Making an impact through fundraising

Joanna Simoes (front left) at the Project Viela site in São Paulo’s favelas.


By providing benefits including matching donations, fundraising and charitable rewards for time spent volunteering, the Macquarie Group Foundation supports our people to contribute their time, money and skills to the causes that matter to them. 

We spoke to four Macquarie employees from our offices in Hong Kong, London, São Paulo and Sydney to understand what drives them to raise funds for non-profit organisations in their community. 

Joanna Simoes: Bringing people together to create real change for children in São Paulo’s favelas

During her four and a half years of working in Macquarie’s São Paulo office Joanna Simoes has become a champion for the Macquarie Group Foundation and an active member of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee, Women at Macquarie and the Unity Network in the Americas region.

“I think that working at Macquarie, we have a lot of opportunity to give back to our communities. We can do good here,” said Joanna. 

I feel strongly about helping people to understand others, because the more aware we are of our biases, the more we can improve the lives of others.” 

Joanna Simoes
Associate Director
Commodities and Global Markets, São Paulo 

Joanna was introduced to Project Viela, a small community project supporting children living in the favelas of São Paulo. Project Viela works on a number of projects with the children, including teaching music and creating theatre productions for them to participate in after school. 

“They teach music, sports and many types of art. Music is the main course they have at the project, and it was the one that caught my attention,” said Joanna.

Joanna introduced her colleagues at Macquarie to Project Viela, and they decided to teach the children about DEI concepts, which included asking them to write a song. With assistance from a psychologist who works in the favelas, Joanna created a program for children and another for teenagers. 

“The project was amazing. It was a big success. People from the favelas are in a precarious condition where they lack a lot of basic things. The project was incredibly moving once we realised that their singing was actually them sharing stories about their own lives,” said Joanna. 

“The children sang songs about their dreams to be a ballerina or a soccer player, but that they don’t have the means or people who believe in them. That’s why this project was so important because it’s based on people believing in them.” 

Project Viela seeks to strengthen young people’s perception of their own potential, which may be the first step in the transformation of the community itself.

Following the success of this program, Joanna wanted to get more involved in Project Viela and in 2022, she decided to organise the first ever fundraising dinner. 

“The first fundraising dinner was a great success and we’re currently planning the second one,” said Joanna. 

The fundraising efforts by Macquarie colleagues meant many of the funds raised for Project Viela were also matched by the Foundation. In addition, Joanna arranged for a television crew to film part of the event which helped raise awareness of Project Viela and has allowed the organisation to build a new establishment which will open in 2025. 

“It's a direct impact. If you think about it, in three years we changed the story of the project. I get a little emotional because it's real change,” said Joanna. 

It’s one of the things I like most about working at Macquarie: if you find a project or something that you are passionate about, you can really impact people's lives.” 

Jessica Koh: Empowering young people in emerging markets where we operate and invest

Jessica Koh (left) at EMpower’s 2024 annual fundraising dinner, along with the Dinner committee members and Macquarie supporters - Timmy Ho, Jessica Zhang, Scott Harmer, Kevin Merien and Christina Lee (not pictured).


After donating to EMpower – the Emerging Markets Foundation for over 12 years, Jessica Koh, located in Macquarie’s Hong Kong office, decided to deepen her commitment to the cause by donating to EMpower's operations and subsequently joined the organisation’s Board.

“Giving back has been an important part of my upbringing. It’s a passion I share with my husband and try to instill in my son. I was born in Sydney, and my parents were migrants from Vietnam. I think it’s important to pay it forward and help people, just as we were given opportunities to be in the position we are today,” said Jessica.

EMpower is a global non-profit that partners with local organisations in emerging market countries to enable marginalised young people to transform their lives and communities.

“Similar to Macquarie’s philosophy of giving back to the communities in which we live and work, EMpower was created in 2000 by a group of finance professionals who came together to give back to the emerging markets where they did business.” 

Today, EMpower helps fund over 150 grassroots local community organisations in 15 countries, enabling disadvantaged youth to live their full potential.

If a young person from a marginalised background can gain self-confidence and leadership abilities, and develop the right skills to find dignified work, they will have the opportunity to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.”

Jessica Koh
Associate Director
Macquarie Asset Management, Hong Kong

Jessica supports EMpower’s annual fundraising event held in Hong Kong by hosting a table and gathering support from colleagues who volunteer skills in event planning and communications. In recognition of the time they spend organising the event, Jessica and her colleagues are able to access matching from the Foundation for a portion of funds raised on the night.

Through her involvement with EMpower, Jessica has visited multiple underserved communities in Asia, including trips to India, Vietnam, Hong Kong and the Philippines. One trip that stood out to her was her most recent trip in February 2024 to India, where EMpower has been giving grants for 20 years. 

“I visited the urban slums of New Delhi and rural Rajasthan to see firsthand the tremendous impact EMpower’s grants have been making in local communities and to the lives of young people there,” said Jessica. 

“One charity that stood out was Jan Sahas – also a grant partner of the Macquarie Group Foundation – that works with Dalit communities in the poorest regions of rural India. We heard moving stories from young people about how they had been transformed into young leaders, and were now pursuing their dreams, and advocating for change in their local communities.”

In the space of 10 years, Jan Sahas has grown from one location to operations in nine states, supporting over 14,000 villages across India. 

Reflecting on her involvement in EMpower while working at Macquarie, Jessica says “I feel proud to work for an organisation that is prepared to support the causes its people are passionate about and gives back to the communities in which it operates and invests.”  

It is this kind of collaboration between individuals and employers that can truly transform lives and create lasting impact.”

Feiza Jivraj: lending specialist skills to help community members in need

Feiza Jivraj (centre left) and Macquarie’s tax team in London before embarking on the London Legal Walk.


In her work as a tax professional in Macquarie’s London office, Feiza Jivraj came across a UK-based non-profit called TaxAid, which provides free, independent advice across a range of tax issues that impact people on low incomes (incomes of £20,000 a year or less).

TaxAid was set up to support people on low incomes who were suffering significantly because they could not afford tax advice. The organisation helps people understand the parts of the tax system that apply to them and resolve crises when things go wrong.

“TaxAid will often help people who get a letter from tax authorities saying, ‘you’ve got X months’ tax to pay,’ and they often have no idea whether it’s correct. If it’s not correct, the non-profit provides support on how to challenge the tax bill,” said Feiza.

After learning about TaxAid, Feiza has gathered her team in London to participate in the London Legal Walk, a fundraiser where legal professionals from different firms come together to walk through London and raise funds for their chosen charities.

“It's a lovely day where we get to connect and walk through London together while also raising money for TaxAid and the Foundation matches the funds we raise,” said Feiza.

Feiza has participated in a number of hands-on volunteering initiatives and community events, but she found volunteering with TaxAid particularly interesting because it was a good use of her skillset. 

You can spend an hour on the phone with the helpline, speaking to people and running through their tax affairs. This is special because you can see how the knowledge and skills you have can make a difference to someone’s life.”

Feiza Jivraj
Division Director
Financial Management Group, London

Feiza encouraged her team to get involved by providing volunteer opportunities and inviting the organisation into Macquarie’s London office to discuss their work and continue to raise awareness of the social need.

Feiza utilises many Foundation benefits available to her, including donation matching, volunteer leave and volunteer rewards, and encourages her team to do the same.

It's really rare for an organisation to enable people to volunteer and provide support in the way that Macquarie does. It's really powerful,” said Feiza.

If you've got the ability and the time and skillset, then it's great to give back.”

Michael Thorns: Recruiting mentors at Macquarie to change a child’s life

Michael Thorns (centre, back row) at the Raise Foundation Patrons' Lunch with Macquarie colleagues.


Michael Thorns first heard about the Raise Mentoring (Raise) program when he joined Macquarie’s Sydney office three years ago, after his manager recommended the program to him.

“My manager said it was an eye-opening experience for him,” Michael said. “He said it really helped him get a fresh perspective with his children and as a people leader – and he felt like he’d made an impact.”

Raise connects volunteer mentors with young people in schools to deliver early intervention youth wellbeing programs across Australia. Mentors meet with the same student every week for a 20-week period and are equipped with skills and training needed to be effective.  

The training is important because mentoring a young person is something you really need to prepare for. Going in, I thought I was going to read through their CV or help them with their career prospects, but it really can be anything. There can be some confronting issues and some kids are going through a tough time.”

Michael Thorns
Associate Director
Corporate Operations Group, Sydney

“At first, the young person I was mentoring only wanted to chat about things like football or other sports. It wasn’t until about halfway in when I felt they were trusting me a little bit more. At that stage I felt like I was really able to make a difference.” 

Michael found one of the most powerful parts of Raise mentoring was being someone that a young person can talk to freely without judgement, who will listen and treat them like an adult. 

“As you get toward the end and start to see the young person develop confidence and watch them improve, it’s brilliant,” said Michael. 

“Sadly, young people have adults who come in and out of their lives, so that’s why Raise is quite firm on committing to turning up. A big part of it is just turning up and listening each week. 

“A key reason why I got involved was because I didn’t have that as a kid. It was only when I was about 15 that a teacher took me aside, spoke to me like a regular person and said ‘Look you’ve got some choices here. Do you want to go down this path or another path? I’m not going to tell you what to do but I can help you either way.’ That teacher changed my life. It was the first adult to speak to me like my opinion mattered.” 

After Michael’s experience volunteering with Raise, he decided to get more involved in promoting mentoring to his colleagues in Macquarie and joined Macquarie’s Raise working group, which seeks to support the organisation’s mission more broadly. Since then, Michael has organised different fundraising events for Raise which has not only increased donations to the organisation, but also increased the number of volunteer mentors from Macquarie. 

“Last year, we partnered with the Gender Equity Employee Network Group which nominated Raise as their charity partner for fundraising,” Michael said. “We ran a draw for colleagues to win a mentoring session with senior Macquarie executives. That initiative was useful in several ways. Aside from the fundraising, it led to a record number of Raise mentors from Macquarie. We have around 90 mentors this year, typically we sit at around 45 to 50.”

Additionally, Michael was involved in organising a private fundraising dinner for Raise along with four Macquarie colleagues. 

“The highlight of the event was hearing from a parent about the impact mentoring had on her child, and unexpectedly, also on herself. It made it clear the value that Raise brings to the community.” 

Funds raised at both these events were matched by the Macquarie Group Foundation, doubling the contribution made to the non-profit. 

“I’m still quite new to Macquarie and very new to organising events, but the Foundation team were so open to helping and supporting us.”  

The fact that I’ve been able to organise two fundraising events this year with support from the Foundation but not run by the Foundation shows the culture we have here at Macquarie. I love that we as staff are empowered and supported to pursue our ideas and the causes we choose.”