Exclusive: 14% of positions to go at World Vision Australia

World Vision staff at work in the Solomon Islands. Photo by Blair Miller / World Vision via Facebook

CANBERRA — Following a review of World Vision Australian operations, acting CEO Graham Strong announced to staff on Tuesday the organization would be reducing staff numbers.

“In the process of that review, it became clear that World Vision faced the prospect of having to curtail or cut some of our essential program work if we did not immediately address the issue of our operating costs, in response to the changing charities market,” Strong revealed in a statement.

“It was also clear that if we did not address the immediate challenge of growing our funding, we could no longer guarantee our commitment to derive the maximum possible impact from the donations to our vital work in the field,” he continued.

Exclusive details from within World Vision Australia meetings communicated to Devex reveals that these cuts will see a 14% reduction in positions, which aim to create a cost-saving of approximately $20 million Australian dollars ($14.3 million).

According to the 2019 World Vision Australia annual report, the organization had 430 employees, the majority with full-time positions. While the staff numbers for contractors before the announcement was 505.

Under the changes, positions that are currently vacant will not be filled, and fixed-term contracts coming to an end will not be renewed. Areas of job cuts are expected to be focused on retail sales, marketing, and philanthropic and private sector partnerships. As part of the organizational review, there has been a consolidation of positions that will see staff potentially reassigned or offered the option of applying for a new role. The new staffing structure will be finalized by the end of September to align with its financial year.

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In total, 70 roles will be impacted with 40 staff expected to lose roles within the organization.

Although World Vision Australia is based on Melbourne, which this week entered COVID-19 restrictions placing a stay at home curfew between 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. on all nonessential workers due to increasing infection numbers, COVID-19 has not been a factor in the decision. These cuts, according to Strong, will ensure that there is no reduction to programs “at a time when the world needs the work of World Vision more than ever.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not the direct catalyst for our decision to consolidate our workforce, but has accelerated our need to act,” he said. “We are acting now, because we believe the changes we make will be the foundation for our future, as the longer-term effects of the pandemic become more evident.”

Devex understands a temporary Australian government program to provide support for businesses to maintain staff during the COVID-19 crisis, JobKeeper, has not been factored into the decision. Making the changes now aim to take the organization forward for the next two years, staff told Devex.

Child sponsorship, the public face of World Vision Australian fundraising, has been in decline, with campaigns over recent years attempting to create renewed interest. This will still be maintained with a reduced team moving forward.

The decision to create cuts in the private sector funding team has raised eyebrows within the organization. According to insiders, there are many who want to see an end to the child sponsorship program and focus on private sector engagement — an area of income that is considered more sustainable, in addition to being more profitable.

While World Vision Australia’s program work will not be impacted, partnership staff on Tuesday informed the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Foreign Minister Marise Payne on the development and to confirm there would be no impact on Australian aid programs.

About the author

  • Lisa Cornish

    Lisa Cornish is a Senior Reporter based in Canberra, where she focuses on the Australian aid community. Lisa formerly worked with News Corp Australia as a data journalist for the national network and was published throughout Australia in major metropolitan and regional newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph in Melbourne, Herald Sun in Melbourne, Courier-Mail in Brisbane, and online through news.com.au. Lisa additionally consults with Australian government providing data analytics, reporting and visualization services. Lisa was awarded the 2014 Journalist of the Year by the New South Wales Institute of Surveyors.