Q&A with Andrew Watson, CFO at The Kids’ Cancer Project

A word from the Wiise: A chat about running an NFP during COVID with Andrew Watson, CFO at The Kids’ Cancer Project  

Tell us a bit about The Kids’ Cancer Project 

Back in the 1980s, Col Reynolds would take young kids in the hospital for cancer treatment on outings in his bus. Over time, he followed his heart and set up a charity to help these children. Today, Col is a Director of The Kids’ Cancer Project — an independent, national charity funding scientific research to find a cure. 

Though great strides have been made since Col's first coach trip — the survival rate has leapt from 20% to 80% in several decades — there are still 950 Aussie kids diagnosed with cancer each year, with three dying every week.

Our revenue is 100% from community and corporate support. Over the last 15 years, we have been able to celebrate a commitment of over $50 million to kids’ cancer research. 


How is business going at the moment? 

It's going well at the moment. We've been able to tap into JobKeeper which has helped in the short term.  

Our business model is underpinned by fundraising, and we have a combination of direct and community-based fundraising, campaigns and telemarketing. We also look to reach philanthropists and corporate organisations. 

This year The Kids’ Cancer Project is helping fund the work of 47 scientists across Australia involved in 32 research projects. The charity continues to be innovative. We've launched a bold fundraising initiative to multiply our donors’ impact while striving to raise $1.7 million by the end of October to help find cures for childhood cancer, the biggest killer of Australian children by disease.


How has COVID impacted the business?

Probably the biggest negative impact is that we can't run community and events-based fundraising, which are strong performers for us. 

However, we've been able to focus and pivot. We've been able to create new campaigns and continue to use telemarketing, direct and digital marketing. We're continuing to drive safe fundraising initiatives through the community and corporate partners. 


What measures did the business put in place to help navigate the environment during COVID? 

We started putting more effort into our digital marketing strategy and virtual fundraising opportunities, and we also took our event auction online. Childhood cancer has not pressed pause during COVID and neither can we. We had a large focus on keeping up the momentum and encouraging opportunities for our community and businesses to engage with The Kids’ Cancer Project at all levels. 

Wiise helped us to improve our capacity to work remotely. Henry, our Data and IT Manager, was able to help us get online in a week. he made sure we had the right infrastructure, set up our laptops, Zoom and Microsoft Teams and ensured we had a robust communications process in place. If this were six months ago, we would have only had baseline remote capacity, but we've become a lot more sophisticated with how we use technology.  

What challenges did your business face before you decided to look for new tech?

At the time I joined as CFO in December 2017, we had MYOB Account Right, which hadn’t changed in ten years. We also have Razors Edge for our CRM and fundraising. 

A key challenge was that the two platforms didn't integrate. They also lacked flexibility and scalability. We were really after improved capacity for our high transaction volume, robust security and compliance and timely reporting. Plus integrity and transparency to ensure all of our platforms talk to each other. And the Board was adamant that accuracy in data was key. MYOB was ten years old, so it was very limited.

We also had to process things twice. We processed funds in the CRM, then in MYOB. Then we had to reconcile back into the business. It was fairly inefficient and a much less effective regime. Though we could see how the organisation was running, it took us three weeks to get our final reports — a lot of planning had to take place to ensure we got the reports out in time. We're a cash-based business and, with so much cash coming through, it's a lot to manage. 


How did cloud ERP software align with your organisation's strategy? 

There was a general view at the Board level that (moving to cloud ERP) was the appropriate thing to do. I pushed back on cloud ERP six years ago at my old job. It just wasn't what the business needed back then. But in the last two or three years, it's become a lot more sophisticated. It has seriously become a blessing for those who are on it now, especially during recent times. 


What was it about Wiise that convinced you it was the right fit for your business? Was there something specific about the technology or your business model? 

Wiise was one of three shortlisted. We evaluated all three on Australian accounting capability, flexibility with other platforms and easy integration with the charity’s other tech tools. 

The thing that kept us with Wiise was the fact that Microsoft Dynamics was highly flexible, and we knew we could easily integrate with other tools. 


How was the implementation process with your partner?

KPMG was great. I’d give them a score of eight out of ten for project management. Victoria is a good project manager and I’m highly confident that the team will deliver on ongoing commitments to make implementing Wiise a very successful business decision. I would definitely recommend working with KPMG.


How do you think COVID has impacted your industry? 

If the Commonwealth Government didn't introduce the JobKeeper program, the NFP sector would have been significantly impacted. JobKeeper provided breathing space and helped not for profits respond to the financial challenge. 

Not for profits that operate at a larger scale are less affected. The Government provides the services they offer, so their funding stream is from the Government themselves. 

It's small to mid-guys that are hit — those who solely rely on donations or fundraising. NFPs are strained and stretched, but it's not dire. The challenge is to keep going.  


Has the impact of COVID changed your business strategy? 

COVID has truly forced us to look at short term opportunities. We still have a 12-month budget planned, but the difference is we're also looking at it every two or four months and aligning it with our fundraising activities. We need to ensure cash is still coming in so that we're here for the long-term. We have implemented things like a matching appeal where for every $1 donated, a corporate partner or major donor matches it. This is our focus for the next two months and is an activity that will likely be annualised.

Due to restrictions on face-to-face corporate fundraising events, we implemented online auctions. We will continue to use this as a fundraising tool, even when events are live once again.  

We’ve also broadened our reach of community fundraising events by upping the ante of stewardship and advocacy programs.  


What's the most important thing for your business looking at the year ahead? 

Staying focused and maintaining our cash flow. JobKeeper has helped us continue, and we're still committed to maintaining our internal capacity and growing our fundraising efforts. We want to ensure that we can continue to fund bold, innovative science that will have the biggest impact on the treatment and quality of life of kids facing childhood cancer. 


Do you have advice for NFPs when it comes to navigating the current environment? 

Remain focused and stay informed. Keep your team engaged on your short-term and long-term goals to ensure that you're able to continue to operate toward your mission and vision. Obviously, flexibility and system improvements will allow you to try to manage the stress. Keep it real. Make sure you make the right decisions and manage your cash closely! Cash has always been important, but now more than ever it's the most important thing for an organisation. Stay close to it and ensure you're putting in efforts that will be cash-driven.  

Make sure you have a contingency plan! This is extremely important. For every risk you go into, have a contingency plan for your organisation. This is key. 


What would you say to people who are hesitant to move to the cloud? 

Do it. For many organisations currently impacted by what's happening in Australia with COVID-19, being able to implement remote working and continue business as usual is such a blessing.


Interested in finding out more about the Kids Cancer Project? You can check out their website or read more of customer stories here.

And as always, if you have any questions or would like to get in touch, please don't hesitate to reach out to hello@wiise.com.