Lisa Allan

Head of Fundraising, 
The Smith Family

“I am 100% honoured and humbled by this award and recognition, thank you! Fundraisers truly are my tribe — respected peers who exude and revel in a passion and commitment to building a stronger, better world together, each giving our all to the beneficiaries we care so deeply for. You are all so inspiring!” says Lisa when we asked her how it felt to win the FIA Fundraiser of the Year. 

“Lisa’s uncommon ability to combine sophisticated marketing expertise and best practice fundraising principles is second to none, and the results speak for themselves,” says The Smith Family CEO, Doug Taylor.

And those results are impressive. Over the past five years, Lisa Allan has led fundraising growth at The Smith Family by around 130% (and that doesn’t even include bequests). Individual giving has grown by 106%, regular giving by $142% and single giving by 124%. In FY22 alone, Lisa and her team exceeded their $73.6 million fundraising target by 12% to deliver an additional $8.7 million. This growth from $35.6 million in FY17 to $82.2 million in FY22 set a new benchmark for The Smith Family but also happened during a period when 40% of recently benchmarked charities saw no growth at all.

I believe there is always a way forward, it just might not be what we’ve been planning for or expecting.

The Smith Family supports young Australians to overcome educational inequality caused by poverty. Despite difficult economic times for many Australians, Lisa’s team have recruited almost 12,000 new sponsorships and ended FY22 with over 85,000 individual sponsorships to support over 58,000 students — that’s 2000 more than target. 

There are many other outstanding results driven by a deep commitment to The Smith Family’s donors and an ethos that champions research, an agile approach and robust data analysis. But of course, you can’t get such stellar results without a high-performing team, and Lisa is pivotal in creating a culture that enables them to thrive.

“As a leader Lisa is resilient and strategic, with an intuitive understanding of how to connect her team to the mission. She clearly distils complex ideas into clear and actionable goals and can establish and communicate priorities to ensure maximum impact,” says Doug.

Lisa’s impact goes beyond her own organisation. She’s on the FIA Board and frequently shares her knowledge at conferences and by mentoring and supporting her peers and colleagues. And last year Lisa was an F&P Mover & Shaker.

We asked Lisa a few questions to learn more about our Fundraiser of the Year.

Tell us about a work highlight or two from the past year.

Obviously, this award! I was honestly so humbled and excited to be recognised in this way and taking on the role as Head of Fundraising last April after leading the mass marketing team for over five years. I’ve been at The Smith Family for over 15 years now; it’s such a great organisation! I’ve have had a variety of roles in the fundraising team, so now to lead such a wonderful group of professionals as we look to grow our reach and impact is a privilege and honour.

What do you think is an underrated quality of a great fundraiser?

Resilience dosed with optimism. We roll with whatever is thrown at us from the board, boss, team member, donor, the external environment — the list goes on! — and work with it. Our job is making it into the best damn thing possible for our supporter and organisation.

What is one thing you struggle with and how do you deal with it (even fundraisers of the year are human!)?

I’m always up for a challenge — that goes back to my first job as a firefighter [two years with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection]. I believe there’s always a way forward, it just might not be what we’ve been planning for or expecting. I work with some very talented team members who invest so much into their work, so managing their response when things don’t go to plan is always tricky. I just ground those conversations in the fact we have tried our best, our intentions are always good and we’ve learned something, whilst recognising we have little control of the external environment or market fluctuations. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be so rewarding!  

What’s one thing you’d love to see happen in FY24?

I’d love to see the Productivity Commission Inquiry [announced earlier this year to analyse motivations for philanthropic giving in Australia and identify opportunities to increase giving] result in some real and supportive change for our sector, so we can double our fundraising by 2030! Imagine how wonderful that would be! It’s exciting to think of the opportunities and evolutions that will happen in the industry over the next few years to make that possible.