David Harris CPA, president of the board of food charity Fareshare, finds his CPA Australia education and expertise invaluable in his volunteering role.
Being in a leadership role with a large not-for-profit (NFP) organisation is extremely challenging, but it is also immensely satisfying, according to David Harris CPA, president of the board of FareShare, a Melbourne-based organisation that collects food donations and transforms them into cooked meals for people in need.
At the same time, he is a founder and co-director of resource recovery and reverse logistics firm TIC Group (The Ideas Company). It was TIC Group that led him to FareShare.
“In 2005, TIC Group was involved in managing customer returns for a number of Australia’s leading retailers,” he says.
“I was approached by Coles Supermarkets to find a solution for the problem of food products being discarded due to damaged packaging and other issues. I developed a model that facilitated the rescue of these products and the subsequent donation to charities. Based on this, a board member of FareShare – then known as One Umbrella – asked me to join their board. As soon as I understood the important work the organisation was doing I was happy to jump in.”
At that time, the organisation was using “borrowed” premises in Melbourne to produce about 45,000 meals a year. Over the past three years this number has jumped to over 1.25 million meals produced in a purpose-designed kitchen and distributed through a variety of charitable agencies. In addition, FareShare also rescues almost one million kilograms of food a year destined for landfill, which it distributes, uncooked, to agencies in need.
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A handful of volunteers has now grown to over 1000, with a waiting list of another 1200. FareShare also features in many corporate volunteering programs.
The organisation recently acquired additional premises, which will enable it to lift production to two million meals a year and expand distribution into regional Victoria and South Australia.
With the support of donors and philanthropists, in 2018 FareShare purchased a building in Brisbane and converted it into a charity kitchen. It aims to prepare one million meals in the first year and, subject to future fundraising capability, to cook up to four million meals a year for distribution throughout Queensland and New South Wales.
Harris says his CPA Australia education and expertise have proved invaluable throughout his career in business and the NFP sector, which includes 13 years as a member of the board of Foodbank Victoria until 2017.
“I come from a background that is focused on a for-profit outcome. Based on my NFP work, I believe that while these organisations such as FareShare are clearly charities, they need to be run on business lines,” he says. “Profit might not be the ultimate goal, but we need to use resources effectively. At FareShare, we convert every dollar donated into a A$7 retail value cooked meal, which is something we can proudly show our amazing donors, volunteers and supporters.”
He notes that TIC Group emphasises environmental sustainability, saying it was the first company in the world to develop a business model for plastic garment hangers to be reused.
Harris believes that people with business expertise should be willing to use it for social purposes. “I would encourage anyone who has the desire to contribute to the community through an NFP without reward, and to do so with passion and gusto,” he says. “Use your particular skill set to add value where it really counts.”
FareShare rescues surplus food and cooks and distributes free, nutritious meals for people in need via soup vans, homeless shelters, women’s refuges and community food banks. It estimates about four million Australians experience food insecurity, while as much as A$20 billion worth of food is wasted. To donate, please visit: www.fareshare.net.au
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