Workplace Giving Strikes A Chord With National Charity

November 6th, 2017 – Wendy Williams, Journalist (as featured in Probono Australia)

The winner of the Most Innovative Charity/Employer Partnership at the Workplace Giving Awards says a strong alignment of culture and values is the secret to a strong corporate partnership.

National not-for-profit organisation The Song Room, which brings music and art programs to some of Australia’s most disadvantaged children, was recognised for their partnership with JB Hi-Fi.

Caroline Aebersold, CEO of The Song Room, told Pro Bono News the value of the partnership was “enormous”.

“Corporate support and philanthropic and private donors still make up the majority of the support we receive to enable us to reach children in need,” Aebersold said.

“Obviously having a partnership that we’ve had as long as we’ve had with JB Hi-Fi, that’s of such a significant level of support but also has such great synergy in other ways, the value for an organisation like us for that kind of partnership is enormous.

“And particularly I think workplace giving income because it is a continuous flow of income and you know flexible funds that allow us to really target it to the highest need communities across Australia is also really valuable.”

Aebersold said there were some “obvious synergies” between JB Hi-Fi and their organisation, including “the music connection”, but that was only part of what made the partnership successful.

“JB Hi-Fi does an enormous amount beyond just music. And so do we, the kind of work we do, the communities we work, we work in different art forms and different types of programs as well,” she said.

“So you know the music connection is a good basis. But actually I think what it is that makes the partnership with them so successful is that there’s this great alignment of culture and values.

“One of the things that I think is really inspirational about JB Hi-Fi is the culture that they have all the way from the very top with the CEO and right through the organisation down to every store.

“They have this kind of can-do, fun, innovative way of engaging in culture, across their team. It’s very much aligned with our culture but it also means they’re able to really throw themselves at their partnership and opportunities to work together in kind of creative and innovative ways that just mean you can do so much more with finding opportunities that are hopefully mutually beneficial.”

Aebersold said innovation was a crucial part of what made JB Hi-Fi’s workplace giving program so successful.

“The core of their workplace giving program…  is amazing,” she said.

“Particularly for a retailer where I think the initial expectations in workplace giving about what kinds of companies would be most successful in growing workplace giving would probably not expect that retail organisations with a lot of their employment base being younger and casual staff, would have such a huge take up and they got over 80 per cent of their employees giving to workplace giving.

“So at their end, I think it’s worth acknowledging that they’ve been really innovative in how they’ve been able to grow that and certainly the way we engage with them in sharing the impact and success of that is really important.”

She said they had also built on the partnership in “incredibly fun and innovative” ways.

“One is the PlayAir campaign,”  Aebersold said.

“So basically we sell little novelty items of air instruments on their countertops for just a six week period once a year. And it’s incredibly successful.

“We sold over 100,000 of them again this  year. But it’s not just about putting them on the countertop and hoping that customers will buy one, the reason I think that it’s kind of innovative and so successful is that the teams in all the stores get right behind it.

“So we have a competition for our air trophy. And you know each year all of the stores all over Australia compete…They do all of these really fun and entertaining activities of posting different videos of things that they’re doing in each of these stores to promote that. You know they run little workshops in a store. They just make it fun and engaging. And I think that’s why it’s not only successful but it also means that it’s a great way for their teams to build engagement t of their staff.”

Aebersold said it was also important for charities to be innovative in how they secure funding.

“As much as I think it’s important that we focus on being collaborative rather than competitive across the sector always, the reality is that we’re competing for funds and support from partners and the general public and so I think absolutely it’s important to be innovative,” she said.

“For us we have a big reach across Australia. So you know face to face we’re in maybe 100 communities, and online we’re in about 8,000 schools all over Australia, but we’re a relatively small organisation. You know we only have a pretty small team for what we do and we don’t have a huge profile that some of the really big charities have and so certainly for organisations of our size, those small and medium size organisations like us, we need to really be innovative and do things differently and be creative and tap into a particular sort of mindset of people whose values and interests would align with ours.”

The aim for The Song Room is to bridge the education equity gap for all Australian children by facilitating learning through the arts, starting with the most vulnerable groups and reaching all communities that lack specialist music and arts education.

Aebersold said they used music, arts and creativity more broadly, “as a powerful tool to get broader outcomes”.

“For us it is very much about intervention that can get broader outcomes in both educational and wellbeing outcomes,” she said.

“So we have a really strong evidence base of independent research that shows that engaging in our program and using creativity in children’s development improves their school attendance significantly, it improves their numeracy, literacy, and academic outcomes but also wellbeing like self-esteem and confidence and you know reducing stress and loneliness and depression.

“So creativity is really important. I think essentially for the way it engages children in their learning. But it also builds really important capabilities that you know will be increasingly important in the workforce of the future. So innovative thinking and problem solving and the ability to work collaboratively as a team on complex task.

“There’s a growing recognition that those kinds of skills and capabilities are the sorts of things we need children to learn in education rather than perhaps traditionally just learning knowledge and sort of discrete skill set. So you know that’s certainly something that I think it’s important to make sure that children do have creativity in their learning. And unfortunately most schools in Australia still don’t have specialist teachers in music and the arts. So we need to make sure that we’re filling those gaps which is why we do what we do.”

She said they were “absolutely thrilled” to be recognised at the Workplace Giving Awards.

“We believe all children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, should have the opportunity to participate in music and arts programs to improve their school engagement – and that is clearly supported by the JB Hi-Fi team through its Workplace Giving program, Helping Hands,” she said.

Overall, the awards, hosted by The Australian Charities Fund (ACF), saw six leading organisations accept gold accolades for their successful programs.

JB Hi-Fi was awarded Best Overall Program as well as Most Innovative Charity/Employer Partnership, which had joint winners – Redkite in partnership with JB Hi-Fi and The Song Room in partnership with JB Hi-Fi.

JB Hi-Fi group CEO, Richard Murray said he was “incredibly proud” of The Good Guys and JB Hi-Fi teams.

“To receive gold awards, across a number of categories, is testament to the generosity, support and creativity of our team members,” Murray said.

“Our Workplace Giving programs are something we all take great pride in and it is amazing to see the incredible work of our charity partners.

“Workplace Giving has become an integral part of the group’s culture and I would encourage other business leaders to embrace this form of giving. Doing so not only enables your teams to give to charity in the most cost effective way, but also supports positive staff engagement.”

ACF CEO Jenny Geddes said they were “thrilled to see the continued support for Workplace Giving and the fantastic outcomes achieved by those recognised at the awards”.

“These programs engage staff and generate a sense of pride for employees who can see their donations hard at work in the local community,” Geddes said.

“Workplace Giving is the most efficient and ethical way of making charitable donations, and I encourage all businesses – big and small – to participate.”

The gold award winners were:
•Best Overall Program: JB Hi-Fi
•Most Innovative Charity/Employer Partnership: Joint winners – Redkite in partnership with JB Hi-Fi and The Song Room in partnership with JB Hi-Fi
•Best Launch or Refresh (Large Employer): The Good Guys
•Best Launch or Refresh (Small Employer): The Myer Family
•Best Public Sector Program: South Western Sydney Local Health District

Original article can be viewed here: