27/03/2007 - 22:00

Not for profit: Membership's mutual benefit

27/03/2007 - 22:00

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The benefits of diverse board membership at not-for-profit organisations appear to flow both ways.

Not for profit: Membership's mutual benefit

The benefits of diverse board membership at not-for-profit organisations appear to flow both ways.

 

While a range of top-level skills provides corporate expertise that would otherwise have to be bought, many of those offering their insight and experience say the benefits are reciprocal.

 

Clough Ltd director Ross Kelly says his work with the Clontarf Foundation has delivered a huge sense of personal satisfaction.

 

Mr Kelly is chair of the organisation and has been involved since 1999, when former Fremantle Dockers coach Gerard Neesham proposed the idea of an academy for young Aboriginal footballers.

 

“Gerard had an idea that was very appealing to me,” Mr Kelly said.

 

“I had a concern that there was a group of people in Australia that was desperately underprivileged and not getting a fair go…and he said I had something to offer him. I guess I also like doing new things.”

 

An experienced company director who is currently on the boards of Clough Ltd, drilling products company Imdex, private company Wood and Grieve Engineers and the WA Football Commission, Mr Kelly said working with a not-for-profit board offered more hands-on involvement than the corporate sector.

 

“You certainly have an opportunity when growing a small thing like we’ve got to get feedback,” he said.

 

“You can provide input directly into certain areas and get satisfaction from things that work.

 

“I also meet a cross-section of people; not only Aboriginal boys, but parents and other people I wouldn’t normally become involved with.”

 

Mr Kelly said his skill set and experience in business was useful in assisting the organisation manage its growth plan and minimise risk.

 

“We’re growing very rapidly, so I can bring an understanding about the way businesses do things – our accounting systems, the way we now train our people, the way in which we develop business plans and so on,” he said.

 

According to KPMG energy and natural resources national markets director, Helen Cook, a personal connection to an organisation’s cause is important. 

 

Ms Cook has been chair of the Art Gallery of WA board since last August, having been on the board for about three years.

 

“I’ve always been interested in the arts and I was approached by the chair at the time, who felt that I had some skills and networks through my role at KPMG that might be useful for the board,” Ms Cook said.

 

John Curtin Institute of Public Policy associate professor Peter Kenyon was also headhunted for his professional skills by independent magazine The Big Issue, and subsequently became chair of the organisation’s WA advisory board.

 

“In my professional life, I’ve written a lot about unemployment and disadvantage,” Professor Kenyon said. “Homelessness and long-term unemployment and marginalisation are not trendy philanthropic issues, but (The Big Issue) does incredible work for people’s material wellbeing, self-esteem and social networks.”

 

Professor Kenyon is also chair of the management board of JazzWA, of which he has been a member for about a decade, and said a sense of satisfaction and the opportunity to mix with people were the main benefits.

 

“Both positions enable me to move in worlds that I otherwise would not. The vendors are people I’ve got to know and value as friends,” he said.

 

“Also, I think especially in these times of rapid economic boom and lots of wealth, society needs to be reminded that not everyone is a beneficiary of the good times.”

 

Ms Cook supports this sentiment, and said working with the Art Gallery had allowed her to come into contact with people from sectors she would not have normally encountered.

 

“It is the benefit of working with people who have a high level of skill, who are not necessarily in your industry,” she said.

 

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