Computershare employees on the 2019 Nepal trek.

Some partnerships really do say #relationshipgoals and the union between nonprofit World Youth International (WYI) and technology company Computershare is one of them.

WYI was established in 1988 by 21-year-old Robert Hoey who died at the young age of 28. His family continued his legacy and today WYI works with communities around the world to improve health and education and empower women and girls.

Volunteers are at the heart WYI’s programs and, on the fundraising side, the organisation’s range of initiatives raised $174,904 in FY2021/22. But the focus of this story is corporate giving; something that WYI does particularly well and their special relationship with Computershare plays no small part in that.

We spoke with Gabriella Ocenasek, Partnerships & Marketing Director at WYI, and Lucy Newcombe, Chief People and ESG Officer at Computershare, about the secrets of corporate partnership success and an overseas project where the organisations’ joint impact has really shined.

World Youth International

Gabriella, please tell us about your role as Partnerships & Marketing Director at World Youth International

I joined World Youth International about three years ago to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than me. I grew up in a nurturing family and while I have always been grateful, the challenges and outright miracles I’ve experienced over the past seven years (since becoming pregnant with my first-born) has made me even more appreciative. With sheer gratitude comes a genuine desire to ‘give back’.

“Raising awareness of disparities and funds so that children living below the poverty line can receive healthcare feels like the least I can do.”

The fact that there are still places in the world where children can’t access vital healthcare makes me so sad. Raising awareness of disparities and funds so that children living below the poverty line can receive healthcare feels like the least I can do. To be a role model to my two girls and instil that same sense of purposeful giving and finding happiness from within is equally important to me.

My role as Partnerships & Marketing Director involves finding and establishing long-term sustainable relationships with the right partners to support WYI’s innovative projects. I have spent the past three years learning about the organisation’s life-changing projects in Nepal, Kenya and Uganda, and running marketing campaigns to raise awareness and funds to safeguard our continued impact on communities. I could not do this without the guidance of founding member Ralph Hoey, General Manager Terry Hoey and my colleagues, Chloe Jackson and Bhumika Pathak.

Together, we work to educate, empower and inspire change within the global community. I am honoured and inspired to be part of such a special organisation, which is a testament to the courageous work and dedication of the Hoey family.

What proportion of fundraising income at World Youth International comes from corporate partnerships?

It’s hard to reply to this question with a percentage amount. For example, we have been in partnership with Computershare for over five years and we could not have experienced a more diverse five-year period. We have navigated our way through the pandemic, international travel restrictions and border lockdowns, and several of our regular [corporate] donors are no longer able to support us. By no means is the past financial year an accurate reflection of the past five years, but the percentage of fundraising income from corporate donations in FY2021/22 was 19%.

What are World Youth International’s other main fundraising programs?

Our largest program is Nurses In Action, through which more than 4000 nurses and allied health professionals have travelled to Kenya and Nepal on volunteering placements, providing healthcare within vulnerable communities. As well as covering their program fees, the volunteers fundraise, with income going to our global projects.

We facilitate a child scholarship program for students attending the World Youth International School and Children’s Centre in Nepal. One activity we implement to support this is partnering with athletes such as soccer player Jamie Young and, most recently, Brisbane Lions footballer Hugh McCluggage. With our digital marketing support, Hugh raised over $33,000 to help students at the school access a sports and creative arts program.

What strategies do you use to establish and nurture corporate partnerships? 

My key strategy is strong communication and transparency. I really enjoy learning about the organisation so that our project aligns with their vision and mission. We ensure that the organisation is regularly updated on the projects they support, and we workshop mutually beneficial digital campaigns that allow the organisation to share their story and speak to their audiences as well as ours.

We invite all our corporate partners to take part in a life-changing overseas tailored adventure that suits team member qualifications, passions and goals. This could be an experience tied to a sustainable development project, a safari in Kenya, or a trek through the Himalayas.

Computershare – a global business with CSR front of mind

Lucy, why are charitable partnerships important to Computershare? What benefit do they offer the business, your customers and the nonprofit organisations you support?

Being a good corporate citizen is extremely important to Computershare, and we’re committed to collaborating with charitable organisations working to tackle issues we care about. We empower our employees by giving them a vote on the charities we engage with.

Our employee engagement surveys consistently reveal how much our staff care about our company’s charitable initiatives.

Can you tell me about Computershare’s global community giving program Change A Life?

Change A Life (CAL) is a global program that invests half of all donations received (from employee payroll giving) into projects that provide long-term solutions for communities. The remaining half is split between our selected diversity and inclusion partner and local projects delivered by established charities.

“Since 2005 our Change A Life donations have supported 17 global projects across 14 countries and have raised more than $10.5 million.”

Computershare matches every dollar that employees donate through their payroll.

Which other nonprofits do you support alongside World Youth International?

CAL supports charities that operate locally to 20 of our offices around the world, with staff helping to choose the organisations. Charities most recently voted for include:

  • Melbourne: Kids Under Cover
  • Sydney: Starlight Children’s Foundation
  • Brisbane: Kickin with a Cuz
  • Asia: Changing Young Lives Foundation
  • Auckland: Auckland City Mission
  • Canada: Food Banks Canada
  • US: Together We Rise
  • Bristol, UK: Young Bristol
  • Rest of UK: FareShare
  • Continental Europe: Save the Children
  • Jersey: Mind Jersey

In 2023, our diversity and inclusion partner (receiving 25% of the annual fund allocation) is Year Up, a US-based workforce development organisation providing young adults with equitable access to economic opportunities, education and justice irrespective of their income, background or where they live.

Since 2005 our CAL donations have supported 17 global projects across 14 countries and have raised more than $10.5 million.

What qualities do you seek in the nonprofits you support?

In line with our employee preferences, we draw up a shortlist of organisations without religious or political affiliations that have a solid, sustainable track record. We also want to ensure that the organisations meet our company values, whether it’s our emphasis on diversity and inclusion, our passion for sustainability or our desire to support those who most need help.

After that, we put the list of potential charities to a vote of contributing employees, giving them the opportunity to choose a charitable organisation that addresses the issues they most care about.

What other Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives do you have?

We support a range of initiatives aimed at enabling the communities we’re involved in around the world.

For example, we’re committed to apprenticeship programs across the UK to encourage people from diverse backgrounds into financial services. We also work with Yes for Youth in South Africa, enabling young people to gain quality industry work experience.

Our employees also take part in regular hackathons aimed at solving industry or community-led issues or problems using computing. And they regularly volunteer their time for local charities. This hasn’t happened very much during the pandemic, but we hope our staff can get back to it soon.

We’re also proud to donate physical items to our local communities: during the pandemic we donated computer equipment to local schools to enable pupils without laptops and other IT hardware to continue their lessons online.

“Our employees take part in regular hackathons aimed at solving industry or community-led issues or problems using computing.”

Computershare also puts a great emphasis on improving our environmental impact. We became carbon neutral in 2020 and in 2021 we committed to meeting a NetZero target. We’re constantly working to minimise our global use of energy, water and waste and seek suppliers with the same attitude to preserving resources.

In what ways do you share updates about your CSR initiatives with your employees?

We’re continuously updating employees about our community initiatives in our large ‘town halls’, via our global internal communications platforms and through our ongoing business communications.

If you could sum up how it makes your workforce feel to support nonprofits and community organisations in one sentence, what would that be?

Employees tell us that they love knowing that working for Computershare means they can also contribute to valuable causes around the world, and that matching their donations is a very powerful incentive for them to continue supporting initiatives making a tangible difference to the lives of others.

 

#relationshipgoals – World Youth International & Computershare

Can you tell us about being awarded Best Charity Partnership for an employee giving program?

Gabriella: We were very excited to be announced as winners in the 2020 Workplace Giving Australia ‘Giving Excellence Awards’, for the ‘Most Innovative Charity and Employer Partnership’ category with Computershare. The award was focused on Computershare’s five-year commitment, with funds targeted towards our World Youth International School in Nepal.

How did the Computershare relationship come about?

Gabriella: World Youth International was made aware of Computershare’s Global Partnership Program back in early 2017 when we were invited to submit a project proposal to become their next major global partner. Terry Hoey, General Manager of WYI, was invited to travel to Melbourne to present our proposal which clearly aligned with Computershare’s objectives to provide quality education to underprivileged children across the globe.

Adding to the proposal was our ability to provide staff engagement activities for Change A Life (CAL) donors across the globe to participate in some life changing experiences. Computershare were impressed with our global reach and our capacity to manage incoming donations from any country across the globe. The partnership began on September 14, 2017.

Lucy: We were impressed by WYI’s down to earth approach and their ability to work with a large commercial enterprise. We were also attracted to WYI’s 10-year vision of a financially self-sustaining future for the school in Nepal.

What has been a highlight from the relationship?

Gabriella: One of our great achievements from the past financial year was the successful completion of our five-year partnership with Computershare to upgrade the World Youth International School in Nepal so it could become a senior college. Over the past five years, we have seen enrolment numbers rise at the school from 300 to 650 students!

From a relationship-management perspective, what do World Youth International do well to keep you engaged?

Lucy: As WYI’s first large corporate partner, we struck up a close working relationship with the organisation from the start. WYI sends us regular impact reports, updates and audited accounts from the projects we support, as well as real-life student stories that we can share with employees.

We very much value WYI’s proactivity and transparency; the latter is very important to commercial organisations such as ours to ensure that our employee donations are spent in the most effective way.

We also receive information about when the costs of the project might change and the reasons for this, which also helps us to understand spending details on the project.

Can you tell me about the ‘Change A Life’ Boarding Centre?

Gabriella: The boarding centre was created to generate a new revenue stream for the WYI School taking it one step closer to becoming self-sufficient. The centre houses 50 students completing their final two years of study at our senior college. It will allow students to live on campus and focus 100% of their energy on their studies, giving them the best possible launch pad to further education or a career. The foundations of the building have been built to earthquake standards, making it one of the sturdiest buildings in the region and a safe house for students. Boarding fees and scholarships will help to make the school self-sustainable into the future.

This project has always been part of our vision but was not part of our original agreement with Computershare. It come to fruition in 2018 after it was agreed that Computershare would host fundraising events [additional to the support already agreed upon in the five-year partnership term], engaging their staff worldwide. WYI have now hosted [for Computershare staff] two 10-day treks to Nepal in 2018 and 2019, along with a Nepal Virtual Trek in 2022.

The Trek Nepal 2018 team consisted of 33 Computershare employees who hiked strenuously for six days through the Annapurna Mountain Ranges in the Himalayas. In 2019, 21 employees from across Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong took part. The team celebrated the end of their adventure with an action-packed day at the school. After a tour of the grounds, they broke into groups and hosted educational activities for some of the students before playing a friendly game of cricket.

With a goal of raising at least $100,000, over 135 dedicated Computershare employees from offices all around the world, including United Kingdom, USA, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, participated in the 2022 Virtual Trek. Along the way they had the opportunity to ‘travel’ the same route that previous trekkers experienced, all while gaining insight into the Nepali culture. With travel restrictions still in place during that time, and many employees continuing to work from home, the Virtual Trek was the perfect platform to allow participants to connect across borders.

Money raised from all three treks has funded the construction and the fit-out of the CAL Boarding Centre.

Lucy: For the past few years, our program has supported WYI to enable youth from remote villages in Nepal to live and study at the World Youth International School in Gorkarna, Kathmandu.

WYI’s proposal [for the boarding centre] appealed to us because it gave us the opportunity to shape, and become involved in, an entire project at the school.

We also liked the idea of using a trek to help engage employees as part of a longer-term initiative. It was important that our people could have the opportunity to see their donations in action as part of the trek and therefore feel an affinity with the project.

The idea of a boarding centre was ambitious, and we believed it would make a valuable addition to the school and its already substantial efforts to educate young people and children with few alternative learning opportunities in one of the most inaccessible parts of the world.

Our employees taking part in the treks have so far raised AU$600,000 to cover the cost of the building.

Celebrations for the opening of the Change A Life Boarding Centre.

What was it like for some of the Compuershare team to travel to Nepal for the opening of the boarding centre?

Lucy: Officially opening the centre was a very proud moment for me personally.

As Computershare’s Chief People and ESG Officer, and a Change A Life contributor for 18 years, it was fantastic to see the impact of the funds on the lives of pupils and education of local children.

I was also able to meet with many of the school’s pupils to understand how the centre was positively impacting on their schooling and I found the children and project extremely inspiring.

Can you tell us a bit more about employee engagement?

Lucy: We aim to engage with organisations that emphasise a volunteering aspect, which we know our employees hugely value.

WYI’s fundraising treks to Nepal in 2018, 2019 and our virtual trek in 2022, as well as other volunteering opportunities in connection with the boarding centre, have proved extremely popular engagement touch-points for staff members. More than 60 employees have visited the school and have seen their fundraising dollars in action.

Gabriella: Computershare have an engaged workforce who are committed to making a positive difference to their global community. By supporting WYI, they have been able to offer employees many opportunities to see first-hand where their donations are going through unique experiences, such as the treks in Nepal.

As beneficiaries, we can see the continuous and genuine commitment of Computershare to help where and when it’s most needed. This commitment was even highlighted during the pandemic. When COVID-19 began to spread globally, Computershare were quick to reach out and ask whether WPI here in Adelaide, and our school community in Nepal, needed any additional assistance.

We truly feel we are achieving great success in fostering a strong partnership and promoting both our organisations’ values and objectives.

In what ways are Computershare acknowledged for their support?

Gabriella: We work closely with Computershare on collaborative digital campaigns that showcase the partnership and achievements made possible with their generous support. We align with the PR and social media team at Computershare to share content, and regularly post across our digital platforms about the positive impact that Computershare’s contributions are having.

What’s next?

Lucy: In 2022 our five-year association with WYI was completed. We put forward a new pool of global projects with WYI among them, and we’re delighted to say that our staff have again chosen to continue to work with the organisation to help the school become fully sustainable.

To learn more about World Youth International’s partners and supporters, click here.

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