Indiana Jones was her role model growing up and her fundraiser career reflects her intrepid spirit, Liz Henderson finds.

Indiana Jones was her role model growing up and her fundraiser career reflects her intrepid spirit, Liz Henderson finds.

Gwen Green

Former colleagues describe Gwen Green as a bold leader. While the 42-year-old hasn’t quite followed in the footsteps of Indiana Jones, her role model growing up in England, her adventurousness and energy have shaped her fundraising career.

Starting at around age five, “from school fêtes to sponsored walks and runs, I was always raising funds for something,” she says. “The defining moment was when I took part in an overseas challenge, trekking across the Sinai Desert in Egypt raising funds for Scope, the UK disability charity. My nephew had received a lot of support from them as a child and it seemed a great way of giving back. I decided then that was how I wanted to earn a living.”

Green’s CV reflects her passion for the challenges and rewards of developing new initiatives and enacting change. As senior events marketing officer from 2001 to 2004 at Mind, she started its running events program that now ranks among the UK’s strongest, and introduced community fundraising at the Spinal Injuries Association as its head of fundraising from 2008 to 2009.

A new adventure called – literally – in 2013 when a New Zealand recruitment agency phoned inviting Green to apply for the role of Oxfam New Zealand’s engagement director. At the time, she was head of fundraising for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) for London & the East of England – an area with three times the population of New Zealand. She jumped at the chance, but wondered how her experience would transfer to the different market.

Under Green’s leadership her team has increased media exposure by 65% and net fundraising income by 50%, helped by diversifying income streams. Specifically, growth strategies have been developed for major giving and corporate fundraising, which broke annual income records in 2014. The organisation also opened an in-house call centre it uses for cost-effective and flexible event recruitment, donor upgrades and prospect follow-up. The key “has been getting the right people on side,” Green says. In particular trust was built with the charity’s board of trustees and the finance director through quick wins such as the growth of direct mail income from outsourcing.

Also “she’s been making a great contribution to our international fundraising work,” says Andrew Barton, Oxfam International’s associate director of international income development, who serves alongside Green on several committees across the global Oxfam confederation. “When we went around the world of Oxfam to see where some of the great examples of best practice were,” he adds, “quite a few were in New Zealand.”

Liz Henderson is editor of Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine.