One CPA gives as much as she receives at a local NFP

The help works both ways

Using her skills in a volunteer capacity has helped this CPA develop her leadership skills. The satisfaction she derives from making a difference is another bonus.

Sometimes giving back is about taking on an administrative challenge that would daunt all but the most dedicated volunteer.

For Amanda Burgess CPA, who is volunteering as director of the Carinya Society in Victoria, it was grappling with changes to disability services that will occur with the full introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Australia.

“Even the best and most committed management team in a not-for-profit environment often struggles to keep abreast of sector level changes and anticipation of trends,” Burgess told INTHEBLACK.

“In the absence of consultants and paid advisers, you are compelled to learn about topics that you would otherwise leave to a specialist.”

The mother-of-two says she joined Carinya in January 2014 because she was looking for a way to contribute more broadly to the community, and also wanted to develop herself as a young leader.

“The results are more tangible – observing the difference that the management teams make to the clients’ lives."

“I am part of a team of professionals who bring to the table financial, legal, medical and media experience,” she explains.

“And I have been fortunate to have the guidance of John Hoffman CPA, the treasurer of Carinya Society, as a mentor.”

Burgess has built some costing models that will allow the society to see if it can run the organisation more efficiently without compromising the services it offers.

“For the day program, for example, we have implemented a model that helps to maximise staff-to-client ratios while containing outlay,” Burgess says.

“There has also been a focus on managing the transition from ‘payment in advance’ to ‘payment in arrears’, another significant change. Ensuring sufficient cash flow and systems to manage the transition has been a priority.”

Burgess’s paid job is at utility Melbourne Water, where she is responsible for capital program framework agreements, residual program alliance agreements and potentially other capital panel agreements (a total value of about A$1 billion over five years). 

Burgess, who has been a CPA for 13 years, says while her role at Melbourne Water is rewarding, she really appreciates her charity work, as it gives her the opportunity to use her skills and knowledge in a different way.

“The results are more tangible [at Carinya] – observing the difference that the management teams make to the clients’ lives via programs, infrastructure and support,” she says.

Burgess, who last year completed The Australian Institute of Company Directors course, believes it’s important to demonstrate to her children a generosity of spirit, even if balancing professional and personal commitments isn’t always easy.

“But before and after the long working day, hugs, homework and bedtime stories are still all priorities,” she says emphatically.

“The results are more tangible – observing the difference that the management teams make to clients’ lives.”

Carinya Society

Carinya Society began as Coburg Helping Hand Association in 1952, aiming to provide disabled children with a better existence and a chance to reach their full potential. Today it provides adult training and support services to advance the independence, dignity and human rights of people with disabilities.

As well as the chance to take part in many community-based activities, from photography to a motor club, Carinya’s clients can spend time volunteering in North Melbourne’s Lost Dogs Home or take part in a catering program that teaches them food-handling skills.

The Carinya centre in Melbourne’s Coburg includes a sensory garden that is filled with colour, sound, smells and tastes thanks to its herbs, vegetables and fruit trees (the produce is used in the society’s cooking program). Carinya also provides permanent accommodation for five residents at Nelson House as well as offering respite care.

This article is from the July issue of INTHEBLACK

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