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Low cost and high impact: yes it can be done



Sue Karzis

Expert | Leadership

By Sue Karzis

It’s no secret that many not-for-profits (NFPs) operate on very tight budgets. We’d much rather see the money going to our cause than into our operating costs. Plus, resources are low. However, regardless of the low budget and lack of resources, our impact needs to be huge. 

I’ll tell you now, it can be done.

Low cost and high impact are not mutually exclusive. The secret is harnessing the support available to start-ups, SMEs and NFPs, including interns, government employment schemes and mentoring networks.

In-kind support

In-kind support is key to enabling NFPs, start-ups and SMEs to access the talent, resources and support available. At State Schools’ Relief, we have benefited greatly from the support received from a variety of partners and supporters.

For example, as a small NFP, we had neither the time nor the resources to create a much-needed social media strategy. Through a program run by Monash University, we offered internship placements to two students. They were tasked with writing a strategy, researching the organisation and scheduling content. The interns worked well as a team and with input from our staff, even included some social media posts focusing on the history of the organisation. The old photos and historical documentation were extremely popular on social media, giving a ‘face’ to our organisation.

The interns also worked on other projects including drafting communications to schools, researching new programs and analysing data. Plus, we all know the younger generation is well versed in social media, so their input brought a unique perspective to the organisation and our communications strategy. As an added bonus, we were able to offer a part-time position to one of the interns, who still works with us today and continues to contribute immensely to the organisation.

Mentoring

For all the CEOs and managers out there, it’s important to focus on yourself too. As a new CEO in a new sector, I really wanted and needed the support and input of a mentor. But this wasn’t something SSR could afford to invest in.

Enter Kilfinan Australia, an organisation which builds not for profit leadership through mentoring and corporate relationships. I was matched with a mentor who had everything I needed, from skills and experience, right through to personality traits.

I can truly attest to the mentoring relationship. To have an experienced leader mentor me has been inspiring, interesting and enriching.

Support from partners

A final tip is that support doesn’t need to be an expensive exercise. At SSR, our corporate and community partners have been offering unwavering and crucial support from the get-go, helping our organisation run transformational programs, such as the iPad for Non-Verbal Children Program, which delivered 191 iPads to non-verbal children throughout Victoria. Without the support of our corporate partners and philanthropy, these programs would not have been possible. In another example, support from school furniture retailer School Furn helped us deliver 150 study packages to children and young people in need all over Victoria.

Support has also been procured for staff subsidies which have enabled our organisation to employ staff with disabilities in our warehouse, along with training for all our warehouse and administrative staff. While a worthwhile initiative in its own right, this has helped propel our organisation forward, and more importantly, has assisted our staff to develop their skills and gain qualifications which they may never have had the opportunity to access otherwise.

Higher cost doesn’t always equate to higher quality

When it comes to business, whether it’s SME, NFP or start-up, it’s important to remember that consumers don’t always equate higher prices with superior quality. The same goes for our organisational initiatives. We don’t need to spend a lot to ensure organisational impact or successful campaigns.

By utilising the resources we have, including government support, partner support and mentoring, we are able to lean on our networks to ensure we are working efficiently and giving our community the best we can. It’s about working smarter, not harder, to make sure our businesses have the highest impact possible. And it can be done!


Sue Karzis is the first female Chief Executive Officer of State Schools Relief, a Victorian based not for profit organisation that supports the needs of financially disadvantaged school students by providing them with new school uniforms, footwear and educational resources during times of vulnerability. Since her appointment, Sue has propelled the charity to record numbers of impact, assisting over 56,000 financially disadvantaged Victorian school children in 2018 alone and has set the goal of positively impacting 70,000 underprivileged Victorian school children in 2019.

Under her leadership the not-for-profit has distributed items exceeding $5M, widely promoted SSR’s own independent uniform label, Students Choice, established the SSR Ambassador Program, worked with 180 schools who have donated approximately $124,000 through a range of school based fundraising activities during the 2017/18 financial year and collaborated with a range of corporate sponsors including Bank of Australia and Bank First, which has enabled SSR to impact 83% of all Victorian state schools during 2018.