Unique partnership helps homeless youth in Canberra

Mark Pattrick CPA put his accountancy's strength behind a local charity

Homeless and troubled youth in Canberra are benefiting from a fruitful partnership between a local accountancy firm and a hands-on charity.

Selecting a charity to support was no simple task for Canberra accounting and consulting firm Synergy.

As company partner Mark Pattrick CPA explains, because the business firmly believes that “one plus one can equal three” when it comes to working as a group and having a greater impact, it was determined to get its charity relationship just right.

“We wanted to partner with a charity that wasn’t necessarily well known and that was locally based and community-oriented,” says Pattrick.

“We also wanted to go with a charity ... where our staff could play an active and engaging role, such that they felt they were making a real difference to the lives of at-risk youth in our community.”

After a thorough search, Synergy found YouthCARE Canberra. From the outset, it seemed a perfect fit. 

YouthCARE is a small charity that runs on a lean budget and makes the most of every dollar donated. Its youth workers spend most of their time on the streets in the capital territory, working with troubled adolescents and young adults.

Many of its clients are homeless or living rough; in the worst cases, some have turned to drugs and prostitution.

Mark Pattrick“It’s pretty horrendous,” says Pattrick, “like 11-year-old, 12-year-old girls prostituting themselves and a 15-year-old boy coming home after school and his parents have just packed up and gone interstate and he’s got nothing, nowhere to go.” 

Due diligence to ensure the business-charity relationship could work involved several meetings, including between the organisations’ respective boards, to see whether their values were aligned and “to ensure they liked us and we liked them”.

Synergy and YouthCARE entered into a three-year relationship, plus a two-year option. The timeframe was carefully selected, says Pattrick, explaining that it was long enough to provide stability and allow YouthCARE to better plan its future.

“One or two years wouldn’t have been enough for an initial commitment,” he adds.

Eighteen months in and Synergy and YouthCARE Canberra are working as a close-knit team. Initially, the charity had just one outreach worker, but thanks to the support of Synergy, it now has two. 

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Synergy partner Pat Quade sits on the YouthCARE board and, with the assistance of senior manager Jan-Maree Stewart, oversees the treasury and public officer functions and helps build management capacity.

Many of Synergy’s 140 staff members also help out with fundraising. In the first year alone, Synergy helped to raise more than A$30,000 for the not-for-profit. 

“For all their fundraising activities, we’re involved heavily as a firm and we encourage all of our staff to be involved as well,” says Pattrick.

“Whether it’s raffles or auctions, we help sell tickets and help contribute raffle prizes, too.”

“We wanted to go with a charity ... where our staff could play an active role.”

Synergy has also used its long-running sponsorship of CPA Congress in Canberra to promote the work of YouthCARE to other businesses and accounting professionals.

These collective efforts are making a real difference in helping YouthCARE support young people in need.

“The really attractive thing to us,” says Pattrick, “was that for every dollar we invest in YouthCARE, several dollars of value are provided back out to the community.”

YouthCARE's culture of care

YouthCARE Canberra is a not-for-profit that receives little or no government funding. It assists young, vulnerable people on the streets.

“They really look after the youth who have slipped through the cracks,” says Pattrick.

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November 2016
November 2016

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