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For love or money

For love or money

After nearly 25 years, my time at Mater has drawn to a close. I have had the privilege of leading Mater’s work in philanthropy and fundraising over that time, and I’m proud to say that we have accomplished a lot to advance healthcare, and to support our community in many ways.

We owe so much to the generosity of our supporters, people and organisations who support Mater through a wide range of fundraising activities. Some have supported Mater over many decades, and for some, their support is measured across generations. It really is quite extraordinary.Nigel-Harris-450-x-450.jpg

In my time at Mater this wonderful group of people have contributed over $750 million, through lotteries, community events, donations and grants. Words alone don’t do justice to the gratitude that I—and all of us at Mater—feel in reflecting on this overwhelming level of support.

It would be easy to focus on the money. I would suggest that misses the point.

What the money enables is important. Very important. Why the money is given is even more so.

Put simply, it’s about love. Not romantic love. Something more than that. It talks to the fundamental definition of philanthropy. For the love of people. The love that drives the desire to give and serve voluntarily, for the good of our community.

As I reflect on my time at Mater, it is the people that dominate my thoughts. The people who give, the people who care, the people who are cared for, the people I have worked with. There are far too many to name, although I would love to! It would be the least I could do to say, “thank you”.

There is however, one person I do want to mention. She was the one who called me to Mater. She has been my constant, a point of reference, a mentor, and most of all, a dear friend. I am talking about Sister Angela Mary. A person synonymous with Mater. Someone whose love of Mater—and of people—knows no bounds.

When she led Mater, Sister Angela Mary had to show a steely pragmatism when it came to money. It was critical in getting things done. But then, and since, the most important thing was love.

Twelve years ago, I was given the opportunity to do a Mercy pilgrimage in Dublin. To follow the footsteps of Catherine McAuley and come to know her story, and her work as founder of the Sisters of Mercy.

Catherine’s story captivated me. A woman of great faith, a servant leader and a practical visionary—she was strong, courageous and vulnerable in ways that truly mark authentic leadership.

I was particularly drawn to Catherine’s philanthropy and her fundraising capability, exercised nearly 200 years ago!

Here was another story of pragmatism when it came to money. Giving, raising and using it to meet the greatest unmet community needs.

In 1838, Catherine wrote to Father James Maher saying,

“Although I should be simple as a dove, I must also be prudent as a Serpent; and since there is very little good can be accomplished or evil avoided without the aid of money—we must look after it in small, as well as great, matters.”

Money clearly mattered to Catherine—for the good it could do, and the evil it could avoid. Clearly, love mattered even more!

When we talk of philanthropy and of fundraising, we inevitably talk about money. It is understandable. These terms have become inextricably linked to money.

However, in doing so, we miss something more important. Why people give, and why what happens—because what is given matters most. And the answer, in the simplest terms, is love. Love of people expressed through service and giving for the common good.

As I conclude my time at Mater, working in philanthropy and fundraising, I want to leave behind an important message about this work.

It’s about love. It always has been. Money is a means to an end. And at the end is love. That’s what truly matters.

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