Philanthropy Australia CEO Sarah Davies leads a unique team dispersed across Australia that are known for their self-motivation and high performance – traits that make their employees one of the organisation’s most valuable assets.

 Sarah Davies – CEO, Philanthropy Australia

 Sarah Davies – CEO, Philanthropy Australia


Ms Davies said an employee’s proven commitment to a greater purpose prior to taking on their role has proven beneficial.

“Working at a not-for-profit organisation can often be difficult and uncertain, and the people who come to work with us know this, and are absolutely committed to the cause,” Davies said.

Despite being a small team, Philanthropy Australia works across all states and territories nationwide with offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, keeping the team out of physical proximity.

Separated by what sometimes can be a tyranny of distance, the peak national body for philanthropic organisations has worked innovatively to achieve a win-win situation for employees and the organisation.

Ms Davies said this distance makes it that much more important to be collaborative and engaged.

“Collaboration is the key to going the distance in our work. There is a great African proverb that says if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together – and we want to go far,” she said.

Philanthropy Australia ensures they ‘go together’ by meeting in person three times a year purely to collaborate, undertake team building exercises and think strategically rather than discussing day-to-day business operations.

While the topic of the meeting varies depending on what the team needs at the time, Philanthropy Australia’s solution have, so far, focused on three themes:

  1. Nurturing interpersonal relationships.
  2. Aligning and understanding the personal values of team members.
  3. Collaborating to form a long-term strategy and how to best undertake organisational change – including what works well and what needs to be adapted better.

A most recent example of collaboration is their Strategic Plan for 2017-2020. Each team member contributed their individual expertise, whether it was administration, membership services or marketing, into the strategy to ensure it genuinely represented a team effort. It brought individual roles back to a core purpose. 

The exemplary way in which this has assisted overall team development has demonstrated how Philanthropy Australia wins by recognising each employee’s value and contribution despite being scattered across the country.


Our interviews with 50 leading CEOs showed leaders must be open to changed work practices which nurture and support staff rather than focusing on output. (CEO Insights)