Work Experience 15: Non-Profit Volunteer
While I was doing work experience at ABC radio Brisbane I was made aware of a Brisbane non-profit organisation called Suited to Success. Rebecca Levingston had pre-recorded an interview with General Manager Nicole Hard, which went to air just before Beck interviewed me. After learning a bit about it, I was very keen to do work experience at Suited to Success and emailed Nicole straight away.
I love the idea of this charity. They help long-term unemployed male and female clients to gain and retain jobs by styling them from head to toe in professional clothing, and providing them with support and career development tools. Such a brilliant community service for people who really need it.
What did I do?
My first day was spent in the retail section of Suited to Success, a pre-loved clothing and accessories store that is open to the general public. When donations are first received they are sent to the sorting room behind the store where they are sorted into categories.
Good quality business-type clothing is put aside for clients in the boutique, clothing that may be either too casual or dressy for business wear goes into the retail store to be sold, and some clothing is redonated. High-end designer clothing is collected throughout the year, and is reserved for the major annual fundraiser of Suited to Success, Bubbles and Beauties. At this event, guests pay an admission fee to attend, and have the opportunity to shop for pre-loved designer clothes, shoes, bags and accessories at outlet prices. Rebecca Levingston was MC for the event this year which was held at Brisbane City Hall.
In the store, I had the chance to browse through racks of clothing, and found a lovely dress which I purchased to wear upon my return to Suited to Success later in the week. The great thing is that most items are priced at $5, which is very reasonable considering the quality of the clothing. Some items still had their original price tags hanging from them! Jewellery is priced at $2 each, or three items for $5.
Money raised from both the retail store and the Bubbles and Beauties event goes straight back into the organisation, so that they can continue to provide services and programs to people in need.
My second day at Suited to Success was spent in the styling boutique. I was really looking forward to this part. Clients are referred to Suited to Success by job agencies, and make an appointment for styling. After a brief discussion to find out a little bit about the clients such as what sort of job they’re going for, what clothing size they wear and how confident they feel about going for an interview, they are sent through to the boutique and are met by the lovely volunteer stylists. Each consultation is one-on-one. The stylists show the clients a variety of different outfit options, and give them the opportunity to try on as many different outfits as they like until they find the perfect one. The stylists gently advise clients on which colour, cut and style of clothing suits each client the best. When I was there, a young lady came in who specifically wanted a flat pair of shoes as she wasn’t comfortable in heels. Unfortunately, there were no flat shoes that fit her foot and matched her outfit, and I was so impressed that because of this the stylist allowed her to choose another pair of trousers and a shirt. They genuinely want to see the clients succeed, and the client was so grateful. The other thing I love is that once clients successfully gain employment they are invited back to the boutique to be styled in a completely new outfit.
I also had a chat to Peter who runs the pre-employment education programs that Suited to Success offers. These workshops are aimed at teaching interview techniques, job preparation, self esteem, stress management, effective communication, using technology, getting ready for work and networking. There is a Career Hub where people can come to use computers to search for jobs or ask for help with resumes and interview techniques. Some clients don’t need the styling services but just need help with writing a resume. The team at Suited to Success care about the wellbeing of each client and try to refer people with major issues or barriers to employment such as anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol abuse and homelessness to reputable places that can help them.
What did I learn?
I really enjoyed learning about the services that Suited to Success provide to their clients, and seeing it all in action. I also found it fascinating to learn more about how a non-profit organisation operates through my discussions with General Manager Nicole Hard.
Nicole explained that one of the difficulties in running a small non-profit is getting things done professionally but with limited resources. It’s essentially a small business amplified. She said that although they’re here for the sole purpose of benefitting the community and their clients, if they don’t have the business running well they can’t offer the services.
They have to be efficient, use resources wisely and not rely solely on handouts. One of the organisation’s major objectives is to be financially sustainable into the future through diverse funding streams. These funding streams include revenue generated through purchases of donated clothing in the retail store, grants and donations which are applied for, corporate funding, individual donations (for example a person or business may buy ten pairs of shoes to donate or sponsor an individual client) and fundraising through the Bubbles and Beauties event. When people or businesses donate to Suited to Success it goes directly into programs that are offered to clients.
If you would like to get involved with Suited to Success in any way, email the team at email@example.com. They are always on the hunt for donations of good quality clothing, shoes, bags and accessories, and are open for donations from Monday-Friday from 9am – 3pm at 47 Anderson St Fortitude Valley Brisbane.
To read my interview with Nicole Hard, click here.