Business Manager Takes Plunge into NFP Sector
Friday, 24th January 2014 at 4:26 pm
After running a fundraiser for a personal cause, Ben Young was propelled into a career change that led him into the Not for Profit sector. Young is this week’s Changemaker.
“The experience taught me that a small group of people can make a significant difference in the community,” he said.
“We raised over $80,000 and my wife was able to be fitted for new everyday walking legs as well as swimming legs which greatly improved her quality of life.
“I subsequently undertook an MBA and both experiences propelled me into a career change.
“I became very interested in using my business acumen and hard work in advance of a philanthropic and community-based cause.”
Coming from a commercial career, including 10 years in senior management at a large Australian construction company, Young has bachelor degrees in Arts (Economics and Psychology) and Business Management, and a Masters of Business Administration.
He’s now the Chief Executive Officer of Shake It Up Australia Foundation – a Not for Profit organisation that promotes and funds Parkinson’s disease research in Australia – and runs a private consulting business.
What are you currently working on in your organisation?
One of our current focuses is to connect with a greater number of people in the Parkinson’s community.
Our partnership with The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and our links to the Australian research community mean that we are well placed to share relevant and accurate research news with all Australians that are affected by Parkinson’s.
Without a large marketing budget (100 per cent of all donated funds go to research) we rely on the support of others to help us reach that audience.
What drew you to the Not for Profit sector?
In 2009 I ran a campaign to fundraise for the purchase of a state of the art pair of prosthetic legs for my wife who has been an amputee since she was 18 years old.
The experience taught me that a small group of people can make a significant difference in the community.
We raised over $80,000 and my wife was able to be fitted for new every day walking legs as well as swimming legs which greatly improved her quality of life.
I subsequently undertook an MBA and both experiences propelled me into a career change.
I became very interested in using my business acumen and hard work in advance of a philanthropic and community-based cause.
How long have you been working in the Not for Profit sector?
Just over a year.
What was your first job in the Not for Profit sector?
CEO of Shake It Up Australia Foundation.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Being part of a global team that together are on the journey to find the cure for Parkinson's disease.
What has been the most challenging part of your work?
?The lack of urgency we encounter in people outside of the Parkinson's community. We overcome this by continuing to explain the prevalence and indiscriminate nature of Parkinson's. There are 100,000 Australians living with Parkinson’s and 30 new diagnoses daily. 20 per cent of these people are under 50 years of age.
What do you like best about working in your current organisation?
I work with a fun, talented and passionate team and in every task we undertake, the end game is really important. That makes the daily work very fulfilling.
I consider my greatest achievement to be …
Favourite saying …
Everything is either evolving or dissolving – nothing stays the same.
I’m always being asked …
Why did I move from the commercial to the Not for Profit sector?
What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment?
I am reading Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard and Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph.
The former because it reminds me that businesses can be run in a way that is innovative, effective and sustainable.
The latter because my wife and I welcomed our lovely son into the world five months ago and I am embracing all resources on parenting!
Through your work, what is your ultimate dream?
To be useful to the community and to create legacies that add value and will continue long after I am gone.
My greatest challenge is …
Convincing people that if we all made a relative contribution to an area we feel passionate about the world would be a much better place.
School taught me …
The importance of a good mentor.
What does a typical day for you involve?
After taking our son Rufus (and the dog) for an early morning walk it is down to business with the Foundation.
The variety of daily tasks is enormous. Our low overhead and small team approach to running Shake It Up means that I am involved in a hands on way in almost all activities.
Some of those activities include:
- liaising with researchers and The Michael J. Fox Foundation regarding new, strategic research initiatives;
- connecting Australian Parkinson’s researchers and identifying opportunities for collaboration;
- meeting with corporate partners and pro-bono supporters to gain best utilisation of their contribution and create shared value opportunities;
- preparing marketing campaigns designed to broaden the audience we are talking to;
- provide our existing supporters with the latest news and opportunities for them to get involved;
- engaging with supporters about the wonderful work they are doing in their own community to raise awareness and funds for Shake It Up;
- building relationships and collaboration opportunities with other foundations and organisations;
- providing the Shake It Up board with relevant and timely information with respect to Foundation activities and utilising their networks to achieve greater support; and
- attending and speaking at fundraising events.
What (or who) inspires you?
I continue to be inspired by my wife, Phoebe. As someone who has overcome many of her own challenges she has shown me the value of optimism and the powerful choice we all have between victim and survivor when we are faced with our own setbacks.