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Bryan Mattes 

Strategic Project Manager

SDN Childrens Services   

Have you always worked in the NFP/ForPurpose sector? What inspired you to join the sector, and what do you find most rewarding about it? 

Oh no, when I first left University, I ended up working for a Japanese investment bank, it took me a couple of years to decide that that was not for me.  I decided to give myself 12 months to extricate myself from banking, deciding I should find a job working on the business side of film or television.  I ended up working in the music industry for a number of different record labels over the next couple of decades.  It was in between record labels (such a stable industry to work in) that I had my first NFP experience – Opera Australia – it was a short engagement before being lured back into commercial music, but it introduced me to the NFP sector and the amazing passion of people who chose to work in the sector – I think I knew then it would always play a large part in my working life.   

Later on I landed at Sculpture by the Sea as General Manager and then later again at Variety – the Children’s Charity (yes, I’ve had a good number of jobs).  I’m currently Strategic Project Manager at SDN Children’s Services, where I’ve been contracting since March 2021, aside from a brief 5 months with Musica Viva Australia in the first half of 2022. 

I think I’ve always been driven by purpose and I know working for the dollar has never been enough for me, I need the connection.  At University I did my honours thesis on Corporate Social Responsibility – pretty out there thinking in the early-mid  90s but I have always believed organisations whether for profit or for purpose have a social contract and should be doing good not just making money. 

What’s most rewarding about it? Too many things: the people I get to work with, the outcomes and impact I help to achieve and the privilege of work being more than just paying the bills. 


What is the greatest challenge you have experienced as a leader in the NFP? 

I think there are all the usual changes that come with working in the sector.  Most of my time has been in relatively small NFPs, so there has been that challenge of being a jack-of-all-trades (which I love), doing the resourcing equivalent of the loaves and fishes parable by what is generally called “doing more with less” and even having to justify to people why you and your hard-working team deserve to be appropriately remunerated for your efforts.  

The greatest challenge for me personally, as a leader, was probably working through the first 12 months of COVID-19 and the impact it brought to an event-based not for profit, keeping the doors open, planning and reacting whilst making sure staff felt as safe, secure and supported as I could do through a period of significant societal and organisational turmoil.  I think, as with all challenges, I learnt a lot about myself throughout this time and it has definitely made me a better leader. 


What do you see as critical to leadership and the future of the sector? 

If we don’t learn from the lessons of the past, then that’s a wasted opportunity.  We’ve got to, as leaders, give ourselves the time to learn, not just encourage those around us to grow and learn. Leadership has to be an evolving skill, as a sector we’ve got to keep developing leadership skills in ourselves and our teams.   

In terms of critical to the future of the sector, it’s hard, we are so broad in terms of what we all do and what we are all trying to achieve, but I think critical to all our success is TRUST.  Without trust we cannot effectively lead, we can’t advocate, we can’t engage supporters, our organisations can’t fulfil their missions – so I’m going with trust – hard to get, easy to lose! 


If you could mentor someone starting out in your field, what advice would you give them? 

In accounting?  Run away…do you really want to do this? 

Seriously though, don’t allow yourself to be pigeonholed as the finance person, get involved in the organisation and the cause or the mission, make sure you are connected to what your organisation is doing.  You’ll learn more from getting out from behind the desk than you will in a spreadsheet. 

I’d be endorsing the whole “ship at 80%” philosophy and acknowledging that that is something I am still working on myself. 

Finally, I’d just encourage them to persevere – there will be times where it’s not fun, where it’s hard, where it feels like “just a job” but the longer you stay, the more times it will be fun, you’ll help people achieve great things and it will be so much more than a job .

Olivia Mitchell