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Activating members to make a difference

Restaurant & Catering Victoria, in partnership with StreetSmart Australia, raised over $245,000 last year to help homeless Australians. This year together they raised over $100,000 in their Valentine’s Day bushfire appeal, aptly named ‘Share the Love’.

“On the Tuesday after the Saturday bushfires, we had one of our normal council meetings,” says Todd Blake, CEO of Restaurant & Catering Victoria (RCV). “We have a number of member businesses that are in the region, a couple of which were, and I stress ‘were’, in Marysville.”

With many restaurants keen to do something to help, the association channelled its activities into a centralised process that would assist those in the industry who had been affected by the bushfires.

“So it was really an attempt to provide a vehicle for restaurants who wanted to do something to help their fellow restaurateurs,” says Blake.

As a not-for-profit trade association, RCV does not have charitable status, so Blake contacted Adam Robinson, CEO of StreetSmart, for advice on how to move forward with the plan.

“We’re not overly experienced in the fundraising area, but Adam is,” explains Blake. “We didn’t want to make a mistake, didn’t want to put ourselves in a position where we raise a whole bunch of money and then don’t have a structure to distribute it, so really the governance issues were very important to us.”

The association contacted members, who then asked diners to make a small donation at the end of their Valentine’s Day meal; either on the spot, or by visiting the specially established website www.bushfires729.com

With the establishment of a grants committee made up of a couple of people from the RCV council and a couple of people from StreetSmart’s grants committee, Blake says their committee’s combined experience will ensure the money is effectively distributed to where it is most needed.

Choosing a long term partnership
As a network of some 7,000 restaurants, 1,200 of which are Victorian, Blake says Restaurant and & Catering Victoria receives many requests for assistance, but the association and its members are very committed to the issue of homelessness and have worked with StreetSmart for over five years.

Every year in the six weeks leading to Christmas, StreetSmart partners with RCV affiliates to ask diners to make a small donation to StreetSmart on their bill. Every table is asked to add $2 or more to their bill.

“Our view is that we should focus on a specific area and do that as well as we possibly can, rather than spreading ourselves thinly across a slew of different issues and not really doing any of them very well,” says Blake.

“The homelessness issue is one that is very relevant to the restaurant trade, particularly for those businesses that are in inner urban areas,” explains Blake. “There are a surprising number of restaurants that will provide a meal in the back of the kitchen to someone they see regularly, that may be homeless and may be looking for some assistance,” says Blake.

Robinson agrees that the partnership was a natural fit. “We share a major stakeholder group, restaurants and their staff, so our campaign has a natural synergy with the Association.”

“We also work hard to make sure that the beneficiaries of our campaign are grassroots organisations based in the communities where participating restaurants operate. At every opportunity we are looking to build community connectivity, linking the restaurants, their diners who donate, and the people we help.”

Being a membership organisation, with a close relationship with members and regular communication channels, RCV is able to activate their members on the issue of homelessness.

“We encourage people to be involved and we endorse the program,” says Blake. “If we stick our logo on it and tell the members that it’s a fine, upstanding, well run thing to do, then they’re more likely to consider it and be involved.”

Robinson says that RCV’s strong leadership has been instrumental to the success of the partnership. “The Victorian association leadership are keen that their industry is working with the community on issues that are important to their members and their customers, and see that they have an important role to play.”

“We have clear communication between our CEOs and meet to discuss ideas of how the partnership can be enhanced and developed. The leadership of both organisations understand what can be achieved by working together to help strengthen our community.”

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