Charity Q&A – the Victorian Women’s Trust

Following a spate of high-profile domestic violence incidents against women and children across Australia, we speak to the Executive Director of the Victorian Women’s Trust, Mary Crooks AO, about her organisation and the role e-commerce is playing in its work.

The past year has seen domestic violence in the headlines here in Australia and abroad, not least the case of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson.

The prevention of violence against women and children is just one key focus of the Victorian Women’s Trust (VWT). The Melbourne-based organisation invests in women and girls for positive social change; researches issues that affect their lives; advocates for reforms that improve their conditions; and provides a public voice on their behalf.

The VWT was created in 1985 with a state government gift of $1 million, as part of the sesquicentennial celebrations to acknowledge women’s contribution to Victorian society over 150 years.

Today, the organisation’s website and e-commerce are playing an ever-growing role in educating people about its work and in attracting online donations and supporters. VWT Executive Director Mary Crooks AO explains more about the organisation and its programs …

How is the Victorian Women’s Trust structured?

“We have three entities: the Victorian Women’s Trust Ltd, which is a company; the Victorian Women’s Benevolent Trust, which is our charitable arm focused on making grants to women and girls across Victoria; and the Dugdale Trust for Women & Girls, which is a national body working on initiatives that prevent harm to women and girls.”

What programs you are prioritising in 2014?

“One project is Rosie, a national website for girls aged 14 to 18, which will be launched later in 2014. This will help girls think about respect in terms of their bodies, relationships, workplaces and broader community. We started Rosie with a $10,000 grant from the US consulate and some private support.

“Another initiative is the Waratah Project, which aims to change the culture of embarrassment and disconnect around menstruation and menopause.

“The Iramoo Zone initiative supports a group of Aboriginal men to teach a leadership model across the country, in which they commit to reducing violence in their communities.

“Another initiative is Club Respect, which aims to produce a landmark document, in which every sports code and club commits to building a culture of respect across sport.”

What are some of the best examples of the VWT’s work?

“In 2001, to celebrate the centenary of federation, we created a touring exhibition called Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives, which told the story of the contribution women have made to Australian society. In 2007, we launched the Be The Hero program , which supports boys aged 14 and over to make choices around not having violence in their lives. This was a forerunner to Iramoo and Club Respect.”

How is the VWT funded?

“We are constantly trying to grow our pool of donors. We’re also trying to develop our own investment base, which generates interest, so that we may ultimately use interest alone to cover our operating costs. We don’t take any government funding – independence is critical for a feminist organisation.”

How can people support the VWT with an online contribution?

“They can go to our website, where they’ll find our three entities (the Victorian Women’s Trust Ltd; the Victorian Women’s Benevolent Trust; and the Dugdale Trust for Women & Girls). They can follow the links to donating to whichever entity or specific project they would like to support.”

Why did you choose SecurePay as the payment gateway for the VWT?

“SecurePay was selected as our payment gateway because it is an Australian supplier; it provided the website integration we needed; and the bank managing our accounts, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, accepted it as a payment gateway.

“We have been satisfied with the service and the level of technical support we have received. Recently, we upgraded our website and added more options for our donors and subscribers, and our web developer experienced some integration work problems. That has been solved by manually activating scheduled payments through the Merchant Login facility. This is not an optimal solution, but we are assessing a more suitable integration facility and the technical requirements for this.”

Why is accepting online contributions important for the VWT and other organisations like it?

“More and more people are online and that is how people are becoming familiar with organisations. Making an online contribution is really easy and quick. Some of our donors, however, still prefer to send in a form, while others make their contribution online.”

Is the VWT active on social media?

“We have a great monthly e-publication called Sheilas , which showcases writing about policy, ideas and debates. We also have an e-bulletin, which goes out every few days, and we are on Facebook and we tweet @VicWomensTrust . We don’t have a lot of staff, so we are doing the best we can without having a huge resource bank.”

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