I’m currently 23 and am originally from Sydney but now call Melbourne home due to work commitments. At present, I’m in my 4th year of Business and Psychology at Macquarie but have deferred my studies for the past year due to some incredible opportunities that have come my way working in the not-for-profit sector. I currently hold the position of Partnership Coordinator and Program Facilitator at the Foundation for Young Australians, additionally I hold the position of Partnership Coordinator at UN Youth Victoria, Director of Innovation at Kids in Philanthropy and am Founder of a program called Change the Game.
I chose to enter the not-for-profit world as a way to avoid the traditional path of studying, entering the workforce and eventually struggling with the question of meaningful work. Our generation right now are in a unique position where we no longer have to choose between “doing good financially” or “doing good socially” but in fact can do both. There has been a complete shift of attitude in young people where no longer is it enough to just be successful but rather it’s of importance to make a significant difference in this world (check out the stories behind Thank You Water, Movember, Who Gives A Crap just to name a few).
It is worth clarifying that a not-for-profit is by no means a charity, nor does it not make any money (e.g. World Vision fundraised $271 million alone last year). Not-for-profit organisations simple re-invest the wealth they accumulate back into the business to continue maximising social impact.
On my studies
I’m currently studying Business and Psychology at Macquarie Uni. Technically, I’m in my 4th year but due to a number of work opportunities down in Melbourne I’ve deferred for the past year. The plan is to resume my studies second half of 2014 – so it looks like I’ll be there a little longer yet! (I promise Mum!)
I can certainly tell you that the majority of my learning or ‘study’ has come from working in the ‘real world’. By showing you are eager to learn, resilient, respectful, driven and not afraid of being in over your head has by far been my greatest education. It really is sink or swim if you don’t act quickly and smartly but equally you will be rewarded if you are capable – especially if you are young.
I interned at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) which provided an amazing network of motivated, intellectually stimulating people who certainly shaped the path that I am on now – it was also a fantastic contribution to my resume. Interning/volunteering is something that I cannot recommend highly enough, especially from a wide variety of sources as this will provide experience that at the time you may think irrelevant but will come in handy later in life – it will also differentiate you from your competition.
On Macquarie University, Sydney
On my time at Macquarie- to be perfectly honest, I didn’t get into Macquarie University lifestyle at all. For someone that regards themselves as being a social person Macquarie just didn’t appeal to me. I had an extensive friend network through my schooling, sport, traveling and working life and I honestly – and very naively – felt university was more of an obligation than a privilege – a perspective which has certainly shifted in recent times.
I chose Macquarie for two main reasons, it was renowned as having a very strong psychology unit and purely for convenience as it was significantly closer than commuting to Sydney Uni each day. My choice to do a double degree meant that I would do two subjects of business and two of psychology per semester…which sometimes proved difficult when I had to switch between different sides of the brain! These subjects get more specific as you progress through your course and you chose what is of particular interest or relevance to your studies.
On what I wish I had known in first year
I wish I had understood the importance of interning prior to Uni. This would have given more context to my subject choices and I would have a deeper understanding of what I liked and didn’t like could tailor my degree accordingly. Also, don’t pretend your stats subject doesn’t exist until the last week of semester and then try and learn all of the content – get a tutor if you are struggling it’s definitely worth it!
The Foundation for Young Australians and landing my grad position
The Foundation for Young Australians operates almost as if a hybrid between a not-for-profit and a corporate. This means that we source funding from big corporates, government, trust/foundations and government to deliver our programs or events – what differentiates FYA from other NFP’s is that we sit on an invested corpus of $50m with the interest assisting operation expenses with the support of over 50 partners. What makes FYA really unique is that we look at empowering young Australians through a POSITIVE framework opposed to many not-for-profits that are ‘cause’ based.
It’s a little bit of a crazy story as to how I landed my grad position as Partnership Coordinator. Whilst working at the NCIE I met a guy who changed my world – you know one of those people where you think how can I be you – and he told me he worked for FYA. I researched the organisation and had a chat to my mum who coincidently had heard the CEO speak a week prior (Jan Owen AM – Westpac and Financial Review ‘Women of Influence’ award winner). I touched based with FYA, flew down for an interview which went well, came back to Sydney and travelled South America for 3 months, landed in Sydney in for 5 days then flew down to Melbourne to start my internship. The internship was 9-5pm Monday to Friday and unpaid, so I worked a bar job a few nights a week to cover my life expenses…it was a hectic 6 months!
The internship was through a program called Immerse where you essentially tailor what you want to get out of the experience. I was interested in getting business development experience and learning to facilitate programs. Within a week I was in the Northern Territory helping facilitate a program called Impact, aimed at getting young Indigenous Australians to finish schooling and go onto further studies (97% of participants do, compared to national average of <40%). After 6 months of my internship I was lucky enough to be offered both a position of Partnership Coordinator and Facilitator…and I suggested back to them what if I could do both!
What I do as Partnership Coordinator at FYA
My role as Partnership Coordinator means I am responsible for overseeing, developing and implementing all FYA partnerships and their ongoing relationship management – we have over 50 partners including Shell, Samsung, Qantas and the Federal Government. I also facilitate an extensive range of workshops focusing on skills and knowledge directly related to Indigenous leadership, sparking social change, student-centred learning, enterprise skills, wellbeing and student transitions as required by young people, schools and communities.
In a volunteering capacity I work at UN Youth Victoria, I am responsible for sourcing sponsorship funding for a number of state and national summits to ensure the longevity and success of UN Youth Australia across the country. At Kids in Philanthropy, I work in business development and also facilitate programs around philanthropy and social entrepreneurship for kids between 5-15 years. KIP is about kids raising money for other kids in need and we have raised an incredible $165,000 in just 18 months.
I founded Change the Game to tackle the epidemic of depression facing young men. Change the Game is a program designed to use the social skills that sport offers to provide a structured transition for boys into manhood. The program is designed to build a sense of identity within young men and the positions they hold in their communities so that they can transition their leadership skills off the sporting field.
On getting into philanthropy
I have had the pleasure and privilege of growing up in a family environment across multiple generations that has supported the philanthropic sector in a multitude of ways, in particular through the Wallace Foundation, which focused on funding causes related to Indigenous communities in Australia, the South Pacific and South Africa and more recently the middle east; Kids in Philanthropy which supports programs for children at risk in the western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne and Indigo Express Foundation which funds Indigenous Literacy. Through these programs I have been exposed to the values and ideals that philanthropy offers but not always have I been so passionate about the sector.
It took a mass of rugby injuries (including a broken leg – that took 6 operations, a metal rod, 4 screws, two blood transfusions, two skin grafts and being 30 minutes away from death, sydesmosis and a pin in my ankle, two shoulder operations and a knee reconstruction) for me to realise that I was not in fact going to be a professional rugby player (took me a while…)! So instead, I decided to look what I had around me – a very philanthropic and entrepreneurial family – and shift my energy and dedication into something a little more meaningful and haven’t looked back since.
How to get into philanthropy
Knowledge about and of best practice in philanthropy is growing at an impressive rate. There is a lot of negative connotations around the word, most people thinking it means rich old man giving money but in fact it means for the love of humanity. As that is a little lame, I tend to explain is as strategic giving – whether its time, resources, knowledge or money – for the greater good.
There is a huge market for potential job opportunities in the philanthropic and NFP sector, you only need to look as far as World Vision, Oxfam, Myer and Fairfax Family Foundations or even Philanthropy Australia and apply for an internship or job opportunity. Pro Bono News circulates job opportunities every week – so if you’re interested get on it!
Is obtaining paid roles in these organisations difficult?
It depends on the role/organisation you are going for, if you are capable and have the appropriate experience then I’m sure it wouldn’t be. But if you are looking for an intern position, simply going out of your way to actively express your interest would be the best option – going for a coffee with the interviewer before the actual interview would be a great start, as you build rapport and show your interest right away.
A snapshot of a day in the life in my role
I’m very fortunate to work in both business development and facilitate programs we run. FYA is an incredible place so a typical day could alternate between running an entrepreneur incubator program in central Victoria, helping facilitate our Indigenous leadership program in the NT, meeting with high profile clients to discuss potential funding opportunities or even speaking at events in the youth/philanthropic space.