Growing great leaders by supporting others

30 Aug 2022

Exeloo has a strong focus on community engagement, working each year to support various charities.  But it’s more than just corporate sponsorship.  More significantly, and perhaps more meaningfully than the fundraising it does, Exeloo uses its engineering expertise and manufacturing facilities to provide specific tools and equipment to the groups it supports, while nurturing its young leaders.

The community work is one part of how Exeloo grows the skills of its next generation of managers, with much of its charity work falling to the young people in its Development Management Team. They come up with creative ways to raise funds and support their chosen group, all in a fun, competitive way.  Managing director Craig van Asch says the Development Management Team has people from all parts of the business, from accounts to manufacturing.  The team is structured for succession across the functional levels and to provide a pathway for leadership.

“The community engagement programme gives them the opportunity to demonstrate a range of skills, some of which they may have limited experience.  Each member of the team plans their fundraising project, engages with their respective charity and those in the company they need to help them out, as well as getting their head around the finances of their project – they even need to run a ‘baby’ P&L and cashflow for their project.  “It’s purely voluntary, and each candidate is paired up with a member of the senior leadership team who will provide advice and encouragement.”

Craig himself is mentoring Lorne Mackay, who is the factory manufacturing supervisor at Exeloo.  His charity is The National Kiwi Hatchery, where the eggs of our iconic bird are incubated, hatched and the chicks reared before being returned to the wild.  “We asked the hatchery what they wanted, and they said metal detectors – apparently kiwis like shiny stuff but shiny stuff is typically not good for them – so we are raising the funds to buy up to three metal detectors to ensure the pre- release areas are metal free.  Lorne is also raising funds for materials and applying his cabinet- making skills to build brooder boxes and feeder boxes for our young kiwi.”

Craig says the Exeloo fundraising team acknowledges the support of its major donors, including Build People Recruitment which has supported the most recent funding drive with a generous donation.  Build People director Jeremy Wilson says, “What a great cause, we were really happy to support Exeloo and its drive to save our iconic kiwi”.

Exeloo seed funds each charity programme with $250.  Craig says Lorne took a creative approach and used his seed money to purchase a $250 Prezzy Card which was raffled off and raised $1300, which was a huge kickstart for his project.

Exeloo’s project designer Jonathan Gee and planning and supply chain manager Mel Glew have selected the Assistance Dogs Trust as their charity. The trust raises and trains dogs to help those living with disabilities.  Jonathon and Mel’s fundraising campaign is going well, with a raffle raising $700 already and a charity auction in the works.

“We want to raise enough funds to fund aluminium dog crates that can be fitted to utes,” says Jonathon.  “We have to fund the materials – about $2000- $3000 plus some labour donation, and we’ll build the crates here and give them to the Assistance Dogs Trust.”

Jonathan is already forming a close bond with his charity after assistance dog Alfie visited Exeloo recently.  “Alfie came into the factory to check out what we were doing and inspected one of our wheelchair accessible toilet units. It was great to get the two organisations together.”

Craig says Exeloo has four overarching areas of focus that its chosen charities fall under – The Kiwi Hatchery encapsulates ‘Our Kiwi Way of Life’, while the Assistance Dogs Trust fall under ‘Our Vulnerable’. ‘Our Future’ sees Exeloo supporting Sunnybrae School, while foster care agency Immerse is covered by ‘Our Unsung Heroes’.

“We want to keep the initiative relevant to Exeloo and our people, choosing charities we can personally identify with or have a personal connection with,” he says. “And we try and find the things we can do to make other people’s lives a little bit easier. “We do what we can in house – like building feeder boxes – and raise money for the things we can’t do – like training a puppy.”

Each candidate is aiming to donate between $7000 and $10,000 in cash and materials or in-kind time donations.

“At the end of the year, we see who our winner is – who has raised the most for their charity – Exeloo will double the original seed funding for the most successful fundraiser to add an extra incentive to win.  We’ll throw a big prizegiving in November to celebrate their hard work and invite our charities to come and receive their donations – that in itself is a strong incentive for our candidates to do well.  There is no prize for the winner, except for bragging rights, but there are spinoff benefits for those involved.  For example, Lorne and I will soon be heading down to The National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua to meet the team and get up close and personal with some kiwi. We will also likely take another team member with us as a reward for something they’ve done well – it’ll be a great trip away.  It helps us expand our perspective and develops a creative leadership style in a friendly competitive way.  It’s good for them, good for us, and good for our communities.”

First published in Local Government Magazine, July 2022