Advancement profiles: Thanuri Welaratne

29 November 2018

What is your role at ANU Advancement?

My role is to interact with people who give to the University and say thank you – I think of it as professional thanksgiving! I also look after the thank you events for the donor community. I look after event logistics and liaising with different areas across the University to make sure that it all comes together. Our events are primarily about making sure that donors feel they are part of the ANU community and that we express our thanks for what their contributions have meant. Each event is different and attracts different types of donors, from retirees to families with kids.

Could you tell us about the Celebration of Giving?

The Celebration of Giving is our annual thank you event at the end of the year to celebrate the difference that giving makes. We also include students in the event as it’s a personal reminder about how donors have helped that year. Having that personal connection is something that we as a team really try to bring forward. For donors it’s not so much about the money as it is about knowing that they’ve made a difference. Even if you’re not a researcher or a brilliant mind, you can still support those brilliant minds.

This year’s event will be at the Drill Hall Gallery, so we can showcase one of the landmark gifts of the year from ANU alumnus Craig Edwards. It’s the largest donation of Indigenous art to an Australian University and includes 124 Western Desert paintings from his personal collection. It’ll be wonderful to be in the same room as all these incredible Indigenous artworks.

What do you appreciate most about people who donate to the ANU?

I value how diverse our donors are; it’s not just people who have lots of money. Often when we think of philanthropy we think about really rich people, but even people who give a small amount regularly are amazing because they are making a small change that builds up to an incredible change.

Donors are people from all walks of life and there are so many interesting reasons that people give back. People like Emeritus Professor Hans Bachor and his wife Connie who came to ANU from Germany without much support and now want to make the value of education something that is accessible to everyone. Through the Bachor Undergraduate Science Scholarship they support equity for people who are disadvantaged and deserve a chance to make their world better.

Hearing about the desire to help people who might not have had the chance to come to University otherwise is a recurring theme. It’s been so rewarding for me to hear about the personal connections between the donor and why they donate: there’s a human story behind that financial gift. That’s what resonates with me and has been so rewarding.

What future developments at ANU Advancement are you most excited about?

I’m excited that with the arrival of the new Vice-President (Advancement) we’ll be able to grow our area, reach more people and impact more lives. That’s really exciting to me as the more students that we can get to go to university, the better. My parents always told me that education is the greatest gift so that really resonates with me and makes me proud to be part of this work.

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