WHEN Perth-based not-for-profit Sports Challenge Australia was established in 1992, founder Garry Tester soon discovered the “onerous” nature of relying solely on government funding.
Sports Challenge uses sports to assist at-risk children and adolescents embrace positive involvement with their peers, family, school and the community.
In the first two years of operation, the organisation received $123,000 from Healthway to run a pilot program with six schools to gauge the effect of an experiential mentoring program upon identified at-risk students.
While the program proved successful, with 15 schools involved in its third year, Healthway pulled funding because of the non-recurrent nature of the scheme.
The state government provided some funding to offset infrastructure costs and various programs for most of the next decade but, in 2002, widespread funding cuts from government across all sectors were keenly felt in the not-for-profit sector.
“We were faced with desperate schools wanting programs and a new [funding] model had to be developed,” Dr Tester told WA Business News.
“With the change of governments, different philosophies and directions occur which allows no certainty for not for profits relying on government support.
“You also have the problem of bureaucrats changing frequently. With the change of government after building bona fides over time, new people come in who have no idea what your organisation does and you have to start all over again.”
Instead of being reliant on the state or federal governments for short-term support (two to three years at a time) with little certainty, the executive team decided to change the organisation’s funding model in order to be self-sustainable.
In 2005, Sports Challenge launched its corporate training arm, Australian Corporate Challenge, as a means of generating consistent cash flow to provide certainty for infrastructure costs and be able to deliver programs.
To establish Australian Corporate Challenge, the organisation began to build relationships with the corporate sector in a bid to trial small pilot programs.
“All programs were world-first built from the ground up with objective measures, experiential learning methods, highly motivational and empowering and based on sound research,” Dr Tester said.
The organisation began cold calling businesses, sending emails and letters to organisations such as Singapore Airlines, Audi Centre Perth, JH Computer Services, St George Foundation, Tenix Engineering, and Tourism WA.
“It was unbelievably difficult, it took two years of knockbacks; ‘who are you?’, ‘we already have consultants’, ‘what makes you different?’, they would say,” Dr Tester said.
“It also meant we delivered many programs free of charge to showcase our work, and the clients loved what they were getting.
“The feedback from all staff was unanimous; it was about rekindling their aspirations and providing new skills to make every individual valued in the organisation.”
Today, Sports Challenge is able to provide its programs throughout Australia and regional Western Australia in areas such as Paraburdoo, Merredin, Fitzroy Crossing, Roebourne, Tom Price and Moora, with little government funding.
Half of Sports Challenge’s revenue now comes from corporate training, with 25 per cent derived from corporate sponsorships and partnerships, and the remainder provided through grants.
The organisation has forged significant corporate partnerships with the likes of Audi Centre Perth, which provides vehicles to the organisation, JH Computer Services, which provides PCs, and SkyWest, which flies staff around the state.