In this episode of Executive with a Cause, host Tammy Ven Dange chats with Hannah Andrevski, CEO and Founder of Roundabout Canberra, a charity that helps provide pre-loved baby and children items to families in need.
From identifying a market gap whilst on maternity leave, Hannah Andrevski takes us through her evolution as a start-up charity founder. From building good boards and the value in learning from others to utilising technology as a Not for Profit. Roundabout Canberra is truly a best practice case study for a small charity.
Without a background in fundraising, Hannah came to terms with her initial reservations about ‘asking for money’ and how she now appreciates the value charities provide is worthy of financial support. Also related to funding, we discuss balancing a mission with financial sustainability and why the organisation has avoided the common op-shop model for their donated goods. From the rapid formation of Roundabout Canberra, Hanna acknowledges the benefits of having established ‘sister orgs’ in other states to provide policy and procedural advice when starting. We also learn how Roundabout collaborates with other organisations to minimise donation waste. Finally, we hear how they used a technology grant to help them efficiently manage volunteers, inventory and orders online.
IT in Plain English
In today’s episode, Tammy explains the differences between two roles that are often confused – Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer. Although both roles are uncommon within Not for Profits due to the cost of these specialised skills, Tammy identifies the key differences in internal or external capability-building and the value they can offer your organisation, even if outsourced.
Topics from this episode:
- 0.00 | Introduction
- 3.22 | Origins of Roundabout Canberra
- 8.50 | Donation process
- 12.00 | Rapidly developing policies
- 15.20 | Software
- 22.50 | Attracting skills on a board
- 25.30 | Recognising burnout
- 27.54 | Funding
- 31.40 | Considering commercial revenue
- 33.00 | Profit perspectives
- 34.30 | Developing skill sets
- 38.11 | How to support the cause
- 40.58 | IT in Plain English
Quotes from Hannah in this episode:
“We deliberately work with services or organisations. For us, this is for two reasons. One is that we were very focused on protecting the dignity of the families we’re supporting. It can be scary asking for help, and we don’t want to put people in that position. So we figure if they’re already working with a service, they can manage this through continuing with the service. And if they’re not already with a service, we feel if someone needs goods for their child, they probably need other support as well, and we’re not in a position to offer that, so if people do contact us directly, we have a list of a few services we can put them in contact with, depending on their circumstances.”
“I’d found these other charities in other parts of Australia and felt there was a model that could work really well but wasn’t yet in Canberra at the time. So initially, I sent a few emails to groups I knew worked with women and babies to ask if they thought something like that might work here…and they all wrote back to say it would work really well, and they’d be very supportive in providing guidance and advice for getting it off the ground.”
“Luckily, there were a couple of women in my mother’s group that had experience either starting a charity or working in the Not for Profit sector. So I took a lot of advice from them; I think that’s something I do well, try and suck up as much information as I can from those who know what they’re talking about. And I think those ladies in my mothers’ group really helped me at the time and helped me decide to do it basically.”
“I did a crowdfunding campaign to raise $5,000 right at the start to cover the cost of setting up the company…there were costs to set up the outlay of the company. The support we got was pro-bono, which was great, and it was really nice the community even supported us with that $5,000 because we couldn’t offer tax-deductible receipts at that point.”
“We have a team of about 250 volunteers who keep Roundabout churning…We take anything that is considered essential for a newborn, and then for older kids, toys, school-related items and toiletries that we take and give out.”
“We’re very focused on making sure the goods we pass on are like gifts for the family. We’ve got high standards; we won’t pass on anything that’s broken, damaged or missing parts. But we will try and repair things to get things back to their original state if possible and ensure they meet mandatory safety standards.”
“For the things, we can’t take, we try and be creative. We’re focused on the families, but we are also passionate about the environment and reducing our impact and waste. So we partner with some other organisations to try and minimise what we throw out. So like wildlife organisations, we provide them with bedding that’s slightly damaged. There’s a great organisation called Koomarri who have a program for people with disabilities where they turn old clothing into rags. And a series of other organisations, we have some really great partnerships that mean we can keep what goes in the bin into a minimum.”
“There were organisations in each capital city that were already established and doing this. And we talk about our sister orgs, they are run by incredible women, and they’ve all been extremely helpful in sharing their policies and procedures and lessons learned and what works and doesn’t. And that really helped us to refine our model. And obviously, we’ve also done that over time, but this really helped with things like safety checks and mandatory safety standards.”
“We now have a great group of women. We have someone with a huge experience in the volunteering space, we’ve got a lawyer, we have someone with a strong finance background and a couple of members who are very experienced in the Not for Profit sector.”
“We’ve never done a formal advertised position, but it means we could be selective and fill the skills gaps and find people who share our very strong alignment with Roundabout’s mission. There are lots of different personalities, but we share this, and it means we’re now in a place where our board is strategic, very high-functioning, very skilled, and it’s great, we’re very lucky.”
“The first couple of years, our expenses were very minimal…but as we’ve grown over the years, and we’ll always be primarily volunteer run, but we’ve found as you get to a certain size it becomes more and more important to have those paid staff there to hold things together, to keep things professional and safe. Wages are the bulk of our expenses now. We don’t have any ongoing funding, although there has just been an announcement we’ve been included in the ACT Government’s upcoming budget. So our funding comes from fundraising, which can be hard to come to terms with in the Not for Profit sector. It’s really hard to ask people for money.”
“I think what people like is that they know if they give something to us, we’ll give it directly to families…Our supporters like that, and so do we.”
Links & Resources
- Visit Roundabout’s website
- There are ‘sister orgs’ in most states:
- Connect with Hannah on Linkedin
- How to help – Items can be donated during operating hours at Roundabout’s space in Holt – 80 Beaurepaire Crescent, Holt. They particularly need donations of the following items:
- Winter clothing for older children (ages 5-16)
- Double prams
- Winter linen
- Consumables, e.g. nappies, wipes, toiletries
Thanks to our Producer, Nick Whatman, and the entire team at Lonsdale St. Studio. Thanks also to our Digital Content Creator, Laura Kleinrahm.
Tammy Ven Dange is a former charity CEO, Not for Profit Board Member and IT Executive. Today she helps NFPs with strategic IT decisions with her business, Roundbox Consulting.