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Charities open eyes on how much more can be done

01 Mar 2017

For Anthony Trichter, the biggest eye-opener while working on a pro bono project for a local non-profit has been how the charity can do so much with so little.

The change management and technology infrastructure expert from Macquarie New York’s office said he and his Macquarie project team had great admiration for their pro bono client, the Carter Burden Center for the Aging, which works with elderly people from around New York City through a range of community programs.

“They have 85 staff and over 2,000 volunteers annually doing great things like serving 1000 meals a day to aged people in need - but they don’t have the technology to easily do simple tasks like quickly disseminate information to all members of staff or track the volunteering,” he says.

Trichter is working with a group of Macquarie employees to develop a technology ‘pitchbook’ for Carter Burden to capture its tech challenges, strategy and proposed tactics as part of developing a five-year technology roadmap across the organization. The pitchbook can then be used by existing and potential donors to quickly grasp what needs to be funded to further support Carter Burden’s programs and maximise their utility. Trichter hopes the pitchbook will also benefit Carter Burden in identifying other project areas where corporate volunteers can assist.

The initiative is part of Macquarie Group’s ‘Civic Edge’ program, the pro bono component of an internal leadership development course at Macquarie run in partnership with the Taproot Foundation.

The program is also offered to Macquarie staff in Houston, where a team there is working with local non-profit The Hay Center, an organisation which helps foster youth transition to adulthood through employment, education, housing, mental health and life skills programs.

Like Carter Burden, The Hay Center was also in need of IT assistance. Macquarie employee Rennu Varughese is part of a team that has scoped out the requirements needed for a system that Hay Center management can use to track donors, volunteers and campaigns.

Varughese says that the Hay Center has been reliant on Excel spreadsheets and was looking for a more integrated solution that was maintenance-free, as the charity had no in-house IT expertise. A software provider has been identified and the team is working towards implementation.

Both the Houston and New York teams comprise people from across Macquarie’s business; Varughese and Trichter note that everybody on their respective teams brought different things to the table.

For example, the Macquarie team working with Carter Burden was able to merge their complementary risk analysis, finance, marketing and IT skills to put the pitchbook together.

‘Soft’ skills were also important, as Varughese pointed out.

“With this project, I’ve been able to put some of the relationship-building lessons I learnt through the leadership development program into action,” he says. “With The Hay Center, it was really about listening to their points of view and suggesting solutions that are most appropriate to their needs. It was a great lesson in empathy and, mostly importantly, the charity is very happy with the work we’ve done to date.”

At the end of the three-month project, both Civic Edge teams will also be evaluated by a panel of senior Macquarie stakeholders, with the winners receiving a $10,000 grant for their non-profit partner.

Image caption: Technology training for the elderly is one of the services the Carter Burden Center, one of Macquarie’s Civic Edge program participants, offers its clients. Photo courtesy the Carter Burden Center.