NFP Leader Masters the Balancing Act
Monday, 19th May 2014 at 10:53 am
Being good at juggling many different roles is what Melanie Tate, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Puddle Jumpers, owes her success to. Tate is this week’s Changemaker.
Tate started Puddle Jumpers in 2012, a Not for Profit committed to responding to the social development needs of society's most vulnerable children and young people – its priority is reserved for children who do not live with their birth parents.
Tate’s no stranger to the Not for Profit sector – she has spent her entire working career in the Not for Profit sector in a variety of roles over 17 years.
Her first job was at 18, working for a childcare charity that provided care for children from birth to school.
Now with Puddle Jumpers, she’s working on a variety of projects including fundraising through a family Magic Show Event, project managing the final work on the organisation’s new renovation of its offices, carpark, tiles, and fences – a major overhaul on the entire site with a $0 budget.
In 2013, Tate was a finalist for the National Westpac Community Leaders Awards in the Start Up – Not For Profit Executive category.
What drew you to the Not for Profit sector?
I have always wanted to be able to use my life to help others, working in the NFP Sector is the best way I can see to do this. Hopefully I am able to help others in some way.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
By far the most rewarding part of my work is being able to make a difference in people’s lives. I’m lucky in my current role I get to assist volunteers and inspire them to make a difference while at the same time work with children and families in need and bring smiles and hopefully help bring about change in their lives.
What has been the most challenging part of your work?
The most challenging part of my work is the changing roles/tasks that I need to do.
I need to wear many hats – such as Volunteer Coordinator, Project Manager, Logistics and Activity Coordinator, Child Protection Officer, Manager, Finance Officer, Client Intake & Assessment, Fundraiser, Board Member and probably the most important role Mentor (for both Children and Volunteers).
How I overcome that really is by being good at juggling, and by having good time management skills as well as having a great team of people who can help you fulfil the myriad of tasks that have to be completed!
In terms of your work sitting on a Not for Profit board, what would you say is the key to an effective NFP board?
I think it’s important for a NFP Board to be flexible, adaptable and to get along well.
By getting along well I don’t mean agreeing on everything – but being able to have a healthy debate in a friendly way.
I also think it’s really important to be proactive and not wait for things that need urgent attention but ways that as a Board collectively you can assist driving the organisation into a positive future position wherever that might be!
What do you like best about working in your current organisation?
I like that at Puddle Jumpers is the uncomplicated place in which we grew from.
We are not attached or affiliated with any political parties, religious groups or other social actions, we are about and for Children in Need – it starts and ends with that, which makes decisions about the organisation, it’s recipients and its actions easier, as it always comes back to whether it’s the best thing for children.
I consider my greatest achievement to be …
On a personal level, I am a mum and without a doubt my two greatest accomplishments so far in my life are my two sons.
I am extremely lucky that my sons are involved in the charity and have always been involved in this kind of work with me.
The difference it has made in their lives makes me a very proud mum. I see that my sons get awards at school for leading and implementing programs such as my six-year-old developing and getting children to form “the rubbish club” where he and several children spend some lunch times, cleaning up the school purely because it’s the right thing to do.
More than this example our boys are friends with children of all ages and backgrounds and can very happily play with the most popular of children as well as always looking out for the kids that sit on the outsides and bringing them in.
It’s worth noting I would be just as proud of my boys if they didn’t do these things; but for me knowing that as parents we have the power to help develop children into the sorts of human beings that can change the world it brings home more the need for all children to have positive role models in their lives.
On a professional level, I’m extremely proud of my achievements. In 2013, I was a finalist for the National Westpac Community Leaders Awards (in the Start Up – Not For Profit Executive category). However, I am most proud that I have started and am now running a children’s charity for filling an unmet need for children. It has seen me sacrifice a lot to get it up and running; not only financially, but also physically and emotionally.
Favourite saying …
Everyone can make a difference in someone’s life.
I’m always being asked …
Whether I have any time for sleep!
What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment?
A whole heap of children’s books – with very active boys (seven years old and five years old) we certainly enjoy our nightly ritual of reading stories before bed every night – even on camps (we do it with all the children then too)!
Through your work, what is your ultimate dream?
I would love for all children to have happy, healthy childhoods – I know this can be perhaps seen as unrealistic or a utopia way of looking at it.
But we have to have big dreams… if we can change a whole lot of children’s lives and break cycles for these children when they grow up the messages can be passed on, they themselves ideally become better parents and carers or they become volunteers inspiring other children and so forth.
My greatest challenge is …
Constant Fundraising/grant seeking to continue to provide services while we develop our social enterprise and self-funding model.
School taught me …
That even kids who are labelled as ‘naughty’ or are struggling can do ok if they have someone that believes in them!
What does a typical day for you involve?
I’m a mum, and I juggle full-time care of the boys as well as running of the charity so there really isn’t a typical day at all… but it might look something like this on one of the days…
7-7.30am wake up, shower, breakfast;
7.30-8am get both boys dressed, hair brushed;
8.15-9.15am drop both boys off at school;
9.30am – start the day at Puddle Jumpers (emails, social media management, phone calls, meetings, volunteers, fundraising, whatever the day throws at you!);
3-3.30pm pick up both boys from school;
3.45pm boys settled, then onto more Puddle Jumpers work till 5.30pm;
5.30pm Both boys homework including guitar (this has been fun as I don’t play a musical instrument and have had to learn some guitar strings in order to help Mr 7 learn!), cook dinner, put washing on, baths, dinner for the family (this one is really important – we all sit together and ask each other the best part and the worst parts of our days);
7.30pm put both boys to bed with story time;
8pm turn back on the computer and work more on Puddle Jumpers things – it’s most active time to engage young volunteers through Facebook at this time! I also will still get phone calls from volunteers (and even clients/families) up until about 9.30pm. I can finish work anywhere from 9.30pm through till midnight depending on what deadlines I have.
What (or who) inspires you?
I am inspired by the businesses, volunteers, supporters and people that have helped me achieve as much as we have in such a short time.
I’m most inspired by the children we work with that for them some of their hardest things in life could never compare with what I have had to sacrifice to make services for them happen.
I am proud that some of the children I have worked with have gone on to complete university degrees, gained full time employment, to have happy healthy relationships (on a recent camp I had 11 volunteers that I have worked with when they themselves were disadvantaged youth, a true testament to how much impact our services is having on children) and for me that makes everything worth it.
Where do you feel your passion for good came from?
My passion definitely came from my Mum, as I grew up I watched her try to make the world a better place, particularly with children and families.
I’m really lucky to have my Mum as a support of Puddle Jumpers.
My mum has helped from the beginning and attends every camp she can – she’s a much loved part of what we do!