Margaret Scott is the Vice President of the Board of Parkinson’s NSW – and a fundraiser through and through.
Over more than 30 years she has worked on all aspects of fundraising for disability and healthcare not-for-profits – from administering databases to organising appeals, managing teams, developing strategy, and conducting in-house fundraising training, as well as professional development for others in the field.
Margaret now works as an independent fundraising consultant and was approached to join the volunteer Board of Parkinson’s NSW because she has a deep understanding of the importance of sustainable funding for not-for-profits.
She began her career as a Salvation Army officer, working with her husband in the church and supporting disadvantaged people in society.
She later left the ministry to work for the Blue Nursing Service (now Blue Care) which was founded by the Methodist Church. Selecting roles which emphasise service to the community has been a pattern in her career.
Working with disadvantaged groups
“When we left the ministry, I didn’t want to work in the corporate area. I felt the need to find ways of continuing to work with disadvantaged groups within society,” said Margaret.
“I know that people living with Parkinson’s do not define themselves as disabled and want to maintain their independence for as long as possible – but this sector is chronically underfunded and underserviced by the Government. I therefore consider this role as also working for a disadvantaged group of people.”
Margaret’s career has included a variety of functional and management roles with Vision Australia, Cerebral Palsy Queensland, the Salvation Army and Epilepsy Queensland – as well as Board positions with the Fundraising Institute of Australia and Bloom Asia.
“I had just finished my time on one board and was looking for an opportunity to serve on another when the Parkinson’s NSW opportunity came up. I made the decision to join only after some deep conversations with the President, CEO, and staff members.
“This is important because in my career I have always enjoyed being part of teams that strategically direct the future of an organisation.”
Margaret said her first impression of Parkinson’s NSW is that it is an organisation facing many challenges, but the Board has good processes in place.
Transparency and accountability
“There is a particular emphasis on transparency and accountability. It has been a progression for the Board to come to terms with these requirements and I see opportunity to continue developing along those lines.
“The Board must protect the organisation and its constituency – and particularly work hard to develop services in a sustainable fashion,” she said.
As Margaret progressed in her career, she decided to do some university studies because she didn’t get the opportunity to do so earlier. Those studies have resulted in two Master’s degrees and she is now working on her PhD thesis.
“My area of academic interest is the relationship between the Board – particularly the Board Chair – and the CEO of an organisation,” explained Margaret. “More specifically, I am looking at the relationship between the CEO and Board that actually drives fundraising and mission.
“I’m not using Parkinson’s NSW as a case study, but since fundraising is such an important revenue stream for this organisation my academic interest and my experience in fundraising really come together here.
“I am looking at case studies of all sorts, including those that illustrate a collegial, respectful and trust-based relationship between the CEO and Board that drives fundraising and overall mission. Having a matrix of skills on the Board is also critical in order to be able to contribute to different aspects of the organisation,” she said.
When asked about the most important aspects of fundraising (perhaps the methods, database, the purpose for which funding is intended?) Margaret had a different and more fundamental answer.
Fundraising is about basic principles
“Fundraising is not just about ideas and techniques – it is about the basic principles. If people don’t understand those principles it doesn’t matter whether it is an event or digital fundraising or whatever. Those things are the frilly bits, really.
“The key principles are understanding people’s motivation for giving, understanding the messages, providing options for people who really want to give, drawing a connection with the organisation and – above all – providing trust within that relationship.
“Trust is key. In Australia, the Fundraising Institute has developed a code of conduct for members. It is all about building and maintaining trust with the organisations and individuals we work with.”
Margaret sustains her energy with daily exercise including gym sessions as well as walking and cycling. Family is also central to her life. She has four sons and 10 grandchildren with whom she enjoys staying in touch.