Last December, Good2Give and Workplace Giving Australia announced they would merge to create an organisation that could potentially transform how we go about our giving. Mergers are rare in the sector, so how do you go about making them work? In this month’s 10 Questions we talk to the CEO of the merged entity, David Mann, about the challenges inherent in the merger and the opportunities it provides to change workplace giving.
You can also join Good2Give and Workplace Giving Australia at their first joint event on Tuesday 29 March, Get Giving – Insights from Industry Champions.
1. Your previous role was Managing Director for the Mergers & Acquisition practice of Accenture in APAC, Middle East and Africa. Was there anything about that role that prepared you for this challenge?
There are definite overlaps in the role from my previous life with Accenture, and many differences I am learning to deal with. From a functional perspective, there are similarities in the need to engage closely with corporate clients in order to understand the value they should expect from their involvement in the sector and how this will work best for them. This requires an ability to work closely with them to determine where there are points of our service that answers a known or an unknown need. The skills of the team in providing advice in a way that the client can respond to is familiar territory. Then there is the provision of the service itself. There is a strong history in the organisation for delivering the promises made and the team responsible for operations works tirelessly to ensure the platform and service meets expectations. Again, this is familiar territory.
From a business perspective, having a team work well with clients in understanding and meeting the needs of an array of stakeholders is also common ground. Ensuring each person is able to identify their strengths and weaknesses such that they can make the right and most valuable contribution to the outcomes of the team is critical in both my old and new businesses.
Naturally there are significant differences as well. From the profit driven world of corporate transactions to a sector in which our main aim is to improve the way companies can engage with their employees to raise participation in workplace and corporate giving provides a new set of lenses with which to view outcomes. So while many of the challenges are the same, the outcomes are very different.
2. What was the first thing you did once you got your feet under the desk? (And why?)
I wanted to meet with all the team. They make the difference and are the strength of the business regardless of which part. I am still getting to know many of them and to determine with them how we best take our impact to the next level. Without being able to meet in person, this has been more difficult than in the past, but hopefully that will change soon.
3. Good2Give and Workplace Giving Australia are both strong entities – what do you take from each in the merged entity and what do you leave behind?
Good2Give and Workplace Giving Australia are both strong and have delivered on their intent. In addition, ShareGift Australia, the third leg of the group has been impacting the ability for corporates and individuals to extend their giving into new areas. We are in the process of developing a new strategy with the goal of building on the strengths of each in order to accelerate the take up of workplace giving.
We recognise that there is a need for corporations, and we include government departments in that, to step up to the challenge being posed by their stakeholders to engage with the community in new ways. This is not just about the shareholders and investors, this is about the demands of those who work for them and are looking to them to be more than just about generating profit. It is also about connecting the corporates to the charities themselves such that they are able to develop strong and beneficial relationships.
Good2Give and ShareGift Australia have both helped enable the involvement of our clients in payroll giving, in foundation work, in determining grants and in dealing with share matters such as those arising from dividend reinvestment schemes. Workplace Giving Australia has provided context and worked to advocate for change to the workplace giving context and environment as well as connecting some of Australia’s best companies and charities to improve their impact.
4. What does a merger potentially achieve in this instance?
The merger allows us to provide to our clients end to end solutions. For those without any experience in corporate giving, or perhaps with a failed experience, the merged group can provide advice and consulting to set them up, or relaunch, for success drawing on a vast array of experiences from across all 3 companies. We can also enable the delivery for those that require that support; and with partners in the sector provide all aspects of corporate giving services in a way which suits their needs. Importantly, we can also work closely with the not-for-profit players and make the right connections to create meaningful and long term relationships where we fade into the background as intermediaries and facilitators.
And the outcome, to increase participation of workplace giving so we can achieve our vision of creating a fairer and more equitable society.
5. Why are mergers uncommon in this sector? Should there be more of them? What would it take to facilitate that?
Mergers are not easy, as other sector experience has clearly demonstrated. But the benefits are clear in the right circumstances. Consolidation enables the more efficient use of resources to achieve an improved outcome. By enabling sharper focus and providing a simpler solution for the user, the motivation to engage increases. Duplication can create inefficiencies and these detract from the goal. That does not mean that all mergers are good and there is a need to ensure that the market is not overly concentrated and homogenised to a point that choice and impact is diminished. So there likely should be more, and each organisation should ask if that would better achieve their goal, but it is not a given.
6. The goal of the merged organisation is clear: “...dramatically reshaping the sector by enabling technology solutions for the future, creating awareness of workplace giving, and motivating the leaders of corporate Australia to get involved.’’ But how do you do that?
Companies are diverse. They deal with complexity every day and the need to address a multitude of different challenges both known and unknown. For success, the whole organisation needs to believe in what it is doing and be engaged in achieving the outcomes. The same is true of workplace giving.
If we can inspire the top companies to get involved at all levels and not only recognise the value of workplace giving to them and the community, but embrace a program of interaction that achieves measurable outcomes then we can create success.
But like all big corporate projects, intent alone is insufficient and enabling technology alone is insufficient. We need to ensure that all the elements are understood and are aligned to deliver outcomes that are measured and reported. It is incredibly encouraging to see some of Australia’s best companies setting reporting goals at the most senior levels that will measure their impact in this area.
So, this is a team sport. We need to work with the corporates at all levels, with their employees, directly or indirectly, with the not for profits and with the others in the ecosystem that can deliver the outcomes.
7. And in a world still coping with the impact of the pandemic, just how hard is it to achieve that goal?
The pandemic is an additional barrier, but that is fading in importance as organisations have come to terms with new ways of working and new ways of enabling change. It may even prove to be beneficial as organisations are looking for new ways to engage their people and charities are looking for new ways to encourage giving.
8. Only 2 per cent of working Australians are currently participating in workplace giving. What are the impediments to Australians engaging with workplace giving? What are your plans to change that?
Workplace giving is one of the most effective forms of charitable giving that can be achieved. We can also help companies enable volunteering in a meaningful manner. However, the market is still nascent and our challenge is to demonstrate the appeal of easy, cost effective and highly impactful giving such that people seek it out and demand involvement. Australians are not mean spirited and over 80 per cent make donations every year, so the challenge is in having them chose workplace giving as their preferred method. Having charities understand the benefits to them and dispelling the myths on the negatives of workplace giving will also ensure change.
If we can increase this demand, and engage effectively with the corporates from the most senior levels down, and ensure they have the programs and the enablement, we can achieve our goal of 1 million donors and go on to even larger ambitions.
9. During the past two and a half years many of us have become almost estranged from our physical workplaces – does that add a layer of difficulty in trying to build a culture of workplace giving?
There have been new challenges across the board created by the absence from the physical workplace. Certainly event-based charitable work has been fraught. But on the other hand, corporations are looking for meaningful ways to engage with their people that go beyond telepresence-based trivia or a hamper delivered to home. Building strong relationships and engagement with relevant charities whose work resonates with their employees and is aligned to their purpose is a strong statement by employers that creates better cultures. So while there are new barriers, there are also new opportunities.
10. What’s your pitch to an employee who’s reluctant to be part of a workplace giving program? How do you convince them of its value to them and the benefit to others?
Workplace giving programs represent the easiest way to increase your giving impact, with minimum effort required by the employee. Consider setting even a small amount aside from your regular salary, once you make that commitment, the magnification of your donation is immediate and effortless. Pre-tax donations direct from your salary not only increase the financial impact of your donation, they also remove the need for scrambling to find receipts at tax time. If your employer matches part or all of your donation amount, the charity benefits from the cumulative effect with an increased donation.
Additionally, the reliability of a regular workplace giving donation is a lifeline for many charities, and costs them significantly less than most other activities they engage in.