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Guide dogs business venture set to shake up traditional charity model


13 May 2019 at 4:11 pm
Maggie Coggan
A dog-friendly cafe, a vet clinic, a teaching centre, and a doggy daycare centre could set Guide Dogs Victoria up for independent financial success, and create a new precedent for how charities are run in the future.


Maggie Coggan | 13 May 2019 at 4:11 pm


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Guide dogs business venture set to shake up traditional charity model
13 May 2019 at 4:11 pm

A dog-friendly cafe, a vet clinic, a teaching centre, and a doggy daycare centre could set Guide Dogs Victoria up for independent financial success, and create a new precedent for how charities are run in the future.

The plan for the commercial hub, to be run by the charity as a social enterprise, was backed on Saturday by Labor, who pledged $2 million to the project if voted to power in the 18 May federal election.

The funding promise will be a welcome boost to Guide Dogs Victoria’s (GDV) $23 million fundraising campaign to build a new campus for clients at its Melbourne centre.

The dog-friendly cafe, vet clinic, dog daycare and teaching centre are all part of the rebuild and will be open for broader use by the community.   

Karen Hayes, the GDV CEO, told Pro Bono News the profit-making venture would hopefully shift the charity’s reliance on government funding and grants, to a more independent and sustainable model.  

“The fact is that access to government and philanthropic funding is getting more and more difficult, and my personal view is that NFPs need to have a really good look at their business models, to look at how they build more sustainability and predictability into their organisations,” she said.

“What we’re doing with the GDV business will set a whole new standard for not for profits to see how it can be done.”  

The redesign of the GDV centre will include a “sensory campus”, using special lighting, smells, braille and a range of tactile features to create a space that people with low vision or blindness can easily get around in.

It will offer a low-vision clinic, residential accommodation for GDV clients to develop independent living skills, a community education hub and a dog training precinct.

 Hayes said that when finished, the campus would be a place that focused on the ability of people with a disability as opposed to the disability itself.  

“The brief to our architects was if you’ve only got one sense you need to be able to find your way around this site, which is quite a challenging brief from anybody’s perspective, regardless of whether they have a disability or not,” Hayes said.  

“But it will mean that it is fully accessible for everybody to be able to navigate it independently.”  

She said that Guide Dogs organisations around the nation were also looking at ways to improve learning and training opportunities for people with vision loss and vision impairment.  

“There are certainly different things that we’re doing in each of the states that will create these sensory environments to not only support people with vision loss but also educate the rest of the community,” she said.   


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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