How a blind date sparked RAW Impact in Cambodia

Posted on January 24, 2020

Passion goes a long way, but serious governance goes even further. Discover how RAW Impact transformed from social sector startup to a registered charity with an appetite for growth.

When husband and wife team, Nicole and Troy Roberts, met on a blind date in 2011 they discovered a shared belief in the power of young people to change the world. It was the spark that set them on a new journey called RAW Impact, an organisation established to alleviate poverty in Cambodia.

"More than a thousand NGOs work in Cambodia and there is still dire poverty just 30 minutes outside the capital," said Troy. "We wanted to take a different perspective, be innovative, and bring together the poorest of the poor in Cambodia and young people in Australia."

RAW, short for Raising Awareness Worldwide, quickly took off with Australian volunteers visiting Cambodia who would work alongside local communities and staff to assess community needs, build relationships and focus on developing access to infrastructure, education and clean water.

With structure comes legitimacy

The couple's legal and business backgrounds had equipped them with a strong set of skills, but they needed more. Several years into their venture they needed help with a fundraising strategy and contacted Social Impact Institute.

The next step was all about getting professional. Social Impact Institute helped RAW Impact to become a fully-fledged, registered charity offering tax deductibility to donors. In addition, the right organisational structure was put in place supported by a set of governance principles and procedures to give it a strong foundation for future growth.

"We were very unstructured, had issues with governance and were concerned about the legitimacy of our brand," said Troy. "For a few years we couldn't issue tax receipts to donors. We were just trying to get things done on the ground in Cambodia.

"Social Impact Institute helped us realise that getting these things right is vital for moving forward.

With legitimacy comes opportunity

Achieving charity status has improved financial performance and helped RAW Impact invest in staff and expand their work.

The organisation now has projects across three provinces in Cambodia, employing 80 staff on the ground and 20 staff and interns in offices across Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and the Barossa Valley. Every year, it brings 400 Australian students to Cambodia to participate in 25 active building projects alongside local people. Each student raises at least $1,000 towards RAW Impact's projects in Cambodia.

Key RAW projects include teacher training, building homes, operating schools, water projects and community gardens; and relocating people who were previously slum dwellers living on garbage dumps and flood prone areas to new, safe communities with sustainably built homes.

To date, RAW Impact projects have assisted more than 700 children and their families.

"We now have a robust board and a strong operational and legal structure in place," said Troy. "So, when we're questioned by schools on our risk mitigation strategy for students visiting Cambodia, we know what we are talking about."

Organisational stability has been vital for RAW Impact to become a charity with longevity and – most importantly – one that can inspire another generation of changemakers.

"To have real impact we had to create a sustainable organisation," said Nicole. "That doesn't just mean using bamboo instead of cutting down trees - it means paying staff enough so that they see it as a career for themselves too."

Would you like to know more about how Social Impact Institute can bring greater structure and governance to your organisation? Contact us today to start the conversation.

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