With Amazon arriving in Australia in the not-so-distant future (no dates have yet been announced), it was fascinating to hear local perspectives on the online shopping giant in Seattle, where its headquarters are located.
The company continues to grow rapidly - hiring a reported 26,000 new employees in 2017 alone. Many highly trained workers have taken advantage of the opportunity to re-invent themselves and successfully transition into the tech world. I spoke to one lady whose husband was made redundant following the downturn of the oil industry. He is highly skilled and highly qualified, yet found himself unemployed through no fault of his own. She feels so lucky that they have been able to re-locate to Seattle for his new job at Amazon - it has been life changing for their family.
Yet with thousands of people moving to Seattle in such a short space of time, housing prices have sky-rocketed. Many people who were renting now find themselves homeless due to unaffordable rent prices. There is an urgent need for more shelters across the city, as well as stable, permanent housing. The City of Seattle's Pathway's Home initiative is their new 'person-centered plan to reduce homelessness' in the city, investing almost $50 million into the issue.
Amazon itself is also committed to helping, and has formed an innovative partnership with Mary's Place - a leading voice for homeless women, children, and families in emergency situations. The business has actually given Mary's Place half the space in one of its new buildings, rent-free, forever. They will also be covering the cost of all utility bills. The 47,000-square-foot space will have room for more than 200 people in 65 rooms. What an amazing partnership!
For me, the influence of Amazon was a reminder of both the positive and negative impacts that business can have on the local community. Sometimes, these impacts are part of natural cause-and-effect; providing more jobs has increased demand for housing, hence reducing housing affordability. For not-for-profits, it's a great example of forming partnerships with business, to work together to tackle issues.
This is where philanthropy moves beyond grants. Don't get me wrong, grants are amazing. Yet ultimately they are one of many tools that can make a difference. For sustainability, grants can't be used alone like an island, they must be part of a broader fundraising and partnership program that work together to create long term change.
On our personal business front, we're excited to have a new Capacity Building Coordinator, Lesley, on the team, who will be working with organisations to develop sustainable fundraising programs. You can find out more about Lesley and get in touch with her on our team page.