01/05/2007 - 22:00

Not for profit: Charity collaboration a plus

01/05/2007 - 22:00

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More than 25 charities in Western Australia are licensed to fundraise for cancer research and support services, including both state and national organisations.

More than 25 charities in Western Australia are licensed to fundraise for cancer research and support services, including both state and national organisations.

 

It is this proliferation of charities delivering similar services that has motivated some within the not-for-profit sector to call for greater collaboration between organisations.

 

A recent report by the Western Australian Council of Social Service suggests charities will increasingly amalgamate with smaller groups, or be forced to collaborate, as a result of government funding changes.

 

However, while those working in cancer charities argue that such amalgamation would compromise service delivery, collaboration between groups is seen as having positive results.

 

Cancer Council chief executive officer Susan Rooney said cooperation was essential and it was important for charities to look for opportunities to work together.

 

The Cancer Council provides accommodation to fellow cancer charity, Canteen, which offers services to teenagers with cancer, and has funded a clinical trials unit at the WA Institute of Medical Research in recent years.

 

“It’s more cost effective for us to use their expertise and infrastructure than set up our own,” Ms Rooney said.

 

She said it was easy to collaborate when groups shared a common mission and values, but there were some areas where it was not possible.

 

“It’s just difficult if your value base doesn’t fit,” Ms Rooney told WA Business News.

 

Ms Rooney said it was important for donors to look at a charity’s mission when providing their support.

 

“People have to decide whether the charity they’re supporting is doing the work they want it to do,” she said. 

 

Cancer Support Association of Western Australia chief executive officer Dr Peter Daale said while charities should collaborate where possible, there were points of difference between charities that should be preserved.

 

“From this association’s point of view, we take an integrated approach to health,” he said.

 

“For cancer in particular, the mainstream paradigm is just one part of the puzzle.”

 

Dr Daale said the association provided information on mainstream cancer treatments, as well as complementary and alternative treatments that were not necessarily available at other organisations.

 

“I’m a firm believer that the public should have a choice – as long as the different messages are based on science, they should be there,” he said.

 

The organisation raises about $1.3 million each year and uses a building provided by the government, on a site shared with two other not-for-profit groups – a child care centre and children’s playgroup.

 

Breast Cancer Foundation of WA founder Ros Worthington agreed that choice was important, saying she had been motivated to establish the organisation because there was unmet demand in the community.

 

“When I started the foundation in 2000 it was certainly not to duplicate any services, it was to fill the gaps that were needed,” she said.

 

At the time, Ms Worthington was running an after-care service for people diagnosed with breast cancer, seeing about 30 clients per week.

 

She said while there had been some practical support available to people with breast cancer, assistance with basic tasks such as paying bills or grocery shopping was not available.

 

Ms Worthington said there was also a lack of support groups for people with breast cancer.

 

The foundation now services a range of groups, including women under 40, men with breast cancer, husbands and partners, people with advanced cancer and an indigenous support group.

 

Ms Worthington said some not-for-profit organisations had initially been opposed to a new charity in the state.

 

“When you start any charity, existing charities aren’t usually happy, because the charity pie is only so big in WA,” she said.

 

Ms Worthington said the foundation had to work harder to compete with national groups, although all funds raised by the organisation remained in WA.

 

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