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Helping Those Who Help

5 April 2018 at 9:22 am
Applications are now open for The Growth Project, an innovative professional development program for charity and business leaders.

Contributor | 5 April 2018 at 9:22 am


Helping Those Who Help
5 April 2018 at 9:22 am

Applications are now open for The Growth Project, an innovative professional development program for charity and business leaders.

Founded in January 2015, by Larry Fingleson and Peter Baines OAM, The Growth Project brings together charity and business leaders for a 12-month program of formal sessions covering personal and professional development.

After seeing Peter present on leadership and purpose following his experiences leading response teams for the Bali bombings (2002) and tsunami in Southeast Asia (2004), Larry was inspired to draw on what he had learnt over the years working with small and large organisations and work with Peter to help the leaders of Australian emerging charities build successful, sustainable organisations.

Together Peter and Larry created a program that aims to positively impact 100 charities and 100 business leaders over a five-year period.

“When we started The Growth Project in 2015 we set out with a very deliberate aim – to invest in the leadership of the not-for-profit sector. We are now moving into the fourth year of the program and we are continually inspired by the impact the program is having and the engagement of all the participants,“ Larry said.

At the start of each program, the charity leader is matched with a business leader. The business leader attends each of the eight sessions with the charity leader, sharing ideas and knowledge throughout the course. 

Two business people having a conversation

“What we noticed early on is, although we initially set The Growth Project up to benefit the charities involved, the business leaders were learning as much as the charity leaders from each of the sessions and ensuing discussions – and there is such a wonderful camaraderie and collaboration amongst the groups,” Larry added.

The eight sessions cover a range of topics designed to help drive efficiencies and effectiveness within the charity, such as building networks, financial acumen and governance, and storytelling.

Carole Schlessinger from Kids Giving Back, an inaugural charity participant in The Growth Project in 2015, described it as an opportunity to access professional guidance to help move the charity she ran to the next level.

People talking round a table

“When I heard about The Growth Project I was immediately interested and quick to apply. Kids Giving Back had been around for two years then and we were very much a ‘Mum and Pop’ operation,” Carole said.

“The Growth Project was fantastic for us in lots of different ways. We were extremely lucky to have had an excellent business leader who was very hands on – meeting with us every week and helping us with pitches. He was also a valuable observer on our board.

“As a young charity everything presented at each of the different sessions provided great learning for us. There were also lots of opportunities outside of the actual sessions – such as networking with the other charities and business leaders.”

Whilst benefiting the charity, there is also a leadership development opportunity for the business leader who is challenged to draw on and develop their own influencing skills by helping to create outcomes with limited resources. These experiences can then be applied back into their own workplace. 

People having team discussion

According to David Farr, managing director of Asset Finance at CommBank and graduate of the Growth Project in 2015, the grassroots experience offered by The Growth Project gave him a better understanding of the challenges faced by those in the for-purpose sector.

“Being a leader in a large corporate in Australia there is no shortage of advisors, coaches and mentors who you can rely upon to help navigate the complexities of your role and the ambiguities these present daily. There is also no shortage of high quality education in the form of courses and seminars, which are available,” David said.

“Contrast this with those in the NFP sector. As a rule funding is scarce and barely enough to cover the base running costs, some also rely on donations of goods and services to ensure the financial viability of the business in order to deliver on their core purpose. Discretionary funds available for the development of their leaders are simply non-existent.”

He said his biggest learning was the power of words when you are in that trusted position.

“A simple encouragement, a constructive and balanced test of thinking or a real world example from a different setting could fundamentally change the course of that leader’s thinking – and given their proximity to the front line services could have an immediate effect on the sustainability of that cause you are supporting. It is this intrinsic value that is impossible to measure but is the real purpose of the business leader’s role in The Growth Project,” David added.

There is no cost for the charities to be involved in The Growth Project.

And according to founder Larry, the benefits of the program are living on way past the last session, the graduation event.

“We have committed to a series of alumni activities so that both charity and business leaders can stay connected with those in their cohort and those before or after them. To have access to this network post the formal course, it is a wonderful resource for all involved,” Larry said.

Applications for The Growth Project 2018/19 are now open! To register your interest (either business or charity), please visit

Applications are open to charities in Melbourne and Sydney and close on 6 July 2018. The 2018/19 course will start September 2018.

For more information, please visit

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