Ten years with the Telstra Foundation
My name is Matt Pfahlert and I am one of five independent board members for the Telstra Foundation. Independent here means we aren’t employees of Telstra and that we volunteer on the board as community representatives. Along with renowned Indigenous leader Jackie Huggins, we are the only inaugural members still serving on the board.
I come from a background as a grant seeker, having worked extensively in the not-for-profit sector with challenging adolescents, and then as the founder and CEO of an organisation developing community based solutions for marginalised young people wanting to get their lives back on track. This was unrelenting work, as was the effort required to resource our activities. I was well known as a serial pest to all of the Melbourne based philanthropic Trusts and Foundations.
To be given the opportunity to be a grant maker instead of a grant seeker, well that was something else!!!!!
It continues to be a great honour and responsibility to serve on the Foundation board and to work through a process of where to invest the Foundation’s resources in the best people and projects to deliver the greatest social impact.
My hat goes off to the Telstra Corporation who from the outset structured the Foundation in such a way that the focus has always been on community rather than the corporate benefit.
This is not to say that some of our most exciting initiatives haven’t leveraged Telstra’s knowhow. In the mid 2000’s, the Telstra Foundation initiated a Cyber Safety roundtable to bring together and fund the social innovators and organisations who could tackle the emerging issue of children and young people being targeted and bullied on-line. Working together, these partnerships have been catalytic in developing the education and resources required for our kids to be safe in the digital world. Obviously, Telstra’s knowhow and reach has supported the nationwide uptake of these programs.
People often ask me ‘what has been the best project you’ve supported?’
Having grown up in rural Australia myself, I find Telstra’s Kids Fund to be a standout. Three times a year the Kids Fund dishes out small grants ($1,200 each) to community groups where a Telstra staff member’s children or young relatives are involved. We tend to receive a lot of applications from rural areas’, as they play a vital role in enabling participation through the purchase of basic equipment, safety gear and training needs. This saves rural communities thousands of hours of community fundraising, and respite from the same people leaning on the same businesses and community members for every activity in the town. The difference these small grants make is immense.
Ten years on and the way we communicate with each other has changed forever. Our online world and the way we exchange information and ideas is changing rapidly. For those with the education, resources and knowhow to participate, it is an exciting time. For young people without these things, there is a very real possibility that they will be left behind. I look forward to the role the Foundation can play over the coming years in ensuring that all young Australians gain the opportunity and support to be included in connecting with each other and the digital world.
Telstra’s Kids Fund grants (now open) visit: www.telstrafoundation.com.au