How are 10 female leaders, an industry that “loves a lunch” and one of Melbourne’s most loved charities making a difference for girls and young women escaping forced marriage and modern-day slavery? We find out.

Step back 12 months and it might be hard to imagine a major fundraising event (that isn’t cancelled), a room with more than 500 people in it, and a whopping fundraising result to boot. But in May 2022, that’s exactly what happened.  

The fundraising event in question was a long time in the making but, after several postponements, a small group of ambitious professionals raised almost $645,000, which will translate to life-changing impact for some of Australia’s most vulnerable girls. 

TEN Women is a group of female leaders from Melbourne’s property and construction industry, who have set their sights on making a difference. And in their line of vision this May was Lighthouse Foundation, who provide homes and therapeutic care to children and young people impacted by long-term neglect, abuse and homelessness. 

Back in 2020, TEN Women ran a targeted EOI process to select their fundraising luncheon charity beneficiary. While each submission was worthy of support, one particular project stood out. The Lighthouse Freedom Program exists to support girls and young women who are escaping modern day slavery and who have left – or are at risk of entering – an early or forced marriage. The program moved the TEN Women group deeply and they were impressed with the Lighthouse Model of Care, which is based on a long-term relationship with each of its residents.  

What eventuated was a fundraising event that raised close $645,000 – a sum that will be used to renovate Lighthouse’s Freedom House, used for 24/7 live-in care and therapeutic support for the Lighthouse Freedom Program.   

F&P’s Fiona Atkinson asked TEN Women’s Ruth Wilson and the Lighthouse Foundation’s CEO, Dr Eamonn McCarthy, to tell us more. 

Ruth, please can you tell us more about who TEN Women are? 

TEN Women is led by 10 senior influential women in the Melbourne property and construction industry who have a mandate to connect and empower women to create a meaningful impact.  

Current board members of TEN are:  

Alexandra Lawlor (National Leader Urban Futures & Resilience, Architectus), Anthea Savidis (Director, BD+), Belinda Coates (Director, Clients & Strategy, Slattery), Fiona Dunster (Senior Investment Director – Development, AustralianSuper), Heidi Smith (Partner, Gray Puksand), Kris Greenwood (Director Strategic Relationships, GJK Facilities), Louise Hansen (Director, Hansen Yuncken), Ruth Wilson (Principal, Architectus), Sarah Slattery (Managing Director, Slattery), Michelle McNally (CEO, Aware Real Estate).  

The women of TEN Women.

TEN has been designed to: 

  • Facilitate empowerment of women through business or philanthropic opportunities  
  • Provide opportunities for senior women to broaden their networks both within the industry and with other sectors   
  • Facilitate opportunities for emerging female leaders to meet professional decision makers 
  • Provide a safe and inspiring environment to discuss issues in the workplace or outside of it 

We meet and extend our network via a series of lunches and events throughout the year, which are hosted by existing TEN board members and welcome clients, industry leaders, and inspirational and emerging talent. By attending a lunch, guests automatically qualify to become a member of TEN. 

Our inaugural TEN Women fundraising lunch in 2019 raised an astounding $250,000 for Housing All Australians (HAA). We were stunned by the generosity of Melbourne’s property and construction industry whose members came together to support pop-up accommodation for homeless women, resulting in The Gardenhouse (a partnership between HAA, YWCA National Housing and the Salvation Army), launched in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs in 2021. Following the success, TEN Women embarked on a second gala fundraiser for 2020 (which was eventually held in 2022!).  

Eamonn, how and when did you first become aware of the opportunity with TEN Women? 

I first heard of the opportunity with TEN Women the second I began at Lighthouse Foundation in August 2021. Since then, I’ve heard nothing but admiration for their efforts and continued determination in achieving the best possible outcome for our organisation, despite COVID-19’s impact causing numerous delays. 

Does TEN Women support any particular need or cause areas? 

Ruth: We want to support girls and women, and since our passion and skill sets are in property, design and construction, we are particularly interested in charity initiatives with a built outcome. 

What do you look for in a charity or fundraising initiative when considering giving your support? Do you have any non-negotiable criteria and what inspires you? 

Ruth: Besides ticking the criteria of women-focused and property-related, we want to support organisations with high integrity, a proven track record and a great reputation. We are inspired by the tangible impact the charity makes the real-life stories of lives being transformed through the support provided. 

What for TEN Womenare the ingredients of a winning charity EOI? 

Ruth: For us it’s all about tangible impact. We know ourselves and it’s true for the whole property industry we love a project, a goal, a timeline, a process and, ultimately, we love buildings. So an EOI that sets out a distinct project that can be realised with the level of funding and in a relatively short time frame is appealing to us. We want to be able to show our supporters what they have achieved through their contributions – with a physical manifestation of their generosity. 

We visited the existing Freedom House in our professional capacities to assess and design an implementation strategy and were immediately struck by the warmth of the relationships between the Lighthouse staff and the residents, and the enormous potential of each of these young women to lead a full and happy life. We were therefore delighted to support the Lighthouse Freedom Program.  

What key messages did you want to communicate in your EOI to secure TEN Women’s support? 

Eamonn: The key to securing TEN Women’s support was very much about ensuring that the group knew their fundraising efforts, and that of their colleagues, would have a significant, ongoing impact on the lives of vulnerable young women. Also, it was incredibly helpful to be able to demonstrate the previous success of our program through various impact reports and stories from past young people. 

What tips would you share with other nonprofits about securing the support of groups such as TEN Women?  

Eamonn: In order to secure the support of other groups like TEN Women, you need to ensure that your organisation has a very clear vision and documentation of your impact. You also need to be consistent in the way that you present yourselves, be authentic and prove that you seek to do good and best maximise the funds received.  

As leaders in the property sector, what skills and experience does TEN Women lend to Lighthouse in addition to fundraising? 

Ruth: The TEN Directors have been really hands-on with the Freedom Project. We’ve mobilised our respective companies to provide pro-bono services, including project management (BD+), architecture (Architectus), interior design (Gray Puksand), cost planning (Slattery) and construction (Hansen Yuncken). Then our broader TEN network has been so generous, coming on board to provide additional project management, building surveying, town planning and engineering advice. 

Eamonn: Each and every one of the TEN Women have gone above and beyond the luncheon itself. The group have played a crucial role in working alongside the Property Industry Foundation to help plan the home’s renovation and ensure that the funding can support us in delivering best practice care for many more vulnerable young women in the future. 

How did the idea for a charity luncheon come about? 

Ruth: As TEN grew and became known in the industry, we realised what a powerful network we had built and at our annual planning day in 2018 we brainstormed how we could leverage this network for good. The property industry loves a lunch! It was the obvious event to target. 

What was the demographic of your 500 guests? 

Ruth: The room was filled with leaders of the industry, with most tables purchased by individual companies. We had great gender balance, something the property and construction industry still struggles to achieve. 

Guests at the TEN Women – Lighthouse Foundation luncheon in May 2022.

Can you tell me a bit about the sponsors – how was their support secured? 

Ruth: We’re pretty bold and we just asked! The companies of several of the TEN Directors led the way with AustralianSuper taking the gold level sponsorship, Slattery the silver, and Hansen Yuncken and GJK Facilities Management both taking bronze. 

Given our last event sold out in a few short weeks, we deliberately put aside several tables as ‘sponsor-only’ tables. This provided us an opportunity to ‘upsell’ tables to sponsorships when the standard tables sold out. The strong brand, air of exclusivity, success of the previous event and good relationships with potential sponsors was also key. 

What are the pillars of success for a charity luncheon or gala event? (because clearly you had them!)? 

Ruth: For our industry, an event with an element of networking is key, so while everyone at the lunch was there to support TEN Women and Lighthouse, they were also keen to catch up with one another.  

With the networking lens on, the more senior leaders we can attract, the higher profile the event becomes. We also hope the senior leaders are at a stage in their career where they have deep pockets. Other important factors are the venue, the food, the quality of the auction items and the MC we’ve been so lucky to have Alicia Loxley and Stephanie Anderson who have provided their services pro-bono. They show such professionalism and their ability to hold a crowd is vital. 

We really are very lucky to be part of the property and construction industry. The generosity, passion and enthusiasm to support a good cause is infectious. The ripple effect of such significant gala events has not only provided exposure for our selected charities, but it has also opened the door to a myriad of companies keen to offer services such as construction, design, furniture and products that can support more and more housing projects in the future.    

Eamonn, what role did you play in the luncheon – did you contribute event coordination support, speakers, video, collateral etc?  

I personally had the very joyous task of receiving the generous cheque at the end of the proceedings and giving my huge thanks to the TEN Women!

Our incredible Fundraising & Partnerships team, as well as dedicated volunteers, were there on the day to help TEN ensure that everything went smoothly from managing the live auction, to creating collateral and messaging.  

How will you report back to TEN Women and donors at the lunch? 

Eamonn: We are planning on providing regular updates to both TEN Women and the lunch attendees regarding the progress of the Freedom House renovation throughout the year. We also hope to share stories of some of the young women in our care to show the greater, ongoing impact of their generosity.  

What other fundraising activity – if any – have you undertaken for the Young Women’s Freedom Program? 

Eamonn: We have held several smaller community fundraising activities for the Young Women’s Freedom Program, including local barbecues and bowling days. That said, this luncheon was very much the first of its kind for our organisation, in that it was considerably larger in scale, and connected us with some of the industry’s most reputable businesses who we hope to develop genuine, ongoing relationships with. 

What fundraising programs are included in Lighthouses’ revenue mix? 

Eamonn: Lighthouse Foundation is very lucky to have an incredible group of supporters across multiple revenue streams including trusts & foundations, major donors, regular givers and community fundraisers. You can read our full funding breakdown in our latest annual report available on our website. 

Key takeaways  
  • When attempting to attract the support of groups such as TEN Women (or any donors really!), ensure that your organisation has a very clear vision along with documentation that demonstrates impact. You also need to be consistent in the way you present your nonprofit, be authentic and prove that you seek to do good and best maximise the funds received.
  • Clearly understand your prospective supporter’s motivations and interests before applying or pitching for their support – for TEN Women, they were motivated by a clear project plan that directly resulted in impact and bricks and mortar.  
  • Remember that everyone has different motivations for attending a charity luncheon or gala event. As a nonprofit, you are focused on raising money. But the event’s guests may prioritise networking – make sure you tick their boxes too. 
  • Be sure to invite guests who are decision makers (and have authority to donate and participate in fundraising activity such as live auctions) and have deep pockets 
  • Choose a great MC – they really are the magic that steers your event, communicates key messages and creates excitement about the fundraising element.  
  • Be equipped with ideas about other ways that funders and event guests can support you – because you can bet they have more to offer than just money. Beyond the lunch, TEN – and their guests have provided Lighthouse with project management, architectural and interior design, cost planning, construction, furniture and products.  

To read more about Lighthouse Foundation’s award-winning #BREAKTHEPATTERN campaign click here and here

To learn about how the Property Industry Foundation is helping Lighthouse Foundation build homes, click here


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