A three month sabbatical in 1998 gave founder Karen Mahlab the time to plan the next stage in her work/ life journey. After running a successful publishing company for ten years, she felt that the actual process of business for the sake of profit no longer inspired her.
An invitation to deliver a speech on “balance” forced her to “think”. At that time there were incredible changes in technology and in particular the growth of the Internet.
In 2000 Karen created a new organisation, Pro Bono Australia, a combination of technology, community and making a difference. She called it “a social purpose business venture”. At that time there was little else like it.
She transferred the flagship publication, “The Guide to Giving”, from her publishing company (the Mahlab Group) to Pro Bono Australia giving it an immediate revenue stream.
In 2013 Pro Bono Australia became one of the first B Corps in Australia and part of a growing International family of companies whose purpose is to do good whilst being financially successful in order to be sustainable.
In 2015 Pro Bono Australia attracted one million unique users for the first time – a significant and substantial milestone when you consider that Australia has a population of only 23 million people. In the same year, Karen Mahlab was recognised by the Australian Government and became a Member of the Order of Australia. (So she’s now got fancy letters after her name).
Today Pro Bono Australia is focused on continuing to deliver products and services to support organisations in the social sector through refinement of existing products, diversification of revenue streams and a shift in culture towards one of innovation driven by curiosity and the desire to do good.
Pro Bono Australia has always been at the frontline of change – some years more than others, but that’s where we see ourselves staying.
What guides us
Pro Bono Australia was established to support organisations in and around the social sector. By using new technology we help them deliver more effectively and efficiently.
Our internal culture strives to be one based on tolerance and kindness, of curiosity and learning, fairness and collaboration, trust and communication, recognition and transparency.
We report, broadcast, connect, enable and advocate for the social sector, driving an increase in philanthropy and community engagement
At our core is the belief that a robust and engaged civil society is of utmost importance, and that the organisations making this a reality are supported, encouraged and given a voice.
Philosophically, we are guided by the belief that an equitable society is one that we want to live in, and that gross inequality creates discontent.
We are guided by a belief that it’s our duty to show our humanity and to see that of others beyond colour, disability, culture, religion, gender, race and any other thing that prevents us seeing/understanding the person.
We are guided by a belief that we are part of a greater whole, that is our planet and our universe, and that we affect it as it affects us.
We represent ourselves
Pro Bono Australia does not claim to represent the sector. We engage broadly with those in the sector, investigating and examining varying opinions, raising concerns and voicing issues, that are often not aired by the mainstream media.
Collaboration is at the heart of how we work. We have established a credible, trusted voice, a voice that responds to the issues and questions the sector raises through our research, surveys, website and various social media channels.
Through our services we provide detailed information about the agendas and concerns of the sector, delivering relevant information about what is going on at local, state, national and international levels.
We are independent of government funding and generate our income independently through our many channels to market.
See here for our latest “State of the Sector” Survey.
Our partners, collaborators and supporters
We pride ourselves on the broad and collaborative activities we undertake each year with dozens of Australian organisations.
Government: ACNC, DSS
Corporate: Westpac, CPA Australia, Ernst and Young, HLB Mann Judd, Grant Thornton
Other partners: B Lab/B Corp, Social Traders, Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network, Good pitch, Walkley Foundation
Sector Supporters: Community Council for Australia, Philanthropy Australia, Social Traders, Volunteering Australia, Volunteering Victoria, Australian, Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, Australian Centre for Social Services, Settlement Services International, CBAA, Fundraising Institute of Australia (FIA), Human Rights Arts and Film Festival (HRAFF), International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE), Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ACCSR),Centre for Social Impact, Associations Forum.
Our purpose: Activating Good Intentions
Our mission: To dedicate our time, energy and resources to support and enable the growth of an engaged and effective civil society.
Our values: engagement, collaboration, diligence, connection, integrity, curiosity, learning, initiative, diversity.
Our main objectives
1. To support the growth of the social economy
2. To help organisations and people connect and gain knowledge to grow the Social Economy
3. Strengthen Pro Bono Australia’s capacity to provide leadership and support for the Social Economy
Pro Bono Australia cradles the social sector which sits within the global economy. The social economy is a space where economics is at the service of social ends not the other way around.
How do we engage other industries?
As we straddle the business and social economy ourselves (being a social enterprise), we believe that cross sectoral, non-silo thinking is essential – as difficult as that may be at times. Collaboration is at the heart of everything we do. To this end, we advise other sectors and industries and encourage them to become engaged in the social economy. We have a strong reputation for facilitating open and collaborative relationships by working with businesses and organisations small and large, corporate, social, government, metropolitan, regional and everyone in between.
What does interacting with PBA mean for sector organisations and business more broadly?
Today Pro Bono Australia acts as the central online hub for the Not for Profit sector, the broader social economy and those wanting to engage with it. By interacting with us you can be sure that you will be aligned with an organisation that cares about making a positive difference and who will listen and help you do what you do better.