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EVOLVING CHAIR: Campaigning After Cancer

26 February 2015 at 10:23 am
Lina Caneva
Tony McGinn OAM has used his own experience of having a son diagnosed with cancer to inspire him to change lives as the Deputy Chairman of the Children’s Cancer Centre Foundation. McGinn gives his insights into running a successful Board in this month’s Evolving Chair column.

Lina Caneva | 26 February 2015 at 10:23 am


EVOLVING CHAIR: Campaigning After Cancer
26 February 2015 at 10:23 am

Tony McGinn OAM has used his own experience of having a son diagnosed with cancer to inspire him to change lives as the Deputy Chairman of the Children’s Cancer Centre Foundation. McGinn gives his insights into running a successful Board in this month’s Evolving Chair column.

McGinn’s is the founder and Executive Chairman of MCM Entertainment Group and CEO of Movideo.

His son Ben was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in 2000 when he was three-years-old. Ben is now a healthy 18-year-old.  Six months into his son’s treatment at Monash Children’s Hospital, McGinn joined the hospital’s paediatric cancer parent support, fundraising and advocacy group, KOALA Foundation.

He was elected President in 2003 and Chairman in 2005 of KOALA Foundation. He launched The Million Dollar Lunch in 2005, a networking lunch now firmly established in Melbourne, helping to raise more than $11.4 million over the past decade for the Foundation.

Following the merger of KOALA Foundation with the Children’s Cancer Centre Foundation, McGinn now acts as Deputy Chairman of the Children’s Cancer Centre Foundation.

He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division in the Australia Day awards for service to the community, particularly through fundraising events.

What is your board’s ultimate goal?

Our ultimate goal is to cure childhood cancer – however we cannot do this alone! On a more realistic level our goal is to contribute to improving cancer treatment and diagnosis through clinical research and to fund the gaps in clinical care and family support provided by governments and clinical services, and other charities.

Does your board believe collaboration between organisations within your area is important? Why?

Our board is committed to collaboration between charities. The successful merger of KOALA Foundation and the Children’s Cancer Centre Foundation in 2012 is a good example of how charities can work together for a common cause, to ensure focused efforts without duplication and then to take a further step to fully integrate. This merger followed several years of collaboration between the charities.

Collaboration improves the odds in the battle against childhood cancer. To win this war we require new thinking in how projects are designed and funded. There are three key ways in which charities can and should work together: partnerships, mergers and collaborations. The sharing of information and resources and co-funding of high impact clinical research projects are some of the ways our foundation works with charity partners. Collaboration helps charities reduce duplication and administrative overheads, and optimise services by highlighting the gaps.

What has been the highlight of your work with this board?

The passion the individuals on this board demonstrate is so genuine. This volunteer board has no politics, as we all have a shared belief in the cause. This board is very different from commercial boards where there is less a sense of altruism.

Do you have any advice around mergers?

Mergers will only succeed if both charities are absolutely aligned. Both charities for our merger had been established and grown from parents from two paediatric hospitals whose children had been diagnosed with cancer. Whilst we had different paths, our evolution was very similar, which enabled us to have like-minded values and goals. It was logical to take a holistic view of our funding and liaison with hospitals and research institutes, and whilst it took time, we were able to find a common ground.

What is your organisation and what is the board structure?

The Children’s Cancer Centre Foundation was established in 1992, by committed parents, to improve the welfare of children and adolescents with cancer by funding clinical, research and family support programmes. The volunteer board comprises finance, legal, science and business professionals, many of whom are parents of children treated for cancer. We have a number of board committees that assist with various aspects of our work.

Is gender balance an issue for your board? Do you prioritise it?

Gender balance is important in any governing body. Our board comprises three women and four men. A good gender balance, together with a broad range of skillsets allows a diversity of contributions, which is important to meeting our goals as a charity. Four of our board members are parents of children treated for cancer so it is important to have the perspective of both fathers and mothers.

What is the biggest challenge your board has had to overcome? And how did you overcome it?

As a volunteer board with only part-time or contract staff we needed more resources to ensure our funding was going to the right projects and to ensure all the process were right. Recruiting a CEO was a big step for us both from a financial and emotional perspective, given the history since 1992 as a charity without administrative overheads driven by parents. The appointment has been enormously successful and has helped build the right framework for us to accelerate and progress our work in childhood cancer.

How can we measure the outcomes from the types of project funding we support?

Our funding is directed towards improving clinical care for children with cancer, supporting the family through treatment, and by funding clinical research to find better or kinder treatments and investigate the biology of childhood cancer. While research outcomes can be measured, it is more difficult to measure the outcome of our family support and clinical care programs. We want to know that our soft dollars are going to the right place, to know that children with cancer are given a better chance.

While feedback from the families absolutely confirms that they benefit from funding of for example art therapy or music therapy, or that our funding of clinical trials gave their child another treatment option, we don’t have empirical data, which is so often requested by trusts and foundations on grant applications.

Want to contribute to the Evolving Chair Column? Email us at

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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