Program to encourage not for profit involvement

October 14, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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Jonathan Gavshon is behind the 2015 Observership Program to encourage young professionals’ involvement in not for profit organisations.

Not-for-profits are being given a rare opportunity to invite fresh strategic input into their boardrooms with the launch of the 2015 Observership Program.

Jonathan Gavshon

Jonathan Gavshon

With one of Australia’s most respected business leaders David Gonski lending his support as patron, the Observership Program allows young professionals to sit on the board of a not-for-profit as an observer for a 12-month period.

Modelled on a successful program in the United States, the program was initially launched in 2012 as a pilot by former investment banker, Sydney’s Jonathan Gavshon, and saw 25 per cent of boards inviting their Observer to join as a full-fledged member.

“This is a rare opportunity for not-for-profits to stay relevant in today’s changing business environment, gaining valuable insights into the strategic minds of young business professionals while filling a skill gap around their board tables. Not only do boards engage the talents and perspectives of the next generation in a low-risk, meaningful way, they ensure Observers are provided with the support to contribute properly,” said Gavshon, who believes the program will change the way the community sector thinks about governance and succession planning,” Gavshon explained.

David Gonski     Photo: Henry Benjamin

David Gonski Photo: Henry Benjamin

Program patron David Gonski said “The Observership Program is in my opinion an outstanding way for the future directors of all levels of Australian business to gain experience in what to do and indeed what not to do around the board table. I think it is so good that I am filled with regret that it or a similar program didn’t exist when I was young.”

More than 35 not-for-profits have already signed up for the 2015 program, including National Parks and Wildlife, Cure Cancer, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Garvin Institute of Medical Research with the remaining number of available spaces filling fast.

Jillian Segal, senior non- executive director who sits on the Observership board, said “Encouraging and upskilling talented young professionals to be involved in the NFP sector is both a privilege and a delight. The Observership Program is a powerful investment in the future of both the NFP sector and the next generation of community leaders.”

Six corporate supporters, including The Commonwealth Bank, McKinsey and Credit Suisse will also play an integral role in funding the program, and participants receive training through the Australian Institute of Company Directors (Company Directors). Phil Butler, NFP Manager said “The Observership Program is a unique opportunity for young people to experience the complexity of governing a not-for-profit organisation whilst also offering the opportunity to utilise the skills and enthusiasm of the program participants. It’s a real win/win situation.”

Philanthropy Australia, Company Directors, and JCA (NSW) have all committed to being strategic partners and are assisting in driving the growth of the program.

Applications for participating non-profits and observers are now open and can be accessed at here and close at the end of October. For more information and to find out how to be involved, visit the website or call 0416 212 622


About the Observership Program

Modelled on a similar successful program that operates in the United States, the Observership Program places talented young professionals aged 25-40 on non-profit boards for a period of 12 months as observers. During the 12 months, organisations allow Observers to attend all board and/or committee meetings as non-voting members, and learn about fundamental principles and functions of non-profit boards, the roles of board members, decision-making processes and governance priorities. It is a powerful tool to engage emerging community leaders while giving participating non-profit boards a free option on a potential new board member.


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