources. Winning and running successful campaigns actually helped me with my Board for future new projects.  

And you recently became a fellow of FIA. What did that mean to you?

We all get on with our jobs and we do what we do everyday as that is our job. However even if we do not think so we really do like to be acknowledged and thanked. Over the last 20 years I have many times worked nights, weekends, while on leave and even when fighting breast cancer, myself. I did this all because I truly believe in the cause. It is however nice to be thanked and acknowledged. It has also encouraged me to reflect and appreciate how far I and the organisation have come.

What is the number one issue facing fundraising at the minute and what can FIA do to help?

There are many great causes all working in this space it is still a daily challenge to break through. I do though think that some charities are trying to raise funds for the sake of it. I fear there are charities spending nearly just as much on attracting donations as it costs them. I read with disappointment in the ACNC 7th Edition analysis of AIS from 2019, that charity assets increased by $30 billion to $354 billion. Yes, charities need to be sustainable however donors expect they are helping their causes now and not for funds to be held for future use.

I want to see more charity donations being used now on the cause and not banked for the future. People are still losing their lives, living in poverty, not getting an education and species dying out. We need to be making a greater impact right now!

You have Latvian heritage and you do a lot in the community (sit on the board of Amber Aged Care, help with the Dzintari Latvian Camp), etc. Tell us about being in touch with your heritage and why this work is important.

I have been very active in the Latvian Community. As many ethnic groups they have large and strong networks however they operate very old school. I have great skills I can share with these organisations and it is my turn to give back to a community that helped raise me and then my children.

You have stated your personal goal is “achieving life balance.” How do you do that?

I have worked part time since 1996 and continue to do so, which has enabled me to be involved in my children’s lives. Additionally, I love to travel and working part time has enabled me to continue this. Every school holidays there is a new adventure, going overseas (before COVID-19) or interstate or even if just to our favourite destination, Normanville.