Stronger Together: Merger of Two Charities

On 29 June 2012, the Children's Cancer Foundation was born when KOALA Foundation and Children's Cancer Centre Foundation merged.

The merger brought together two charities that had focused on separate hospitals and had differing philosophies.

The KOALA (Kids Oncology and Leukaemia Action) Foundation was founded in 1992 by parents from Monash Children’s Hospital. Its dual focus was on supporting families through the challenging journey of childhood cancer and advocating for these children and their families with governments and hospitals.

The Children's Cancer Centre Foundation was founded in 1998 by parents from The Royal Children's Hospital. Its primary focus was funding of clinical care and medical research and improving the physical conditions for patients and their families.

Both charities were run in a part-time capacity by boards of volunteers, primarily parents of children with cancer. I joined the Children's Cancer Centre Foundation in 1998 and KOALA in 2005 and witnessed firsthand the commitment and dedication of these parents to the monumental task that lay ahead – improving Victorian paediatric cancer services.

But as paediatric cancer diagnoses increased, the capacity of the health system to resource the research, clinical and family support services at adequate levels declined. This placed increasing pressure on charities to cover the shortfalls, as well as continuing to fund enhanced medical care to meet international standards of treatment and support.

To meet these growing challenges, the need for full time administrative and professional leadership became obvious, and could only be provided by an organisation with the scale the merged charities could provide.

The two charities had grown close through their support of children with cancer, as well as having mutual directors, including myself. KOALA had used proceeds from its successful fundraiser, The Million Dollar Lunch, to support clinical and family support programs in partnership with the Children's Cancer Centre Foundation. KOALA also contributed $1.4 million to the Bone Marrow Transplantation service at The Royal Children's Hospital in 2006.

Since the two charities merged, the outcomes we set out to achieve have been met.

  • Fundraising Capacity – we now have the resources to identify and manage new areas of fundraising, as well increase the effectiveness of our major fundraising events, such as The Million Dollar Lunch.
  • Funding Distributions – our level of funding has increased dramatically, such that the Children's Cancer Foundation has approved funding of $16 million over the period 2012-23. Our Grants Committee follows strict governance processes to evaluate, monitor and report on these projects, including: a Scientific Review Panel of internationally acknowledged experts to evaluate every research project funding application; formal research agreements setting out agreed milestones and outcomes; and acquittal (review) systems to monitor achievements of milestones and outcomes.
  • Advocacy Capability – our increased capacity to fund projects and outcomes has increased our ability to interact with all levels of government, health systems and research institutes to advocate for improvements to enable children with cancer to access the world’s best treatment and to build awareness of childhood cancer.
  • Patronage, Ambassadors and Community Impact – we are able to carry out our mission in such a professional and effective manner that high profile and effective individuals willingly act as our Patron, Ambassador and supporters thereby increasing the exposure and impact of the Foundation on the broader community.
  • Professional Administration – none of the above could have been achieved without the professional team led by Aileen Boyd Squires, Chief Executive. If the charities had not merged, neither charity could have hoped to obtain this level of full time professionalism and effected such a trajectory of sustained growth and strategic achievements.
  • Governance – with full time professional administration the Board is able to focus on the key areas of strategy, advocacy and proper governance to ensure the maximum positive effect is achieved through the Foundation.

I am proud to have been a part of the evolution of the Children's Cancer Foundation over the past 25 years and to have played a role in enabling the Foundation to achieve so many outcomes the separate charities could not have achieved independently.

At the heart of everything we do is our commitment to children with cancer and families.

It is why we merged in 2012, because we knew we would be stronger together and that it would enable the Children's Cancer Foundation to continue to be there for these families. 

Thank you to Kevin Martin, Director of the Children's Cancer Foundation, for his 20 year commitment to childhood cancer and for sharing his perspective.