We sat down with Belinda Dimovski, the Director of Engagement and Support at the Australian Red Cross to talk about her journey to the top of a high-profile NFP.

 

 

Can you tell us a little about your journey, and what brought you to this role at the Australian Red Cross?

Early in my career, I realised I was a little unusual – I could translate things. I worked with IT teams and translated what they needed to the marketing teams, and I worked with the marketing teams and could engage them in a conversation around analytics in a simple way that made sense. Working at Optus in call centre and B2B roles exposed me to the machinations of corporate life.

At Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, I did my MBA on the ground, moving from IT, to operations, supply chain and finally sales manager. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn all the elements of a well-functioning global organisation.

My move to Weight Watchers enabled me to combine all the roles I performed into one. I was responsible for Customer Experience and Operations across ANZ; including supply chain, PMO, L+D, customer service and led global initiatives around digital transformation as well as being involved in global product delivery management.

The amazing thing about working for a not-for-profit is the passionate people that work in the industry; the ability to make a difference and to support people at a time when they need it most.

 

During COVID, how have you managed mass communication in a way that successfully achieves cut-through?

Consumers are exposed to a huge amount of media. During COVID, we tried to really understand what people were interested in when we needed to stand out or to support others’ messaging. It is important for mass communication to be relevant, timely, and interesting. Communication cut-through works when you add value to people. 

Personalisation is what we’re working towards, showing people we are listening to them and understanding their needs. During COVID we asked our supporters what they thought our role should be. We also developed specific products based on their feedback and called every one of our 80,000 regular subscribers just to ask them how they were doing.

 

 

Did the Red Cross employ other methods to overcome its biggest hurdles during COVID?

We launched a new brand campaign and tone of voice; we’ve launched My Red Cross to help with personalisation. We introduced PAFFA (Public Affairs and Advocacy) team, and support ongoing publications regarding bushfire reports. At the moment, we’re going through a strategy review and are looking at the vision, mission and culture shifts required in this new era of engagement.

 

The organisation is motivated by its mission, rather than the bottom line or the interests of shareholders. Does this present a different set of motivating factors that aren’t present in the private sector?

We are held to the highest possible standards by people in the community – higher than governments, or corporate entities. Red Cross is held to higher standards than other NFPs due to our size, track record, history, global reach, volunteer, and member base. The community is invested in our work and our results. This can be challenging, but it is a strength – it reflects the depth of community trust, which is the core of everything we do. It’s also a highly regulated sector, so we work closely to ensure compliance, risk mitigation while also passing ‘the pub test’. 

We are an organisation made up of members and volunteers who are passionate about our purpose and to that end, their voices are louder than any shareholders.

 

The amazing thing about working for a not-for-profit is the passionate people that work in the industry; the ability to make a difference and to support people at a time when they need it most.

 

 

What makes a successful CEO/executive in the NFP sector?

(Hiring) someone who has worked within the sector seems like the right choice because then you can assume a base level of understanding. However, it begs the question: how do we encourage divergent thinking in organisations if we are always hiring people whose only exposure is within the same industry? 

Customers expect every organisation to provide an amazing experience. Our competition is no longer just in our sector. To ensure we can deliver to changing expectations, we need to apply the same success metrics. At Red Cross, we do that without selling a product that could cover the cost of PCI compliance or a cyber-security review or the cost of marketing, our warehouse, or staffing. Everything we do is because of the trust the community and public have in us. So, yes, mindset and motivation and an ability to think differently are all essential. Ultimately, in the NFP sector, you need resilience.

 There is an opportunity to make a significant impact on people’s lives and that more than anything requires hard work and loving what you do. We’re in the people business. 

 

Does working in the NFP sector attract a different calibre of candidates to C-suite roles? Does it come down to mindset and motivation? 

Ensuring your values match the values of the organisation is key. Don’t think about it in terms of sector, think about it in terms of the impact you can make.

At The Australian Red Cross, we have undergone a significant period of change. We have moved to a customer-centric fundraising approach, we have developed a storytelling approach to marketing and we have undergone operational changes in our first aid and retail businesses. 

We have set up an agile approach to working – across the whole of the Engagement and Support team supporting our customer care team to deliver an exceptional experience. We have a partnerships team looking to engage with businesses and governments to support ongoing work, and a team of volunteer data scientists enabling us to continue to work smarter.

The range of skills needed to deliver all our outcomes is vast. We are working to help the organisation deliver its purpose – supporting and empowering people and communities experiencing vulnerability through mobilising the power of humanity. 

 

What is your leadership style?

I believe in feedback, have an open-door policy, encourage people to voice their opinions and hold them accountable for the quality of work being delivered. Joining Red Cross, I understood that change was necessary, but I also recognised that I had to earn my stripes.  

I spent time with the team, ran workshops, used GROW Coaching, covered off difficult conversation techniques, and encouraged open learning of leadership models for everyone. I demonstrated that I didn’t know it all, that I was continually learning, and that they could take this opportunity to learn with me. 

About six months into my role, I asked for feedback from my team about a meeting – it was all positive, but I wasn’t looking for that. I rephrased my question and asked, ‘What’s the thing I could have done better?’ As the team started feeling comfortable giving me feedback, we created a culture of feedback and used it to improve leadership for the whole organisation. 

 

Finally, are there any specific activities, or campaigns to which you’d like to highlight?

I want to thank our generous donors and supporters – you make it all happen. If people reading this want to donate – it’s easy, and your dollars will make a difference. 

 

 

Cincom presents this article series.

Cincom is a global organisation devoted to building software solutions that help businesses succeed. Through their innovative software and focus on building relationships, they pride themselves on enhancing your brand, allowing you to deliver a better experience to your prospective customers and partners alike.

A key leadership trait is effective communications and Cincom’s Customer Communication Management (CCM) solution, Eloquence, has assisted numerous organisations achieve a better customer experience through better communications.

 

 

 

 

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