Director, Chief Big Gifts, Xponential
“I knew Arthur Venn in the early stages of my fundraising career,” says Craige Gravestein. “He was an absolute dynamo who basically got things done. It’s not only prestigious in terms of the profession but it’s also humbling from a personal perspective as well, because he truly was one of the giants of our profession in Australia.”
One of those things that Arthur got done was, of course, spearheading the establishment an industry body that would eventually become the FIA. In his illustrious career, Craige has also got a lot of things done. He is the co-founder of Xponential, Australia’s leading major gifts fundraising consultancy.
“I’m a big gifts fundraiser. So we’re looking at, first of all, does somebody have the capacity to give a big gift? And if they do, can we make any kind of linkage with the cause? Because if we can, then it’s a process of being able to join the two of them together. And that’s what I do,” says Craige, underplaying his role in raising $166 million for clients — and that’s just in the past decade.
Those clients include Brisbane Lions, Ronald McDonald House (in QLD and NSW), Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Ridley College, Church Mission Society, Salvation Army North Queensland, Hunter Medical Research Institute, PA Research Foundation, Mercy Ships Australia and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. His work with Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation won FIA Most Outstanding Fundraising Project in 2013. He’s also worked with smaller clients such as Solar Buddies, Destiny Rescue, RM Begg Kyneton Aged Care, and Bondi Surf Club.
“I think the people that make a difference in fundraising are those for whom the not-for-profit sector is already part of their DNA, part of their culture, and that would be evidenced by
fundraisers who are also serial volunteers for different causes,” says Craige. “I think the people that make the best fundraisers are largely those who are also engaged with other causes, who have a passion for other causes, because that translates into how they understand their donors and how they interact with them,” he says. Craig is one of those people. Since 2009 he’s been the driving force behind the fundraising, via Anglican churches in Brisbane, for the war-affected Archbishop Ngalamu Theological College in South Sudan.
And like Arthur before him, Craige is dedicated to giving back to the profession he loves. Craige has contributed significantly to the fundraising body of knowledge in Australia, particularly around major gifts. He shares his insight at sector conferences and events and he is active in the FIA (he’s been on the FIA QLD committee since 2004 and other members benefit from his willingness to share his expertise, his insight and his French pastries — Craige owns two patisseries).
For Craige, the next generation is the key to innovation, but need the key of experience to unlock the door to new paths. So put the two together and great things can happen. “You get to a point within our fundraising profession where you have developed your skills and expertise and you want to pass that on, because the minute you pass it on, you see the next generation turn around and do something with it that you never even dreamed possible. The things that I learned from Arthur Venn, for instance, you’d never do them the same way today, but I was able to stand on his shoulders and develop some of the tools and the processes that we have today.”
Craige was “floored” to receive the 2023 Arthur Venn Lifetime Achievement Award but he is reticent to use the word ‘winner’. “I think receiving the lifetime achievement award is about honouring the profession and all of those of my generation who have given so much — I’m just simply the pick at the time. So, I see myself very much as a representative.”