13/06/2014 - 15:32

Serious business in pillow fight

13/06/2014 - 15:32

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As fund raising events go, this one is on message.

Serious business in pillow fight
HOMELESS: Top homebuilder Dale Alcock is leading the WA CEO Sleepout fund raising effort this year. He will sleep rough for a night.

As fund raising events go, this one is on message.

Could the person who came up with the idea for the St Vincent de Paul Society’s CEO Sleepout please take a bow?

Philanthropy is an emerging concept in Western Australia, where wealth has often been fickle and short-lived as it follows the fluctuations of volatile sectors such as mining and dry-climate farming.

Coupled with that has been the Australian tall poppy syndrome, which ensures the few credit points allocated to someone who donates publically are often swiftly neutralised by the wrongly held belief that they never earned the money in the first place.

That sort of attitude discouraged any outward show of philanthropy, ensuring it has been a sort of private club with limited membership.

Finally, there is the investor suspicion about corporate giving. Shareholders think it is all too easy for CEOs to take credit for signing cheques on their behalf.

But things are changing, and the CEO Sleepout is a very important part of that.

Not only are we recognising our good fortune to live in possibly the best place on earth, we’re finally getting it that we have a duty to give and it is not big-noting yourself to give to worthy causes.

As for corporates, CEO Sleepout allows company leaders to draw on the pulling power of their brands and personal charisma without directly dipping into the pockets of shareholders.

I can’t think of a better example than Best & Less CEO Holly Kramer, who is leading the CEO Sleepout nationally with $89,193 (as of noon Thursday last week) while appealing to customers and staff to get behind her. That is a powerful device.

It also appeals to their competitive nature without being too over the top. I am sure WA’s current leader, ABN chief Dale Alcock, won’t lose any sleep if he gets knocked off the number two position nationally, but you suspect he’s keeping a close eye on it.

Oddly, that is another beauty of this program. The race is on but there’s honour in ‘losing’, if for no other reason than you egged a rival on to earn even more for a good cause.

And raising money from friends and associates for the privilege of sleeping rough for a night is a synergistic exercise. CEOs are putting themselves in someone else’s shoes – quite often a position many believe they may shrink from. And while sleeping rough for one night is nothing compared with real homelessness, believe me, a cold June night at the WACA is too hard for an awful lot of people – let alone the fundraising challenge that leads up to it.

In asking for support, the CEOs help highlight the issue, show their leadership and a bit of humility. What a great package.

By comparison, bidding big for a Botox party at a fundraising event auction might also have a worthy charitable outcome, but there are a lot of mixed messages in that activity.

Looking at WA, there’s a long way to go until we catch up with the $1.1 million total set in 2013 – itself part of a strong upward trend from $615,000 in 2011 (from a similar number of participants), 

Last year, Mr Alcock raised around $130,000 to beat long-time participant and top fundraiser over the Sleepout’s previous four-year history in WA, Crown Perth chief executive officer Barry Felstead, who raised about $94,000. Both are clearly well short of those targets at the time of writing, but, as with the Melbourne Cup, there is often a big plunge by sponsors as the finishing line draws close.

Also, I’d like to put in a blatant plug for Business News sales manager Neil Gomersall who was a late entry and is seeking to catch up. A few years ago I had a crack at this and used this column unashamedly to attract attention in a bid to keep the real CEOs on their toes – so I thought I’d best do the same for him.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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