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Running a charity like a business ... A case study

16 June 2010 at 12:43 pm
Irina Bourova
SPONSORED FEATURE | A tightening economy is hitting charities hard, so Kidney Health Australia has turned to expanding its onshore call centre and offering its services to other charities as well as businesses.

Irina Bourova | 16 June 2010 at 12:43 pm


Running a charity like a business ... A case study
16 June 2010 at 12:43 pm

A tightening economy is hitting charities hard, so Kidney Health Australia has turned to expanding its onshore call centre and offering its services to other charities as well as businesses.

Derek Finch, the Head of Customer Operations for Kidney Health Australia, explains:

There are many worthy causes to support and charities do a fantastic job in providing services and support to those the system misses. Animal shelters, counselling services, food services, overseas aid and medical research are just a few that benefit from the thousands of Not for Profit organisations who raise money or provide volunteers. 
However these organisations only exist because of public and corporate support. Very few receive little or any government funding and Charities need to raise money through individual or business donations. Its also a very crowed area and if it were not for the fantastic support of fellow Australians many would not be able to carry out their excellent work.
With the charitable dollar being so tight, charities are becoming more sophisticated in their techniques to raise funds and there is a growing number that provide commercial services with the profits generated going back to supplement the donated income, like op shops, mail house services or gardening etc. The secret is to find something an organisation can support easily either through the organisation or by building on an in-house service it can offer to others.
Some charities provide services that employ their client group so that they can offer them an income whilst generating money to support this activity. Bedford Industries for example operate horticultural services, manufacture furniture or run a packaging service.
Kidney Health Australia (KHA) has operated a fund raising call centre for over 16 years. By selling lottery tickets and obtaining donations it has been the revenue foundation to support the organisations focus the reduce kidney disease and urinary tract infection in Australia. Considering that 1 in 7 Australian adults over the age of 25 years has chronic kidney disease it’s sad that it is not a high priority health issue for the government so KHA tries to assist with the detection, prevention and treatment.  With nearly 10,000 people on dialysis (accounting for nearly a million hospitalisations a year and 1.7% of the entire health budget) it’s no small task.
KHA has a loyal band of supporters – often friends or relatives of those that suffer from kidney disease – and a range of corporate supporters. However the organisation is diversifying its income sources by earning money and not just holding out its hand for donations. It has developed two innovative businesses that reflect a proactive approach
By using the technology and intellectual property it has in operating its own call centre, KHA has created SolutionK – a separate business unit that provides outsourced call centre services, providing a valuable business service to the Corporate and the SME market as well as other charities. Having a successful call centre raising money through donations and lotteries already it needed to diversify fundraising to avoid putting all its eggs in one basket. It therefore opened its doors to take on other peoples call centre work. 
From outbound sales, lead generation and customer follow, up to inbound sales and service enquiries, it utilises its capacity, skills and technology to provide these services to others who are too small to set up their own or want short term solutions to get access to the service without the investment.
This has started well and so far, with a number of iconic local companies already utilising the service as well other charities and some small businesses. For example Great Southern Rail uses it for outbound work, Australian Childhood Foundation for fundraising and Hills Industries for their inbound customer service line.
Normally, to employ a professional call centre you have to go to one of the big outsourcing firms. However they will only work on large contracts and tend to charge higher costs (they have heavy technology investment). If you have a small or medium size job you often have to rely on small organisations that either don’t have the technology or the experience. Solution K is able to deal with the smaller contracts professionally because it already has an existing call centre and its easy add extra seats without difficulty.
The concept of a charity running a revenue generating initiative offers business leaders a great opportunity to have corporate responsibility AND get the job done at no extra cost. Because KHA is a reputable national charity there isn’t the worry of dealing with a fly by night organisation either. It has already invested in phone systems, diallers and databases, already employs experienced people in these areas and therefore have taken a core activity and been able to expand this into a service for external contracting to allow business to shed non-core activity to a professional service provider. 
The second area KHA have delved into with commercial success is telecommunications. Strange you might think in an already crowded market place of telephone connection reselling. But here again the innovative approach places KHA apart by setting up KHA Comms.
By pricing the mobile, home and internet rates very competitively it places itself as a real economic alternative in the market place. It then offers the customer the chance to support a charity whilst not incurring any additional (and in some cases less) cost. That alone is a big incentive to many who see this as a chance to support a charity financially but at no cost to themselves. However, KHA Comms has structured some of the payment plans so that part of the payment is actually a donation. In doing so it means the customer can claim this as a tax deduction – in other words they actually get money back as well!
The offer to customers is compelling. Free months credit or a new handset, competitive pricing, helping charity AND tax allowances – the only question is why more people haven’t taken up the offer yet! Again using its existing call centre (here in Australia and not overseas) it offers a real commercially viable product with many benefits.
The current economic climate is improving but is still not great. It is vital therefore that charities diversify their income to help protect themselves and more importantly those they seek to serve – often the most vulnerable in society. Some will find new ways to raise donations, some will commence a new business and some, like KHA will build around an existing infrastructure that can offer the service to others at a fraction of the cost that it would cost them.
Solution K is a good example of modern charity fundraising. There is still a big place in traditional methods – after all, look how Australia opened its hearts and wallets to the bushfire victims. But now is the time to get creative to reduce the dependency on traditional methods.
To find out how your organisation can use the services of Kidney Health Australia, please see their profile in the Source Guide, or visit
Derek Finch is Head of Customer Operations for Kidney Health Australia and has 16 years experience in Call Centre Management and an elected Director and Vice Chair of the ATA (the Australian call centre peak body).

Irina Bourova  |  Administrator  |  @ProBonoNews


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One comment

  • Anonymous says:

    I am creating handmade book marks and wish to donate the procedes to women suffering domestic violence…in particular housing.

    Any advice is greatly appreciated!


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