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Rewarding more than the bottom line – 5 CEOs on why they choose the not-for-profit sector

4 min read

Don Henry, Australian Conservation Foundation

Don Henry has an extensive career in conservation. He has held consecutive positions as Director of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, Editor of Wildlife Australia, Commissioner of the Australian Heritage Commission, and President of the Australian Committee for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. During the 1990s he worked with the World Wide Fund for Nature as Australian Director, before moving to Washington as Director of its South Pacific program, the Asia-Pacific program, as well as the Global Forest program. In 1998 he returned to Australia to take up the position of Executive Director of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Don was awarded a Global 500 Environment Award from the United Nations Environment Program in 1991, and in 2008 was named Equity Trustees’ Not for Profit 2008 CEO of the Year.

“I really enjoy working for, and I am committed to, not-for-profit organisations because we work to achieve a mission for the greater good of people and our world.

“Many for-profit businesses do fine work, but at the end of the day their prime measure of success is their profitability and return to shareholders. Earning money or raising funds is one thing, but then ensuring that money is spent for the lasting benefit of people on the planet is what charities attempt to do.

“When you choose, or have the opportunity of choosing where you work, you’re making an important decision about where you put your skills, energy and time. As the CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation, I feel really privileged that my time and effort goes towards inspiring Australians to achieve a healthy environment.”

Sue Murray, National Breast Cancer Foundation

Sue Murray became CEO of the National Breast Cancer Foundation in 2000 after over 15 years experience with medical associations and foundations across Australia. After beginning her career in the education sector, she moved through a variety of positions with the Cancer Council of NSW, the Australian Medical Association Charitable Foundation and the Leukaemia Foundation of Australia.

“Being a CEO in the not-for-profit sector allows you a certain flexibility to try new things and act quickly on opportunities, as opposed to under the more shareholder business model.

“I get the best of both worlds, as we deal with many of the country’s top companies through our corporate partner program, including Ford, Mt Franklin, Estee Lauder Companies and EnergyAustralia. But it’s the stories I hear and the inspirational people I meet that motivate and keep me in the community sector.

“We’re driven just as much by profit and bottom line as a business, with the main difference being that our profit goes to breast cancer research rather than executive salaries and shareholder returns.”

Louise Baxter, Starlight Foundation

Louise Baxter started her professional career in marketing and advertising, working with giants like J&J, Arnotts, and Samuel Taylor, before starting her own advertising agency. She worked with the Starlight Children’s Foundation for six years, after she was presented with what she calls a “wonderful opportunity” to bring her skills to the not-for-profit sector. After briefly returning to the corporate sector, she rejoined the Starlight Children’s Foundation as CEO in 2009.

“Ultimately I felt I wanted to do more to pay back the community for the good fortune I had in my own life.

“As the CEO, I am excited to be building further onto the extraordinary work this wonderful charity does for sick children and their families. As a parent, I can fully empathise with families impacted by serious illness. To be able to bring a smile to a sick child’s face, to help them feel like a normal child with some fun and distraction, and to help relieve some of the pressures and stress that families with seriously and chronically ill children endure is something that keeps me motivated and energised.

“I have a wonderful team of dedicated and passionate individuals who are committed to Starlight’s Mission. Couple that with the inspiring families and their incredible stories, and you can probably see how that makes coming to work every day very easy.”

Simon Pryor, The Mathematical Association of Victoria

Simon Pryor is Chief Executive Officer of the Mathematical Association of Victoria, President of the Australian Society of Association Executives and a Director of Performing Arts Moreland. He has held positions as Chairman of Mountain Goat Beer Pty Ltd and as Mayor and Councillor at the City of Brunswick in Victoria. He has been involved as an executive officer of professional, education and industry associations for the past 25 years, including the Meetings Industry Association of Australia, Moreland Community Enterprise Centre, Employment and Economic Development Corporation, Engineering Education Australia, and the Victorian Association for Drama in Education.

“When I was Chief Executive Officer of the Employment and Economic Development Corporation and the Southside Business Centre, everything I was doing was about creating employment and wealth for others – and we certainly had our successes.

“People wondered why I wasn’t ‘cashing in’. I used to reply that I struggled with profit as a motive. I need more than those thoughts to get me out of bed in the morning.

“I live in a community that nurtures and supports me and mine. To me, the best that I can be and the most important thing I can do in my professional life is to be part of the essential fabric of that community – to spend my career helping to sustain the ties that bind and promote the values and ideas that sustain communities. That’s what motivates me.”

Cheryl Cartwright, Australian Pipeline Industry Association Ltd

Cheryl Cartwright has been Chief Executive of the Australian Pipeline Industry Association for five years. Prior to this she had an extensive career in politics, working as a political advisor to the Shadow Treasurer, Opposition Leader, and Industry Minister, and as Chief of Staff for the Customs and Agriculture Minister. She has also worked with the media, covering politics for the Australian Associated Press and Channels 7 and 9.

“I enjoy working in an industry association because it provides a genuine sense of being able to make a difference for a group of people and/or companies with similar interests.

“In our small Association of just over 400 members, we are often in direct contact with the members, either when they call us in the office or when we meet at our numerous functions around the country. This means we hear from them directly regarding what they want from the Association and we get feedback on our activities and ideas. It means that new ideas can make a real difference.”

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