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Posted on January 13, 2023. Interview Series.

Pegasus, Riding for the Disabled ACT is one of Canberra’s oldest local charities, and it takes great pride in delivering therapeutic horse facilitated programs and activities to people with a disability in Canberra and the local region. In June last year Jo Kennedy applied for a scholarship and attended the FIA Conference 2022 in Sydney. Today we asked her to share her story with us – how she became a fundraiser, what her responsibilities are, what challenges she faces and what plans she has for the future.


How long have you worked with Pegasus, Riding for the Disabled, ACT and what are your major responsibilities?

I’ve worked for Pegasus as the Fundraising and Event Coordinator for just over 15 months (and volunteered with Pegasus in the program delivery side for three years before that). As we are a very small not-for-profit (with the equivalent of 5 FTE , approximately 150 volunteers and 16 wonderful ponies) my role encompasses a lot of variety. I am the only fundraising staff and I work in a part-time capacity. While my overarching major responsibility is ‘Fundraising’ for our organisation, this includes:

  • working closely with our CEO to engage, foster and support the relationships between Pegasus and our donors, whether they are a major sponsor, donor, or individual buying raffle tickets at an event.
  • drafting our appeals (Tax and Christmas) and now grant applications.
  • coordinating our major annual fundraising events (Pegasus Charity Golf Day, Pegasus Charity Race Day, Pegasus Open Day) from seeking sponsorship, finding keynote speakers, sourcing auction/raffle prizes, sending invitations, submitting dietary requirements and guest experience; and
  • managing and coordinating fundraising volunteers at these and other events through the year.
What is your professional background and what motivated you to become a fundraiser/ transition to the NFP sector?

I’m a very accidental fundraiser. I was previously a public servant working in policy for 16 years and made a lifestyle change to give more support to my youngest son diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and who was about to navigate school.

While in kindergarten he had a golden opportunity to participate in the program at Pegasus to learn to ride a horse! After visiting Pegasus and watching him ride, I was struck by how absolutely amazing this service is and how confident he was with all the support given (participants may have two side walkers and a leader for their pony plus the coach and sometimes an assistant coach).  In 2019 I started volunteering as a side walker (an emotional and physical support for the rider with disability, as required) and loved working with the participants in this role. I volunteered a few days a week and found it so inspiring to see what the kids could achieve working with the horses. As my son was thriving in school, I thought it might an opportunity to look for work. Matt Watson, Pegasus CEO, offered me a couple of hours paid work in ‘fundraising’. I had no idea what that encompassed, but I said a big YES.

When I first started, I found a podcast by the Fundraising Institute of Australia (FIA) and this really gave me an overview of the fundraising landscape. It also gave me a heads up to how many other fundraisers there are working in diverse roles in this industry. This is how I found out about the FIA conference and then NGO’s sponsorship of a conference scholarship for one lucky not for profit in each state/territory.

You won the NGO Recruitment scholarship to attend the FIA Conference in 2022. What were some of the highlights of the event for you? What effect did the Conference have on your role going forward?

For us at Pegasus, Riding for the Disabled ACT, fundraising equals delivering our unique horse facilitated therapy and directly improving the lives of our wonderful participants with disability. We can do great things within a small organisation with the right skill set. Attending the FIA conference can expose attendees to hundreds of new ideas and ways to think about and deliver initiatives, and it expanded my fundraising skill set. Being able to participate in the conference and hear from so many diverse fundraising organisations, has had a long-term positive impact on me and my role here at Pegasus.

Highlights for me were being able to select the type of workshop to attend in each segment, so you could choose small/large organisations or specific fundraising projects etc.  I was able to meet and speak with fundraisers in other small not-for-profits, this is an unparalleled opportunity with so many from the fundraising sector attending and willing to share their stories. The conference is a chance to hear about the successes, failures, and learnings of other like organisations so we can utilise and shape that information as it might apply to us. It is less about being in competition for fundraising dollars, more about collaboration so that everyone can benefit. The keynote speakers (in 2022 included Samantha Bloom opening and Stan Grant closing the conference), really gave an emotional reminder of the ‘why’ to working in fundraising.

Another major bonus to come from attending the conference and being a member of FIA is that I applied to work with a mentor, and have been meeting with them (Kate Eddy, CARE Australia) for a couple of months. Their willingness to share over 22 years knowledge in the fundraising sector has had a huge impact on my journey in fundraising already.

What were your major achievement in 2022? What challenges have you faced?

In 2022, we had a wonderful charity golf day, ran a successful radio campaign culminating in a live broadcast and donations, a huge Pegasus Charity Race Day with the most guests we have had to date, and a successful grant application that will see 100+ of our volunteers given formal disability training. We reached our fundraising targets in 2022 and have begun to seek opportunities for in-kind donations that will also support the amazing work that Pegasus can do i.e., a staff team building day from one of our partner organisations will be delivered in January 2023.

What are your plans and priorities for the next 12 months?

In 2023, we are planning to take a more strategic approach to fundraising looking at the costs and efforts involved with our fundraising initiatives and their financial returns. Some fundraising events might be fun to run, but we must focus on what gives us best financial returns to fund our wonderful programs. I will be representing fundraising at our board periodically with a view to our 50th anniversary year.

Thanks again to NGO Recruitment for your support through the FIA conference scholarship in 2022.