From football boots to ballet shoes, sponsorship and volunteering have taken on a wider focus for this busy chief financial officer.
No-one was more surprised than Mark Fenton FCPA when he developed a passion for the arts that led to a seat on the board of Queensland Ballet.
A sports-loving Australian Rules football fan who had spent his early career training in the military, Fenton had never considered himself particularly creative. But a simple sponsorship request planted the seed.
“I was the general manager of a manufacturing business and my national sales manager came in one day and said, ‘How about we sponsor this arts business?’ I sort of looked at him and went, ‘Huh? We’ve got a box at the footy; that’s going really well’. He wore me down over a couple of meetings.”
Fenton and his wife, Rhonda, were offered tickets to an opening night of the ballet.
“It was an absolutely jaw-dropping, emotional moment to see what these young, dynamic, impressive dancers – these young Queensland kids – could do,” he says. “It was just one of those shifts. I became a bit of an advocate for the [Queensland Ballet] organisation.”
Fenton, who is the chief financial officer of Village Retirement Group, was invited to join the Queensland Ballet board and spent more than nine years there, honing his governance skills and rising to deputy chairman.
"It was an absolutely jaw-dropping moment to see what these young, dynamic dancers could do.”
He also took on several other non-executive roles, including chair of the board of his daughter’s school, John Paul College, and chair of the Arts Investment Advisory Board. He is now a state councillor for the Queensland Alliance for Mental Health and is on the boards of affordable housing group Common Ground Queensland and orchestra and dance company Collusion Music Australia.
Last year, Fenton also joined the board of the International House Foundation, part of a global alliance that creates good-quality communities inside universities.
Fenton attributes his passion for service to having grown up with a father who was a school councillor and a mother who was a nurse.
“The opportunity to serve others is one of the most precious gifts that we have to give,” he says. “If I could volunteer 60 hours a week, I would be deliriously happy. I wouldn’t be sitting on the beach drinking daiquiris – I’d just be out volunteering, giving my time.”
Most of Fenton’s volunteering is done outside work hours, which he says he couldn’t do without his wife taking on the bulk of home duties and his two children’s willingness to sacrifice family time.
“I have a really understanding family, who get why this is important to me,” he says.
Outside of his busy job and board commitments, Fenton finds the time to mentor a current CPA Program student and keep up his love of sports, barracking for his beloved Brisbane Lions football team and in recent years smashing the Gold Coast half marathon in less than two hours.
Two years ago, Fenton’s strategic leadership was recognised when John Paul College named their first boarding facility Fenton Village.
“I still get goosebumps when I think about it,” he says.
Matching needs with deeds
Mark Fenton believes people’s basic needs must be met before they can achieve more in life. It’s this view that has spurred him to take on a diverse range of board commitments outside the arts sphere.
Two of the areas he has chosen to support are Common Ground, which has a vision to end homelessness, and Queensland Alliance for Mental Health, whose mission is to strengthen community-based responses to mental illness.
“When you look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you’ve got to start with the base,” says Fenton.
“You’ve got to be able to build someone from, ‘You’re safe. You’re fed. You’re warm’. And then you can start to address any other issues.”
How a retired volunteer is giving the art world a lift