The gift of giving

Sunday, 01 February 2015

Klaus Bartosch photo
Klaus Bartosch

    Klaus Bartosch explains how Australian companies can help to shape and improve the country’s philanthropic culture.

    Boardrooms across Australia have an opportunity to profoundly shape the philanthropic culture in this country. Most large companies have clear policies around their philanthropic interests, with most having alignment with the interests of the board or brand. While this is not a bad thing, a wonderful opportunity exists to enhance this further by engaging not only your staff, but also your customers and suppliers, in a way that brings the experience and culture of philanthropy to society more widely.

    One in two Australians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. This is a terrible statistic. Cancer touches everyone, directly or indirectly, and as such will engage all those around you. We can all relate to this disease.

    It began for me in 2011 when I was introduced to the inaugural Rio Tinto Ride to Conquer Cancer (RTCC) in Brisbane through my personal trainer — a 200km ride over two days that required me to raise $2,500 for cancer research. This struck a nerve with me. I am a cancer survivor who suffered a stage three melanoma in 2000 and have been silent about it ever since. I had never ridden more than 5km in my life and had never raised any serious money for charity before.

    So, I signed up and formed a team called the Vision Crusaders. Fifteen people joined my team and we raised $50,000 for cancer research in 2011. All up, more than 1,343 riders joined the RTCC Brisbane event and together we raised $4.7 million, breaking new fundraising records in Queensland. In Brisbane in 2012, there were 1,519 riders who raised $5.2 million, and by then these popular rides had extended to other cities around Australia, in total raising approximately $20 million.

    The people who ride are from all walks of life including CEOs, board members and executives from some of Australia’s largest companies. Some are cancer survivors, some ride in honour of family, friends or colleagues fighting the disease, some are still fighting and riding through their chemotherapy treatment, while others ride in memory of those that have lost the fight.

    Since then, my team has continued to grow. In 2013, my team raised $250,000 and completed what I call the “Grand Slam” — all six RTCCs around Australia and New Zealand. My dream was to help show others that raising $2,500 and riding 200km over two days was not hard, by completing all six rides. I did not need reminding why these rides were important, but I could not have foreseen what happened in 2013.

    On 8 October, three days before I was due to fly to my second RTCC event in Sydney, I was diagnosed with leukaemia and immediately hospitalised for urgent chemotherapy, leaving my team to complete the remaining five rides without me, their team captain.

    Continuing the cause

    In 2014, more than 150 Vision Crusaders across Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Auckland completed these rides and together, we raised over $420,000 and I finally got to complete my “Grand Slam”. We are a unique team with a unique look — lycra gone crazy — all in the name of finding a cure to end cancer. These rides create an epic impact by funding valuable cancer research through Australia’s finest research centres, and deeply affect all those that are involved; riders, volunteers, staff and supporters, including the companies who get behind them.

    This year, 2015, marks five years strong for these rides in Australia. I know from personal experience the impact these rides have on everyone that is involved, including my own board, staff, customers, suppliers and all supporters and teammates. Everyone is profoundly changed by his or her involvement. Companies are starting to cotton on to how valuable these rides are to their staff, brand and boardrooms with new companies starting their own teams every year. The experience for everyone becomes infectious and I have seen how this leads to ongoing philanthropic interests with other charities as well.

    By example, my own interests have expanded beyond cancer research to include supporting autism charities and other interests of my family, friends and colleagues. My role with the RTCC events has also expanded beyond just being a team captain of the Vision Crusaders and having been invited as an honorary chair for the RTCCs which provides a platform for taking a stronger interest in helping share my own experiences with other company leaders.

    The CEO of the RTCC events is Meredith Campbell. Campbell is also a cancer survivor and works to help companies set up their teams, and motivate their staff to become involved in providing strong support to a company’s board and management.

    While not all of your staff will want to join as a rider, or even as a crew (volunteer) member, most will contribute through encouragement or donations. Suppliers and customers will also get behind the efforts of your team. Rio Tinto and SunSuper are have been active sponsors and have teams at these events.

    In my view, it is one of the most inclusive, well-run and inspiring charity events in Australia. Sadly, cancer affects us all, so we should all relate to the efforts to support cancer research and these rides.

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