Scholar Profile - Amy Cato PDF Print E-mail
Amy Cato

AMY CATO

Director at the WIRE- Women’s Information, and at AQA (Australian Quadriplegics Association)

Awarded a scholarship for AICD's Governance Foundations for NFP Directors course, 2014


What sort of work does your organisation do?

WIRE Women's Information provides Victorian women with free and confidential support, information and referrals on any issues with a walk in centre and phone based support line. WIRE are an incredible organisation tackling the issues of family violence, women’s homelessness and leading the way towards increased financial security for women. I have proudly been WIRE’s Company Secretary for the past three years. 

AQA - Quality Attendant Care and Support for People with Physical Disabilities, specialising in Spinal Cord Injury. This large NFP is well respected in the community and by its clients for supportive and attentive care. I joined their Board in May 2013.

Describe a typical day's work.

I have just launched an Executive Search Firm – Executive Women Shortlists -addressing the lack of female representation at senior levels of business. ASX 200 Companies who have a more diverse executive team outperform those that don’t by 34%. I am excited to drive the move towards a more inclusive workplace in Australia. So at the moment my typical day is dealing with clients and candidates and getting the word out there. Very busy and very excited about the challenge ahead!

What were some of the key learnings from the NFP Directors course?

The course was fantastic. It put a real emphasis on my responsibilities and liability as a Director. It took the sheen of what is perceived to be a glamorous and prestigious position and broke it down into the personal accountabilities and the risks I take on by being a Director. It gave me the knowledge to assess if this was the path I wanted my career to take and I have been able to come to the informed conclusion that I am absolutely on the right path and love my Board work.

How has it impacted / changed / benefited your role and your organisation as a whole?

It has made me stronger in my confidence and understanding of  my role as Director, which is an invaluable asset to both myself and to the Boards I sit on. It has made me question and challenge some areas of our governance processes to further build the overall sustainability and risk awareness of the organisation. I learnt that it is ok and expected to seek additional information and answers, even if the Board has already given the topic attention prior to my commencement, as I am still held responsible to it. I learnt there is no such thing as an Apprentice Board Director.

I enjoyed going over the financial reports and listening to others experiences and thoughts on healthy budgeting and P&L’s.

The day was excellent for networking and I was pleased to link in with many other participants after the course.

How did you come to be working in the not-for-profit sector?

I am passionate about Women and People with Disability so it was a natural path for me. In my corporate life I don’t always get to feel the satisfaction of helping the community that I do with my NFP work, and it adds great balance to my life.

WIRE took a chance on me as a 26 year old first time Director and within eight months I was their Public Officer and Company Secretary. I will always be in gratitude to the WIRE Board for providing me with the opportunity.

WIRE and AQA are vibrant, dynamic and supportive organisations that are founded on good governance practice. I sit on Boards with highly experienced and skilled professionals and absorb as much learning’s as I can. As I have grown over the past four years in my Board work and with the assistance of programs such as the AICD NFP Directors course, the value I can add back to these NFP’s continues to grow.

What do you feel is most needed to sustain and build the impact of the not-for-profit sector?

According to the 2010 Productivity Commission Report Not For Profits make up 4 per cent of Australia’s GDP (just under $43 billion), with nearly 5 million volunteers contributing an additional $14.6 billion in unpaid work. That is a significant part of the Australia’s economy.

At WIRE Women’s Information we strategically decided to diversify our income channels and to be open to various new opportunities. We are in a time and place where the NFP can no longer guarantee that the funding that has been there year after year will continue to be provided. This can create a squeeze on our valued staff to do more with the same or less. Having the organisation structured to take on opportunities and be ready for potential new revenue streams helps its sustainability. The Board and leadership is receptive to change but also critical of change for change’s sake. The Board has created mechanisms to critically analyse the change before it makes a decision. The NFP Sector builds its impact through adapting and keeping relevance with the times.

What is something interesting / unique / unusual about you?

I am a weekend foster mother for Mackillop family Services. As one of their younger foster carers (30 yrs old) I take an active role in promoting foster care and its benefits within the community. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I highly recommend others get involved.


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"The course was fantastic. It put a real emphasis on my responsibilities and liability as a Director."


ABOUT AMY:

With nine yeas' experience in the recruitment and training industry in SA and Melbourne, Amy currently works on the board of two NFP organisations - WIRE and the Australian Quadriplegics Association.

ASF awarded Amy a scholarship to attend the AICD's Governance Foundations for NFP Directors course in Melbourne in 2014.

ABOUT WIRE:

Annual revenue / size:

Large: $250,000 - 5m pa

Segment of NFP sector:

Social Services

Operating in:

VIC

Website:

http://www.wire.org.au/


ABOUT AQA:

Annual revenue / size:

Large: $5m - $25m pa

Segment of NFP sector:

Health

Operating in:

VIC

Website:

http://www.aqavic.org.au/index.html