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Leveraging Business for Not for Profit Benefit

26 March 2014 at 9:52 am
Staff Reporter
Whether as part of a CSR strategy, to formalise a company’s pro bono charter, or to encourage a spirit of giving among staff, many Australian companies are looking to establish Not for Profit arms and create positive social change.

Staff Reporter | 26 March 2014 at 9:52 am


Leveraging Business for Not for Profit Benefit
26 March 2014 at 9:52 am

Whether as part of a CSR strategy, to formalise a company’s pro bono charter, or to encourage a spirit of giving among staff, many Australian companies are looking to establish Not for Profit arms and create positive social change.

Indi Kindi advocate Miriam Charlie with Ros Moriarty.

Whether SMEs with companion Not for Profits through to multinationals with corporate foundations, defining and maximising the relationship between interlinked business and Not for Profit ventures can reap rewards on all fronts.

Australian Indigenous art, strategy and communications company The Jumbana Group, developed a companion Not for Profit in 2010 to deliver community programs in remote Australia.

The Nangala Project aims to relieve poverty and disadvantage amongst Australian Indigenous children and their families.

Jumbana, now in its 31st year, has an extensive client list including Qantas, Nespresso, Football Federation Australia, U2, IBM, Sydney Opera House, and Village Roadshow.

A customer base to bolster philanthropic support for Nangala has proved a benefit in terms of leveraging support but a challenge with the risks such a move poses.

Pro Bono Australia News spoke to Jumbana Founder Ros Morairty to explore the business-Not for Profit relationship and advice for corporates looking to make a foray into the Not for Profit world.

Tailor structure and personnel to purpose

Businesses moving into the Not for Profit space should acknowledge the unique needs of the Not for Profit arm and the issues surrounding the problem it tackles.

“We’re not a huge business, so we’ve started with a pilot,” she says. “We are a model suited well to a small or medium-sized business.

“For us the challenge has been looking at creating a self-sustaining model.”

Larger businesses may be able to reach scale quicker, initiate more strands of activity, and sustain a more structured way of operating.

“Be clear about what the goals of your Not for Profit are and whether it will be scalable or finite,” Moriarty says.

With a small business, a model based on listening and responding has worked well for Moriarty.

This organic state also lends itself to responsiveness to change, based on feedback from the local communities affected by the Nagala Project.

“It needs to be driven…for us it’s always locally-based and responsive to services needed,” she says.

“We think carefully about how we can allow those responses from the local community.”

Through her business, Moriarty has been “deeply enmeshed” in Indigenous culture for years. However, in many cases, people entering into charitable work may be unfamiliar with the state of disadvantage affecting the beneficiaries of that work.

Moriarty suggests implementing in-depth training programs to ensure that programs consider cultural, geographic, and other sensitivities.

“It’s a real challenge,” she says.

“It’s about a knowledge base, we orientate everybody we take in. People need to cultivate a high level of sensitivity … we’re very intensive with that.”

Consider principles of good business management

Glenys Thompson, Indi Kindi Co-ordinator, with a swap book delivery.

Moriarty suggests applying business principles of tight management, efficiency and accountability to any new organisation.

“With any new Not for Profit it’s really about being clear on purpose and being clear on timelines," she says.

“We have detailed and integrated data and planning.

“We are very focused on measuring the outputs and outcomes that come out the other end. From day one we’ve been really focused on outputs and outcomes.”

Using money from government and foundations adds an extra level of accountability to financials, she says, so budgets should be well-planned and watertight.  

Moriarty also recommends looking for opportunities to improve management and attract funding by looking to examples on a larger scale, such as corporate foundations.

“We’re in very close contact. Their advice to us is invaluable,” she says.  “We’re a microcosm of what they’re doing at a much larger scale.

“It’s crucial for it to be financially very clear and have outcomes measured.

“Most foundations have a very clear charter. To know who those funders are and what their priorities are is key.

“Keeping it very clear allows funders to see if your vision matches theirs.”

Leverage your business where appropriate

Clarity around the role of the partner business and priorities is key.

A separate Not for Profit arm was the preferred direction for Moriarty as opposed to a social enterprise due to the need to maintain the stability of the business.

“For us the business came first," she says.

“Our business supports a number of employees so it’s important that the business be commercially successful.

“Linking the core of your business to what your Not for Profit does is quite a streamlined way to operate. It generates energy in the Not for Profit.

“A business reputation is a positive. I think the fact we have a business and have been a success provides some confidence for our funders.

“There’s less learning. I think there’s great logic in being able to say as a business owner ‘these are the energies and successes we can offer.”

Having a client-facing business also provides a wealth of opportunities to generate support for Nangala. However, there is also risk.

“For us, the business allows us to connect – not just us, but also the clients," she says.

“We’re client-based, and it’s about how we enrich those relationships. There’s a great deal of trust involved and when you have that trust there’s the possibility of introducing the opportunity to become involved in a Not for Profit initiative.

“Your business reputation and your personal reputation is on the line.”

Global brand Nespresso is a business client of Jumbana, whose Balarinji Studio creates art walls made of coffee capsules for Nespresso's nationwide boutiques. An art licence fee from those artworks is donated by Nespresso to Nangala.

Additionally, Nespresso staff individually purchase and donate more than 150 books and cases of art materials to the Not for Profit each year.  

Despite the risk, Moriarty is in little doubt about the value of her Not for Profit experiment for the company.

“It enriches staff culture and outcomes for the company,” she says.  

“People really engage – they take that inspiration with them back to their workplaces.

“That’s where businesses and Not for Profits can really work together.”

Staff Reporter  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

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