Thank You Thursday: Partnerships creating better health outcomes in Tonga

The island nation of Tonga consists approximately 150 beautiful islands, of which 36 are populated with 120,000 residents. Every year Tonga celebrates its National Day on November 4th. As one of our Pacific neighbours, there are numerous Australian-based charities that work to support people and communities in Tonga and other Pacific nations.

One such organisation is international health charity, Rocketship.

Stories from our Scholars

Here are what some of the Fish Scholars had to say about their experience:

2019 Winner: Bridget Staude
Teach Learn Grow

I completed the FIA Fundraising Essentials course online in late 2019.  The course was a well-presented, comprehensive introduction to the world of fundraising which was very helpful for someone like me who is new to the industry. This has given me more confidence to plan our fundraising strategies moving forward, and more ideas for how we could diversify our efforts.

I would recommend this Scholarship to others in the sector working in small organisations.

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2017 Winner: Mandy Linsey
Smiles for Me

Mandy with a patient

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to attend the fundraising course through the Fish Scholarship. My background is in nursing and environmental health so fundraising was definitely not in my skill set.

As a nurse in the operating theatre I became involved with a team that went to the Philippines to perform surgery on children with cleft lips and cleft palates. It’s an amazing experience seeing all the kids come to the clinic and seeing how much such a simple procedure can change their lives. Myself and the team just love helping the kids. Seeing them return to you and watching them grow and thrive, knowing you helped in some tiny way is the best feeling in the world.

Sadly, we lost our friend and lost our funding in 2016 but wanted to keep going to the Philippines so we decided to form our own charity and Smile for Me was born. To make it work we needed to learn lots of new skills. Luckily, we were not afraid of hard work and got to work setting up the charity and organising our first surgical mission as Smile for Me. Somehow I ended up being in charge of fundraising, building a website and managing our social pages. Some ideas worked, other didn’t and we learned from our mistakes along the way. As a small organisation run only by volunteers who all work full time and have other commitments, it’s hard work and you have to make sure you utilise your efforts effectively.

Undertaking this course is an amazing opportunity that has helped me enormously. Before I was managing to raise money but there was no structure, it was a bit haphazard and we didn’t have a database. I have learned so much through the FIA Essentials Course and can put in place procedures and strategies to help build our organisation so that it continues to grow and be able to support our surgical missions in the Philippines.

With the lessons learned at the course I can apply these to ensure that our organisation is sustainable and can help as many kids as possible. There is an endless supply of children who can’t access the surgery without help from external organisations. I’m proud of how far we have come in a year but am excited by how much further we can go with the new skills I have learned.

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2016 Winner: Rachael Zaltron
SA Backpacks for Kids, Founder

Photo courtesy of The Leader Messenger

Backpacks 4 SA Kids was lucky enough to be the 2016 recipient for the Fish Community Solutions scholarship to attend a Fundraising Institute full day course learning about the integral parts of fundraising from the legalities to how to fundraise effectively for our charity.

I attended the course thinking this would be a fantastic opportunity to reinforce the current plans put into action within our charity and quickly realised I was going to learning all new techniques on the way to run a charity fundraising program, how to develop that program to promote growth and development both within the fundraising/donation sector and as a result, strengthen our charity as a whole.

I walked away from this education session invigorated, full of new ideas and promises for a really bright future with a stronger foundation to build on for Backpacks 4 SA Kids. The result of this course and our affiliation with Fish Community Solution is the opportunity to ensure longevity for our charity and as a result provide more backpacks and support for vulnerable kids within South Australia. We sincerely would like to thank Fish Community Solutions for gifting us with this opportunity.

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2015 Winner: Neal Taylor
Holy Fools, CEO

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Courtesy of the 2015 Fish Scholarship, I had the privilege to attend the Fundraising Institute of Australia’s Fundraising Essentials one day workshop, August 2015 for the charity I am CEO of, Holy Fools Inc. Having stumbled along with learning about fundraising from the web, others and several books (most of which seemed US-centric), I was eager to mix with other fundraisers, in a workshop about Australian fundraising issues.

It was great to arrive and meet the other participants, and even more interesting to go around the room and hear where everyone was from. I seemed to be the only one from an organisation (Holy Fools) that still raised funds from sausage sizzles! Others were from larger charities and organisations with multi-million dollar fundraising budgets, who ran events and had fundraising to a fine art. However, everyone attending was there to learn the essential basics, regardless of the organisation they belonged to!

The workshop was lead by Ms Susanne Williamson, a member of the FIA and the fundraising leader at the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. Utilising her own stories, and those of others, Ms Williamson lead the session through a workbook that covered topics such as Fundraising & Philanthropy in Australia; Law and Order; Motivations, Methods and More; Tools of the Trade; Your People; Where to From Here?; and Where to go for Help.

Thank you to Bianca and the team from Fish Community Solutions for the opportunity to attend the workshop! It was certainly an eye-opener and opportunity to discover some new fundraising ideas, concepts and pathways for my own fundraising that have certainly helped since the one day workshop. Much of what I have learnt has formed the basis for our fundraising strategy for the coming months and years. It has also shown I have more to learn!

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2014 Winner: Chantelle Baxterchantelle-baxter
One Girl, Co Founder and CEO

It was my first ever fundraising training session. Despite the fact that I’ve been fundraising for almost 5 years now, I’d never once had any formal training. I was nervous but excited about what was in store.

Over the course of the day, we covered a variety of topics – but there were a few key takeaways for me that stood out as the three key things that were going to drastically change at One Girl.

Get a Donor Database
Our teacher said “the money is in your database” – the best fundraisers use their database wisely. I was a little shocked – we don’t even HAVE a database! We’ve got mailing lists that we use on an ad hoc basis, but we aren’t keeping track of who has donated what, how much they’ve donated over time – NONE OF IT! That changed as soon as I got back into the office. We’re now in the midst of creating our own donor database so we can start tracking the people that have donated to us and moving them up the fundraising pyramid.

The 80/20 Rule – 80% on your current donors, 20% on acquisition
As an organization, we spend almost ALL of our time on recruiting new donors, fundraisers, ambassadors and supporters. We’ve put very little energy into nurturing the donors we currently have, beyond a couple of emails and a personalised video if they’ve done an amazing job. In this course I discovered that not only is acquisition expensive, but you’ll find that you can drastically increase your income by nurturing the supporters you ALREADY have. In 2015, we’re now spending 80% of our time loving up our current supporters and just 20% of our time focused on finding new people. And as they say – if you delight the believers, they’ll find the new donors for you!

Move people up the fundraising pyramid
I also learnt that we need to provide new opportunities for people to give. At the moment we focus quite heavily on peer to peer fundraising, but we need to have a supporter channel that we can move people through. Perhaps they give a one off donation, then they come to a gala, then they become a monthly supporter. We need to create channels and opportunities for people to engage with us. Diversifying our income stream and having more product offerings is another big focus for this year.

Overall, the FIA Essentials course was fantastic. It covered not only some basic theory of fundraising, but I took away some very important actions that I could see would make a big difference to our current operations. I’m very grateful for the scholarship and I have no doubt it will have a huge impact on our fundraising this year! Thanks so much to Fish Community Solutions for the opportunity. You guys rock!

Thank You Thursday: Hands with Heart

In 2004, a young man named Mat Bowtell was studying mechatronics at Chiba University in Japan.  It was here that he tried a bionic arm and learned that the arm had cost US$1m to make.  Mat was impressed with the technology but it was the high price that made him sit up and take note. That was when the seed was planted for the idea of a charity that would be founded more than a decade later.

Fast forward some years and Mat had gained a position as an engineer at Toyota.  It was in his spare time, and still having his fascination for prostheses that his unusual hobby began.  He’d started making prosthetic hands using 3D printers, and of course when the 3D printers boom took off, he set about getting that exorbitant price-tag down.

In 2017 when Toyota made redundancies, 36-year-old Mat made the decision to change the course of his career. Even though he had many offers of lucrative jobs, his passion became his motivation and he began creating prosthetic limbs for people in need around the world… for free! It was then that Free 3D Hands was born, an Australian charity that designs, manufactures and provides assistive devices to anyone with upper limb differences.

1 in 10,000 children are born without bones in their fingers a syndrome called symbrachydactyly, most of those children have no choice but to go without. Due to the cost of prosthetic arms, and the fact that children grow out of them very quickly, funding can be very difficult, particularly in less developed countries.

“We dream of a world where everyone has equal access to devices that will improve their quality of life – because that is the way it should be,” says Mat.

At Free 3D Hands, designs and ideas are shared with specialists collaborating with these prosthetics to make a difference and support to all people with a need.  By using 3D printing techniques to manufacture custom devices at a fraction of the cost, there has been potential to eliminate lead-time and costs associated with traditional manufacturing techniques.

Mat and the dedicated team of volunteers – including his wife and their children – work out of a warehouse on Phillip Island.  By coming together these volunteers are making a vast difference to the lives of many children worldwide.

During the COVID-19 pandemic Mat had also re-purposed more than a dozen of his 3D printers to manufacture face shields.  These are being provided for free in-line with the charity’s constitution, as additional PPE for those who still continue to work in areas such as aged care, hospitals, clinics and emergency services.

This Thank You Thursday, we give a huge shout out to Mat for his generosity and passion, and to the team at Free 3D Hands for their enthusiasm and motivation to really creating hands with heart.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick

Thank You Thursday: A Fearless Advocate

This month we acknowledge and celebrate the birthday of a very brave young lady. Malala Yousafzai. I’m sure you remember the publicity that surrounded her when she was shot for attending school.

In Pakistan, the birth of a baby girl isn’t always applauded, but Malala’s father being a teacher was determined to give his daughter every opportunity to learn as if she were a boy. However, in 2008 the Taliban took full control of the village where they lived and it was ruled that no girl was to attend school.

Malala spoke out on behalf of girls and their rights to be educated. On her way home from school in October 2012 a masked gunman boarded her bus and shot her three times on the left side of her head. The gallant driver put his foot to the pedal and the gunman escaped.

Malala was in a very bad way and woke up 10 days later in a hospital in England. Here, with specialist surgery and rehab, she began to recover. And when she did, she became a fearless advocate.

With the help of her father, Ziauddin, Malala established the Malala Fund in 2013 – a charity dedicated giving girls an opportunity to achieve what she chooses for herself.