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13 May 2020

Australian Turf Club’s Amarjot Bagga on the evolution of community impact strategies

Amarjot Bagga works for the Australian Turf Club as Head of Social Responsibility and is central to the ATC’s charity Foundation. She explains the evolution of the community impact strategies at ATC and how this is supported through the Club’s four racecourses across Sydney.

A long tradition of community spirit

I hope that my diverse background, spanning business management, marketing, not-for-profit and international humanitarian aid has helped shape my role at Australian Turf Club (ATC).

I joined the ATC in 2015 with an opportunity to shape the Club’s community activities. Community contribution has always been a part of ATC’s history, from its earliest days as the Australian Jockey Club (AJC) and the Sydney Turf Club (STC), which merged in 2011 to form the ATC. A great example of community connections can be found during World War One.

In 1916, the AJC funded the “Blue Birds” a group of 20 nurses who travelled to France, under the banner of the New South Wales division of the Red Cross, to support the war effort. Though the initial promise was for six months of support, the AJC continued their economic contributions to the nurses for the next three years. The ATC has always incorporated community contribution into its business practices, however, this area was formalised with my appointment to create a community engagement function.

An inclusive plan

It was so important to engage internal and external stakeholders in forming a strategy. This approach ensured effective implementation, including the creation of a website to manage donation requests, as well as staff participation in the new volunteering programme.

The community engagement plan had four key pillars:

  • Community Partnerships: strategic initiatives with organisations that create shared value e.g. scholarship with University for a skills shortage within the industry.
  • Racing Industry: support requests that make a positive contribution to the sport of racing e.g. donation of racing infrastructure to Country/Provincial Clubs such as running rail.
  • Charity Support: partner with not-for-profits to offer a different method of fundraising, as well as grants and sponsorship e.g. Pin & Win Partner, Community Grants and hospitality discounts.
  • Volunteering: offer employees opportunities to contribute to their community e.g. Chefs preparing a meal for children and families at a local Ronald McDonald House.

Curating history to help inspire the future

My community engagement role also includes managing the Heritage Centre, which brings stories like the Bluebirds to life and captures over 200 years of racing history in New South Wales (NSW). A collection of over 10,000 items covers the history of racing from the earliest days of the colony – accumulated from donations and assembling records.

The Heritage Centre provides tours to the public; answers enquiries about family history; creates displays for the members during carnival times and works closely with community engagement to interpret the history of racing for schools and other community groups. Our collection demonstrates, again and again, how racing isn’t just an industry, it is the livelihood of its community.

The Foundation – a logical next step

The community engagement strategy was effective in systemising ATC’s community contribution. Next, the Club sought to create a lasting legacy for charitable contribution, independent to the grass roots work done by the community engagement function. This led to the creation of the ATC Foundation in 2018 as a registered charity with an authority to fundraise.

Activities in 2019 included:

  • Providing 2,300 hay bales supporting 147 trainers in drought-affected areas
  • Supporting a water project for Walgett Jockey Club, helping 4,885 residents
  • Donation to Aussie Helpers to support 10 Aussie Farming Families
  • Supporting Jockeys & their families through National Jockeys Trust
  • Funds to The Shepherd Centre to help 40 Children with hearing impairment
  • Grant for Canterbury Little Athletics Centre to purchase High Jump Mats – 427 Children
  • Grant for Rainbow Club to teach swimming benefitting 85 Children with special needs

ATC also responded to the bushfire crisis that devastated NSW through “Racing for the Bushfire Appeal” culminating in fundraising of over $150k for ATC Foundation.

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Another contributor to the success of a community programme is measurement. By using methodologies, such as the London Benchmarking Group, we were able to continuously set and identify targets for social impact. The financial years from 2017-2019 generated a value of ATC’s social impact as is $9.8m. This figure also includes attributing a dollar value to staff volunteering ($51,150), and foregone revenue owing to event/hospitality discounts provided to not-for-profits ($762,000).

Inclusivity is our ethos

The evolution of ATC’s community strategy has led to the need for an inclusive social responsibility strategy, which brings together community engagement, philanthropy and ESG. The latter represents Environmental, Social, and Governance, the three central factors in measuring the sustainability and societal impact of an investment in a company or business. Key elements of the strategy include community investment, social procurement, sustainability targets and engraining the ethos across the ATC ecosystem.

Find out more about ATC Foundation here:

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