Meet Matthew Higgins, your new State Manager for QLD!
Matthew will be joining our team of State Managers from Monday 20 November.
Learn more about Matthew as he shares excitement to foster positive change in Queensland’s arts fundraising community.
What attracted you to the role of State Manager Development and Partnerships?
A few years ago, I was introduced to the Japanese concept of ikigai. This concept centres on finding purpose and meaning in life and work, with four key elements: what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. This position allows me to merge my passion for the arts, partnership and development skills, and firm belief in the transformative power of creativity to shape our identities and foster social improvement.
The sunshine state holds a very dear place in my heart. I grew up in regional Queensland and have lived in Townsville / Gurambilbarra for the past three years. I studied at Queensland University of Technology and started my career in Brisbane / Meanjin.
Queensland boasts tremendous potential, with the fastest-growing population in Australia, a distinct distribution of communities in regional areas (particularly in contrast to the highly urbanised Australian landscape), as well as the significant opportunities presented by Brisbane 2032. Against this backdrop, Queensland offers some of the most fertile ground in the country to demonstrate the power of arts, culture, and creativity to transform communities, while also closing the access and participation divide between metro and regional Australia. This will only be possible by growing Queensland’s share of private sector support and building the fundraising capability of our artists and arts organisations.
Creative Australia is undergoing its own transformation, and Revive marks a turning point towards a whole of sector approach that places the arts at the heart of our nation. I like to dance on the precipice of change, and I’m thrilled to be joining the team.
You’ve worked across different artforms and in different parts of the world/country. Tell us a bit about you and how your experience has formed your professional approach.
I have spent my career exploring the dynamic relationship between business and creativity. With over a decade of experience in performing arts, festivals, major events, and community-engaged practice; my skillset spans philanthropy, partnerships, marketing, producing, multi-arts programming, strategic investment and more.
Versatility and adaptability are some key advantages of pursuing a broad or diversified career path like mine. From contemporary dance to classical music, from community events for 80,000 to immersive experiences for 20, and from gala dinners in Sydney to one-on-one donor coffees in rural Queensland – my background spans various artforms, regions, and roles. Being exposed to cross-functional experiences has really enhanced my creative problem solving.
Various roles across Queensland and New South Wales have provided me a strong understanding of the value of the arts. This has deepened through my participation in an international arts leadership program, focused on festivals in the aftermath of conflict and within contested spaces. My approach is also informed by my involvement in community-building initiatives and advisory committees that align with my passion for social justice, equity, and inclusion.
As a State Manager Development and Partnerships part of your role is providing one-on-one coaching and advice to artists and organisations. What aspects of your experience will support this service?
My development and partnerships roles have encompassed a wide range of responsibilities, such as growing philanthropy programs, managing multi-year sponsorships, securing government grants, overseeing cultural partnerships, leading volunteers, and administering government investments. With a history of nurturing private sector support for arts and culture, I have managed prospect pipelines to cultivate and steward relationships, from identification to renewal. As I provide coaching and advice, I also draw upon my past experiences developing cases for support and fundraising strategies that achieve results and foster internal cultural transformations.
Through my experiences working with organisations ranging in size, both in metropolitan and regional contexts, I have developed a strong understanding of the practical opportunities and challenges that exist within various operating environments. My experiences as a Peer Assessor and my involvement on the Queensland Development Collective’s Organising Committee have deepened my understanding of the sector in Queensland.
I am acutely aware that my own professional growth has been possible thanks to the guidance and support of mentors, coaches, and leaders who invested in me. This has taught me the importance of meeting individuals where they are and the value of continuous learning. I believe empathy, reciprocity, and collaboration are essential in providing tailored coaching and advice to artists and arts organisations.
What is your one piece of advice to artists and arts organisations who are looking to increase the level of diversity of support they receive from the private sector?
Relationships are a key driver of fundraising success. Remember that nurturing strong internal relationships is a critical foundation for establishing connections with new private sector supporters. To elevate overall performance and foster integrated fundraising leadership teams, it’s important to evaluate the effectiveness of your current fundraising communication processes within your Board and team. The sense of purpose you create will be the catalyst for realising your ambition and making a real impact.
What are you looking forward to most about your new role?
I am very eager to expand our community of arts fundraisers in Queensland and deepen engagement with regional and remote artists and arts organisations. What excites me the most is the potential for those ‘aha’ moments that boost confidence, drive positive change, and have a profound and lasting impact on the arts community.