When Amanda Young MAICD was appointed as the CEO of the First Nations Foundation in 2015, she had to get across the subject matter fast. Revenues were flatlining so finding a way to communicate the business case for investing in the financial future of Indigenous Australians was paramount.
“I had to create a bridge, where on the one bank you have the most disadvantaged people in Australia and on the other, the finance industry. There had to be value and safety in it for both groups,” Young says.
To find that value, she needed to be able to speak credibly to the leaders of the finance world in their language. Young attended executive courses at Harvard and Stanford universities in the US and quickly grasped how to do it. “People start with the heart — they feel your passion, the innate goodness of the work and it makes them feel confidence. Then their heads have to understand the business case. Finally, they must be motivated to act — the hip pocket.”
In 10 months, Young was able to lock in nine new financial partners, and her networking and fundraising helped turn operating losses in 2015 and 2016 into revenue of more than $1m, with a $419,000 profit in 2017. The other benefit of her self-funded education trips was that they opened up a new global network and opportunities. She is involved in laying the groundwork for a number of global projects with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.
“I needed to do a lot of networking, and it worked. I raised the foundation’s profile so I had credibility with the people I was meeting, for the cause I believe in — Indigenous economic freedom.”
About the First Nations Foundation
The First Nations Foundation is a charity aimed at increasing financial inclusion for Aboriginal people. It engages with the Indigenous community to provide basic financial education, as much of the group it aims to help lacks exposure to how money works, including credit, interest and debt.
The Foundation’s approach begins with community engagement, through social media, explaining the differences between financial products, what the coverage means, or how it works in the context of a community.
The Foundation gives particular focus to superannuation, a space where it could see intergenerational change. Its flagship event is the Big Super Day Out. At a recent event in Brisbane, nearly 20,000 Indigenous people attended.
“When you can get that many Indigenous people together to talk to them as a group about their money, you know you’ve done something right.”
”In a volatile, complex and ambiguous world, keep your eyes on your vision, stay the course of your values and move in line with your mission.”
Keeping it simple
Success in meeting with the corporate world is one part of the role, but so is finding a way to gather momentum within the Indigenous community. Young says keeping across her responsibilities on both sides of the coin comes down to simple practices.
“Always send a follow-up email after every meeting and be consistent, reliable and friendly. Indigenous issues get a lot of bad press and people can see it as an angry place. What our clients and investor-donors know is that it’s a place of great hope and opportunity.”
Young translates many of her networking skills to the boardroom. “Head, heart and hip pocket applies to boards,” Young says. “In a volatile, complex and ambiguous world, keep your eyes on your vision (head), stay the course of your values (heart) and move in line with your mission (hip pocket). This is the same for NFP or corporate boards.”
5 Tips for Mastering a Business Case
- Keep your eyes on your vision, stay the course of your values and move in line with your mission
- Create value and safety for all parties
- Speak credibly and in the right language
- Network – locally and internationally
- Invest in self-education