‘Marriage’ a true partnership

BUSINESS systems analyst Stuart Ball discovered there were benefits for both parties after he spent three months of his spare time creating an IT strategic plan for non-profit group, Country Arts WA. Mr Ball and Country Arts WA were brought together by the Australia Business Arts Foundation’s (AbaF) adviceBank, which matches business volunteers with arts organisations to work on specific projects. adviceBank seeks to achieve beneficial outcomes on issues such as strategic planning, marketing, human resources, and legal issues with the objective of transferring skills for long-term benefit. Upon his arrival at the Country Arts WA office in the King Street Art Centre, Mr Ball said, he found outdated computers and software, with no two items the same. “When I got there it was impossible to share data between the 14 work stations because they were all heterogeneous,” he told WA Business News. He put together an IT strategic plan with “guiding principles” and worked through a financial plan with the organisation to ensure it knew exactly when to upgrade hardware and software and how much it would cost. Mr Ball said he then took advantage of the opportunity to access the buying power of legal firm Freehills to buy computers from Dell and set up a network with the latest software to suit the organisation’s needs. Country Arts WA general manager Andy Farrant said the organisation had several meetings with Mr Ball before the project started so he could familiarise himself with the operation. “Our computers could best be used as boat anchors. We had Windows 95 right up to the Millenium Edition running and found it very difficult to access information remotely, which was extremely important while servicing regional areas,” Mr Farrant said. Country Arts WA works to create sustainable and diverse arts experiences for communities in regional Western Australia by supporting arts touring programs, coordinating travel and logistics, and providing funding support. “Stuart was really responsive to our needs and we took his plans to our board, which was confident with his expertise and approved the changes,” Mr Farrant said. AbaF worked as the “marriage broker” between Mr Ball and Country Arts WA, ensuring the placement was a suitable fit by matching someone who supported the organisation’s mission while providing the appropriate expertise. AbaF state manager Henry Boston said the foundation had written up more than $400,000 worth of work through the partnerships it created, calculated from the total consultancy fees volunteers would normally charge in their professional capacities. Rather than asking business to give money in exchange for “putting their name up in lights”, AbaF wanted to encourage businesses to put more thought into giving and consider what both partners could get from establishing a relationship. The foundation connects business, the arts, donors and foundations through partnering, volunteering and giving programs. “It’s a wonderful time to be involved in this, in terms of a climate of advocacy. Business volunteering is gaining momentum in Perth and mainly through word of mouth,” Mr Boston said. In addition to adviceBank, the foundation runs a unique boardBank program that connects people with arts organisations seeking to fill vacancies on their boards, as well as conducting regular seminars to educate individuals from the cultural sector on how to create strategic plans for small business.

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