Katie O’Donnell’s involvement with Variety has spanned two decades since she received one of the charity's first scholarships at the age of 13.
Katie O’Donnell has been involved with the children’s charity of WA, Variety, since 1996.
She was one of four children to receive the first round of scholarships offered by the charity when she was 13 years old.
Ms O’Donnell, who has muscular dystrophy and uses an electric wheelchair to get around, received scholarships for the next five years until she was 18, which helped her pursue her passion of singing.
She joined Variety WA’s choir and took on a professional placement at the charity during her university studies before taking on a full-time position in 2003.
Now Ms O’Donnell is the Executive Manager of Variety WA.
“I’ve been involved with Variety for such a long time because it’s a cause I truly believe in,” she told Business News.
“I have been able to see first-hand the difference that the organisation makes in the lives of WA kids.”
She said the best part of working for the charity is the people and the “incredible team”.
“From our staff to our volunteers, donors, sponsors and Variety families, I get to work alongside many passionate, generous and talented individuals and businesses,” she said.
“It’s a great culture and team to be part of. We work hard, but we also laugh a lot.”
Throughout Ms O’Donnell’s long career with the charity, she has been able to grow alongside the charity and its expansion.
“I have been fortunate to have been with Variety for a number of years and seen huge growth in our programs and number of children we’re able to reach,” she said.
“Working within such a small team, I’ve also had the opportunity to be develop my career and grow with the charity, beginning my journey as an event assistant, and now holding an Executive Manager role.
“In that time, I’ve met many of the families and kids we assist, and have had the privilege of supporting and following their progression all the way into adulthood – that is the best part.”
Working for a not-for-profit is a meaningful and rewarding career path that can take someone down a number of avenues where they can make a real difference to people’s lives.
“I consider myself lucky getting to work for an organisation where you know you are making a real difference to the lives of WA kids who might otherwise miss out on much-needed support. It’s extremely rewarding,” she said.
“Like any company, you can still have your bad days, but being able to focus on the positive impact of our mission reminds us why we do what we do.”
There is a weight of responsibility that charity workers hold due to relying on public and corporate donations to survive and make an impact on the community.
“Working in the NFP sector, we rightly carry an increased responsibility for the efficient and effective use of funds to ensure people’s hard-earned donations get through to support the greatest need and the greatest number of children possible,” she explained.
One of the biggest challenges facing the not-for-profit sector at the moment is attracting and retaining staff and, more generally, a constant state of being under-resourced.
“There is an increasing understanding today that charities need to be able to invest in talent and other operational resources in order to deliver the best outcomes for the community,” she said.
“Transparency and communication are critical to ensure charities are still held accountable, but having access to the resources is needed to maximise fundraising and program delivery.”
Variety, known as the Children’s Charity of WA, provides practical support for Western Australian children across the state who are living with disability, sickness or experiencing disadvantage through the provision of equipment grants, programs, scholarships, and special experiences.
“We focus on filling the gaps and providing support where no government or other assistance is readily available,” Ms O’Donnell said.