Fundraiser brings Pacific Rim expertise to Canada

publication date: Aug 1, 2013

The World Giving Index 2012 rated Australia as the most generous country in the world, with Ireland and Canada placing second and third. Reponses to worldwide Gallup polls showed that more Australians had given money, volunteered or helped a stranger in the past month than in any other country.

That’s not surprising, says Karen Van Sacker, a Canadian who will soon return home from Australia to head the new Vancouver office of Global Philanthropic. “The principles [of philanthropy] are all the same. People give for the same reasons.”

Van Sacker left Canada on a one-year exchange plan. But, lured by the chance to work with diverse donors and manage cultural change within situations she describes as “less philanthropically developed” where major gifts are concerned, she stayed in Australia for 12 years.

There, she found universities with no tradition of embracing their alumni community as potential donors, a poor understanding of the role of leadership in fundraising, and no culture of asking. She describes her role as “bringing leaders on an uncomfortable journey,” a challenge she clearly relishes

Her efforts, as well as the work of many other fundraisers have borne fruit – in the past ten years, Van Sacker has seen more wealthy people pledging big gifts. That arises, she says, as Australian fundraisers look to North America for both fundraising expertise and donors interested in supporting international development in the Pacific Rim.

How to reconcile the developmental state of major gifts fundraising with the rank of Australia as most generous in the world? Charities Aid Foundation Australia CEO Lisa Grinham sheds some light in the study:

“The start to 2011 was tragic for many Australians, with the floods in Queensland and Victoria. This was followed by the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand and tsunami in Japan. Australians are very generous when it comes to helping each other and our close neighbours in times of disaster, so it’s not surprising that we have topped the 2012 World Giving Index.”

That observation aligns with Van Sacker, who notes Australia’s success at raising large sums of money through many small gifts – the most common response to disaster appeals.

Van Sacker lands in Canada August 30 and is looking forward to being introduced with Global Philanthropic in Vancouver September 17 and Victoria September 19.

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