Growing up with privileges did not close Jim Donnelly’s eyes to the needs of people who were less than fortunate. Throughout the years, his philanthropic work has only confirmed a view held since his early years – he is happier working towards a better world than he could ever be by earning mega-bucks. “In my formative years I considered going into the hurly-burly of the commercial world but decided to make a living while also helping to repair society,” he says.
An organisational expert by trade, Donnelly has earned his keep in business consulting while doing work for charity on the side. However, seven years ago he moved out of full time work to assist his wife Barbara who had developed multiple sclerosis. As Barbara’s health improved, Donnelly continued to dedicate more time to the philanthropic sector instead of resuming full-time work.
His latest commitment is to raise $2 million in funds for Victorian children’s home, Cottage by the Sea. Donnelly’s expert eye for organisational climates and authenticity in the workplace has identified a culture at the Cottage he has not found anywhere else. “I haven’t seen an organisation where the board and staff interact as this place does.
Although totally non-government funded, it has produced a professional board in recent years, made up of people with quite high levels of skill.” he says. Donnelly was asked to help find the funds to redevelop the Cottage in order to accommodate more children.
Currently made up of 70 beds across three dorms, the Queenscliff-based Cottage has acquired more land next door and aims to expand to meet increasing demand. “The Cottage had 963 children through its doors last year – that’s double the amount from five years ago.”
The Cottage, which boasts Australian Olympian Cathy Freeman as a patron, is a place for children to stay when they need respite from difficult situations in their home or family life. Donnelly recently commissioned former PriceWaterhouseCoopers partner, turned professional photographer, John Tozer, to capture iconic images of Ireland for a photographic exhibition to be held in Melbourne in October 2009.
He hopes to involve the racing community, Irish-interest groups, and the financial community among others, in touring the exhibition beyond Melbourne to raise funds. Donnelly is aware the exhibition will only provide a small amount to the large sum of funds needed. But like a true philanthropist, he’s made a promising beginning.