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HomemifeatureSpecsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation: A Decade of Partnership and Care

Specsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation: A Decade of Partnership and Care

For the past 10 years, Specsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation have partnered with a clear vision to improve access to eye care and eyewear. To date, Specsavers has reached AU$5 million in donations, with $1 million donated in 2022 alone. However, Specsavers’ support of The Foundation doesn’t stop at financial contributions, it involves layers of partnership, which are intrinsically linked across many aspects of its business.

There’s nothing like shared goals to ensure a partnership works for all parties. According to Paul Bott, Specsavers General Manager Australia/New Zealand, this is exactly why the established partnership between Specsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation makes so much sense.

With a partnership spanning over 10 years, $5 million in donations and countless hours of in-kind support, Specsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation represent a gold standard in corporate charity partnerships

Acclaimed artist Sarrita King with the frame she
designed for sale in 2022.

“At Specsavers we believe everyone should have access to the best quality eye care and eyewear and that, through our teams, we can change lives through better sight and hearing. Our optometrists are limited to providing eye care in the communities in which they are physically located. Our partnership with The Fred Hollows Foundation enables us to also help close the gap in vision loss between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians through the Indigenous Australia Program, which provides much-needed care in regional and remote Australia. We are extremely grateful to The Foundation for allowing us to be a part of this work,” said Mr Bott.

Members of the team on a 2022 Lightning Ridge
outreach trip. From left: Gabrielle Grant-Nilon,
Bronte Phillipps, Daniel Mankarious, Duchesne
Markham and Hammill Prasawat.

Ian Wishart, CEO of The Fred Hollows Foundation, says it’s thanks to Specsavers’ support that his organisation has been able to make a sustainable impact to the eye health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“We would like to thank Specsavers for their incredible support of our work to restore sight. We are extremely proud of this longterm partnership… the funds generously donated by Specsavers go towards two areas of The Foundation’s work: building a strong workforce of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the eye health sector, and strengthening the capability and coverage of eye care around Australia,” he said.

Chris Tan on an outreach trip in Katherine in 2019.

FUNDRAISING

As its primary charity partner, Specsavers has been able to raise significant funds for The Foundation through a multitude of channels, with the vast majority of funds coming from stores donating a portion of the proceeds from each glasses sale.

Specsavers Senior Professional Communications Manager, Duchesne Markham, remembers when the Specsavers Community Program was rolled out to stores across Australia and New Zealand in 2013.

“While we had a partnership in place already, we began significantly supporting The Foundation when the Specsavers Community Program launched in 2013 for stores that opted to be a part of it. In an in-store system, similar to that of the restaurant chain Grill’d, customers in participating stores were given a green token representing 20 cents for each pair of glasses they purchased. They could choose between two charities to support – The Fred Hollows Foundation or a charity that the store had elected.”

A donation presented at the 2014 partnership seminar. From left: Dame Mary Perkins, Alex Perry, Ruth Hollows and Derek Dyson.

Over time, the green tokens were removed, and a significant number of participating stores transitioned to supporting The Foundation exclusively. However, the 20-cent donation per pair of glasses sold remained, and as Specsavers’ customer base grew, so did the donations.

Specsavers also offers workplace giving in its support offices, and encourages store and support office team members to engage in fundraising events and activities for The Foundation, which it supports through matched giving. In August, stores raised more than $35,000 by taking part in Fred’s Big Run which saw them getting fit and fundraising in their local areas. Specsavers matched the funds raised, generating a total donation of more than $70,000.

Ms Markham continued, “We’re always looking for ways to support The Foundation to raise extra funds in a way that seamlessly links in with the running of our business. For example, we hold internal sample sales, barbeques, competitions, and auctions as well as automatic donations aligned with team member professional development tasks. Everything adds up.”

LIMITED-EDITION FRAMES

For seven years, a major fundraiser driven by the partnership is the development and sale of limited-edition frames featuring the artwork of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Specsavers donates $25 for every pair sold.

Gabi Hollows in a Specsavers store, 2014.

Specsavers Head of Frames and Merchandising, Heather Murphy, says since the first limited-edition frame was launched in 2015, more than 29,000 frames have been sold in Australia, raising more than $725,000 for The Foundation. This year, with a frame designed by acclaimed artist Sarrita King, the program is aiming to raise $300,000.

“We’ve been privileged to work with some of Australia’s most talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to bring limited-edition frames to life, some of whom personally experienced sight-restoring cataract surgery from The Fred Hollows Foundation’s Indigenous Australia Program, enabling them to continue in their craft,” explained Ms Murphy.

“The limited-edition frame program is fantastic to be involved in because we get to raise money for a great cause while also supporting emerging and well-known Indigenous artists.”

INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIA PROGRAM

Currently, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are three times more likely to be blind or vision impaired than other Australians.

The Fred Hollows Foundation, through its Indigenous Australia Program, supports increased investment in, and access to, culturally appropriate eye care services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Recipients of the Humanity Awards in Tasmania, 2016.

Within eight months to August 2022, The Foundation’s Indigenous Australia Program had screened more than 3,528 people for eye health conditions, performed 43 cataract operations and 1,247 diabetic retinopathy procedures, distributed spectacles for 402 patients, provided 55 other eye health treatments, and trained 12 community health workers.

“Despite some disruptions due to COVID-19, our program work is now fully operational again, with teams focussing on working toward parity on their patient backlogs. In the next five years, we’re aiming to support our program partners to provide 280,000 eye tests, surgeries, and treatments through the Indigenous Australia Program,” Mr Wishart said.

The Foundation’s Indigenous Australia Program staff also work closely with Specsavers to assist its optometrists to provide more culturally appropriate care for patients who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander through education and support.

OUTREACH AND VOLUNTEERING

A key element of the partnership is an exclusive opportunity for Specsavers optometrists and graduate optometrists to volunteer with the Indigenous Australia Program partners.

On volunteer outreaches, optometrists learn first-hand and assist with the various challenges experienced when delivering specialist health services to remote and under-serviced communities. Depending on the location and opportunity, optometrist roles and responsibilities change to best support the team providing care on the ground.

In August, Hammill Prasawat from Specsavers Parramatta, and Gabrielle Grant-Nilon from Specsavers Sydney Central, visited Lightning Ridge, NSW, to assist with The Outback Eye Service, an Indigenous Australia Program partner. The trip helped to address the backlog of patients who have been waiting for eye checks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Graduate optometrist, Mr Prasawat said, “Being a second-year graduate and working in metro Sydney, I saw the stark contrast between my usual patients and patients in Lightning Ridge. Eye care is less accessible and eye conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy were at a more progressed stage than I am used to managing. It was, however, enlightening to see the process, care and dedication of rural healthcare workers and coordinators to remedy all these issues in a timely manner with, of course, far-stretched resources.

“As my final year of optometry was during peak COVID season, I missed out on countless opportunities to travel and see how optometry works in different clinical and cultural settings. On this outreach, I shadowed and observed an experienced ophthalmologist to develop my own clinical and communication skills. A common theme that I discovered on the trip was that eye care in parts of Australia was not as accessible, with blindness resulting from this a common occurrence. Hence, I could see how important my role was in this outreach but also the thriving partnership between The Fred Hollows Foundation and Specsavers.”

Specsavers team members are all entitled to one paid day per year of volunteer leave and many use it to support and participate in fundraising events and activities arranged by The Foundation. Others assist with various pro-bono and administration tasks, such as writing thank you cards to Foundation donors.

HUMANITY AWARDS

Each year, Specsavers sponsors The Fred Hollows Humanity Awards, which recognise Year 6 students who make a positive difference in the community, with certificate presentation ceremonies across the country.

Since 2012, the Awards have celebrated more than 2,000 students, and every year one Junior Ambassador for each state and territory is announced, with the prize being the opportunity to extend their humanity by allocating $5,000 donated by Specsavers to a Fred Hollows Foundation program of their choice.

THE FUTURE

With a partnership spanning over 10 years, $5 million in donations and countless hours of in-kind support, Specsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation represent a gold standard in corporate-charity partnerships.

As Mr Wishart says, “The partnership between Specsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation is the perfect example of a business leading by example within its sector. All aspects of our partnership are driven by a collaborative effort, with a shared desire for progress.”

Mr Bott says that while there is a lot to celebrate, this is just the beginning of what the partnership will achieve in the coming years.

As the two organisations enter a new era of partnership, they have their sights set on further patient impact, by reaching more people, improving data measurement to better understand and then enhance clinical outcomes across each service, and by developing a culturally inclusive care strategy.

“Despite being 10 years in, we’re still only at the beginning of what our partnership will achieve. In the years ahead, we’ll be opening a whole new realm of shared value opportunities that will continue to support the important work of The Foundation, while enhancing the health outcomes of our patients and continuing to make Specsavers a great place to work for our team members across all facets of the business.”

Hero image: Associate Professor Angus Turner preparing a patient for cataract surgery provided by the Lions Outback Vision Van service. Photo: Alan McDonald.