Not For Profit: New approach in asthma fight

18/06/2008 - 22:00


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The Asthma Foundation of WA is on the financial road to recovery following several years operating at a deficit.

The Asthma Foundation of WA is on the financial road to recovery following several years operating at a deficit.

CEO John Gummer, who took over the not-for-profit organisation in September 2007, said recent corporate sponsorship campaigns had given the foundation a shift in fiscal focus.

Mr Gummer said although the Asthma Foundation had been losing money, finances were never out of management's control.

"We had been operating at a loss over the last few years, but we're working our way through that now," he said.

Mr Gummer told a fundraising event in Perth last week that the organisation's business development unit was now focused on newer and more innovative fundraising programs.

In 2006, the foundation had an operational deficit of $553,000, compared with an operational deficit of $306,000 last year.

WA Business News understands that, for several years, the foundation failed to reach projected fundraising targets.

Asthma Foundation of WA board member, Barry Rubie, who was CEO in 1980, said the foundation had overextended itself in recent years.

"What happened was we became a little too ambitious," Mr Rubie told WA Business News.

"We've got a set of circumstances here where the need or the demand for what the Asthma Foundation does seems to have no end.

"The problem continues to grow, so the ambition was to always try to catch up. We overextended ourselves and we didn't have the background cover the extent of our services.

"So we found ourselves losing a bit of money. I suppose you could blame management; we didn't really have the background or the resources or the finance to do what we wanted to do.

"We lost some money but we are now in a state of recovery; we gave ourselves a three-year plan to get back on the black side of the balance sheet."

Mr Rubie said recruiting Mr Gummer, who was WA's regional business manager for prescription pharmaceutical company, Merck Sharp and Dohme Australia, had given the Asthma Foundation fresh direction.

"We changed our CEO, which was a useful thing to do and we put someone on who works in a practical, pragmatic way," he said.

"And the board has adopted the same approach. It's been a matter of attitude."

Speaking at last week's fundraising event, 2007 Telstra Business Woman of the Year, Leanne Preston, called on Perth's business community to support the foundation.

Ms Preston, whose daughter suffers from asthma, founded natural healthcare product provider Wild Child in 1997.

"At Wild Child, we believe that making large numbers of small changes can make a big difference," Ms Preston said.

Asthma Foundation of WA president Cameron Schwab, who will resign as Fremantle Football Club's CEO at the end of 2008, said refining the staff recruitment and development program was the key to improving the Asthma Foundation's financial position.

"Some aspects of organisational culture are inherited," he said.

"But the main culture of any organisation is in the values of the people that work there.

"And that culture and the success of the organisation are most likely defined by those with the most power in the organisation."

Asthma Foundation of WA

For more than 40 years, not-for-profit organisation the Asthma Foundation of WA has supported asthmatics, their families and their carers in Western Australia.

The organisation relies on corporate partnerships, volunteers and events fundraising to provide quality asthma education, community services and financial support for asthma research.

The organisation combines with other state asthmatic organisations to form the national Asthma Foundations of Australia.

Asthma Foundation of WA board


Cameron Schwab


Vic Court

Hon. treasurer

Denise Young


Geoff Airey

Warren Campbell

John Kerr

Andy Milne

Barry Rubie

Wayne Thomas

Dr Hilda Turnbull

Dr Alan Wright


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