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Becoming a community champion

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Becoming a community champion

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Reporter 9 minute read

Supporting charities and volunteering time for altruistic reasons is a commendable practice, one that consumers are increasingly coming to expect. Annie Kane takes a look at some of the charities brokers have chosen to support and their reasons for doing so.

As an integral part of the local community, brokers — and broking businesses — are often seen supporting local events and providing education and assistance to schools and community centres. While sponsoring an event, giving to charity or hosting a seminar might be a great marketing strategy (making a broking business more visible to the local community), for many brokers, it’s the nurture of the community, not the business strategy, that drives them to such cause.

The case for charitable giving

According to the government-commissioned Business giving and volunteering. Giving Australia 2016 report released last year, Australian businesses gave $17.5 billion during the last financial year.

The reason for charity giving was driven by the belief that the public expects companies to invest in the communities in which they operate, “above and beyond the economic impact they have by complying with laws and regulations while generating revenue and profit”.

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Further, business leaders taking part in the report said that giving was “the right thing to do”, not only because of community expectations, but also because charitable giving was one of the attributes of “good”, “smart”, “responsible” companies.

They expressed a clear altruistic motivation behind their giving, reporting that it “is the good thing to do” irrespective of returns to the business, while SMEs said that they felt they had a duty to “give back” to the communities that support them.

While altruism is the foremost drive of business giving, it’s also considered good business sense. Strengthening the wellbeing, quality of life and life circumstances of specific individuals, households and communities is the main factor for doing it, and the secondary benefit is that it creates a brand of trust. SME survey respondents acknowledged that improved reputation (29 per cent) and positive publicity (19 per cent) were reasons to give.

Consumers are also increasingly expecting businesses to have a philanthropic inclination. A recent Nielsen global online survey found that 66 per cent of people are willing to pay more for products and services that come from companies who are committed to positive social and environmental impact.

If you aren’t already engaging in philanthropy, then the case for starting now seems clear. If you need some inspiration to get started, take a look at how these brokers are supporting causes close to their hearts.

“Find something that is close to your heart”

Aaron and Bernadette Christie-David of Atelier Wealth take a more unusual step in their charitable giving — by donating to the Batting for Change charity every time they settle a loan. The charity, run by Ryan Carters who plays for the Sydney Sixes and the New South Wales Blues cricket teams, is about helping educate women in cricket-playing nations.

Ms Christie-David told The Adviser last year: “[It’s] really about empowering women in developing cricket-playing nations, to get them an education and then to spread that knowledge. I was speaking to Ryan at the launch and we spoke about how, when men get educated, they’ll often go overseas and work and send the money back, but when a woman gets educated, she then educates her family and educates her community, and that’s how communities and nations change.”

The charity is close to the broker couple’s hearts as they both “believe in diversity and equality, and [are] very passionate about education”, and also because Aaron is Sri Lankan and Bernadette is part Fijian Indian and part Australian.

“We’ve both come from countries where, if we were living there now, we would not have [anywhere near] the same opportunities that we have now. We wanted to pay it back to those countries,” Ms Christie-David says.

Mr Christie-David adds: “[It] marries our two loves: obviously we love cricket, which is great; and helping people in nations [that are] close to our heart as well.”

He continues: “A million dollars doesn’t get much in Sydney, so [when clients] buy upwards of a million-dollar property, [we] say: ‘You’re both so lucky to call this place home, so why don’t we try and use this as an opportunity to help people that are less fortunate?’ It’s not about us then; it’s about helping other people do well.

“We’ve been able to have a great life in Australia, so let’s try to help a few more people. I think you see a lot brokers. We’re not the only brokerage doing it. A lot of brokers do it for causes that are close to their heart, so encourage anyone that’s out there.”

Concluding, Mr Christie-David says: “Find something that’s close to your heart. It doesn’t have to be a big charity. It can be something fairly local, community-based, but it’s not about trying to get any business by any means. It’s more so to say how do we give back and be thankful for what we’ve got.”

“Your wealth is your health”

YBR Earlwood principal Effie Nicol has undertaken several fundraising and volunteering initiatives to highlight mental and physical health problems.

Talking to members of the community day in and day out means that a broker knows both the triumphs and trials of the neighbourhood. Ms Nicol reveals that when she heard a local woman’s child had been diagnosed with cancer, she helped fundraise for the drug treatment needed.

She explains: “Last year, I did an event for a lady at Bardwell Park. Her kid goes to the school at the preschool there, and we all came together and organised an event to raise money for her therapy, because the drug that she requires is not supported by the government, so you’ve got to fund it yourself… It makes a big difference. The community came together, and [there] was such a buzz in the room. We’ve got so much potential in the community [and we] want to be out there speaking to the people and making a difference.”

For Ms Nicol, however, there are some personal reasons for supporting charities, too. “Last year, I had a week of Odd Socks to [help overcome] the stigma of mental health,” she continues. “My uncle has dementia, and every Friday I spend my evenings going there and helping the dementia patients. I try to have a conversation with them and just treat them like normal people, because they’re really suffering. They can’t control their actions and it’s an eye-opener for me, that, hey, I’m healthy today and I’m here helping other people.

“So, I make a habit of doing that every week, because it gives you a realistic approach… I’m very fortunate and I can do [something] every day to make a difference. It makes a difference.”

“Success is about the positive difference that you make”

Rise High Financial Solutions director and broker Marissa Schulze volunteered the services of her brokerage to local schools after becoming concerned with the levels of financial literacy in Australia.

Speaking to The Adviser, Ms Schulze explains: “I’ve done a fair bit in my career and, over the years, my definition of success has changed. But I am a firm believer, at this stage in my career, that success is not necessarily about how big you grow your business or how much money you make, but it’s about the positive difference that you make in other people’s lives. I guess that’s underlying where we’re taking the business and what we want do with it. And I think a big part of that is looking for ways to give back to the community.”

Ms Schulze believes that “there are a lot of adults out there that really lack the basic financial literacy that they need to help to make the basic decisions that we need to make every day with money”. She therefore decided to start her own program, Rise High Rookies, that teaches school children about finances, as a “way of doing our part to increase financial literacy in Australia”.

The principal adds: “[W]e’re able to volunteer our time to going to schools and spend time with the students and increase their financial literacy and increase their understanding of money and [the] decisions that they’re going to have to make when they start making their own money. It’s been a lot of fun. It is a volunteer program that we run, and I think it’s been a really fantastic initiative, and we’re planning on growing it every year and continuing our service in that area.”

However, Ms Schulze emphasises that while it does build the brand in the area, the primary purpose of the initiative is not lead generation.

“It does allow us to build stronger relationships with the teachers and the principals and also the parents, and… yes, we have generated some business out of our Rise High Rookies program. But it’s definitely not the reason why we do it. I wouldn’t promote it as a lead generation initiative because it’s not really meant to be about that. It really is about giving back to the kids and doing the right thing.

“And I guess what I’ve learnt in my career is that if you do the right thing for the right reasons, then eventually good things will come back to you.”

“Clients want to be on that journey”

Melbourne-based Loan Market broker Lee Wisniewski donates $100 from every loan settled in the name of the borrower, and also donates 10 per cent of his profits to community initiatives on a pro bono basis, too — “just to give back”.

He explains: “One hundred dollars from every single loan that we do goes to either one of two charities and the client gets to choose. Now, the client doesn’t know that we do that until they’ve committed to us.

“The two charities that we choose to partner with is Women’s Property Initiative. It helps women and children seeking affordable housing in Melbourne. And also One Voice, which is actually helping with youth homelessness in Melbourne in particular, and actually all around the Eastern Seaboard. They actually run a shower bus service [so people] can actually have shower. And [it is] restoring dignity, I guess, one shower at a time.”

Mr Wisniewski explains that he supports charities because “we literally feel like we’ve got an obligation to help people beyond just our clients and ourselves… it’s really just to give back”.

He adds: “[N]ot everyone has to give money to charity. Not everyone has to give dollars. But I think everyone has to give something. And whether that be just helping people in a pro bono basis, [or] whether that be money, whether that be just service and volunteering. I think everyone has a responsibility to help someone else.” Mr Wisniewski believes that helping others can ultimately benefit those giving.

He explains: “[C]all it Karma, call it the universe repaying you, call it God, whatever you want to call it. But the fact is that by doing good, you receive good. And I think you’ll be rewarded justly. So, I would say that has a bit to do with why we get referrals. We don’t ask for them… but I think that they just genuinely see how hard it is for people. And they want to be on that journey, I guess.”

Becoming a community champion
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