Q&A with Foundation Chairman Tim Shearer

In April this year the Hawthorn Football Club Foundation welcomed Tim Shearer as its new Chairman. Tim is a lifelong Hawthorn supporter who has vast experience in the Australian philanthropic landscape through his direct involvement as the Director of Development at Hawthorn’s Scotch College.

We caught up with Tim recently to ask him some questions about his plans for the Foundation moving forward.

When did you first start following Hawthorn?

Both my parents and all of my family actually barracked for Geelong. My brother and I went to school in Hawthorn from a young age and chose to follow the Hawks. It’s a decision that I certainly do not regret.

What is your favourite Hawthorn memory?

There are so many, really, I mean we have been spoilt. To turn out to seven grand finals in a row from 1983 was just extraordinary. I think winning that 1989 grand final, particularly with the Geelong factor, was very special.

I used to go and watch the team train before every grand final. One of my best friends lived across the road in Linda Crescent, and every Thursday before the grand final Rob’s mother Judy would put on a dinner for all of us. We’d go and watch the team train and then head over to the Lawsons. Judy thought it’d be a one off, but from ’83 she ended up having to do it seven years in a row! It became a bit of a tradition.

They’re my happiest memories I think, back in the ‘80s and that ’89 Grand Final. The ‘three-peat’ from 2013-15 was also very special and a magnificent achievement in the new football world.

Tell us a little about your journey from AFL umpire through to your current role at Scotch College?

I was passionately involved as a Hawthorn supporter and I actually was a member of Hawthorn back in the 1980s when it was very unsexy to be a member, but I had to quickly give it up when I started umpiring AFL football as I assumed that it was a relatively large conflict of interest!

I umpired for 14-15 years. It’s a long, slow process working through local competitions to the state league. I umpired the VFL grand final in 1996 and got elevated to the AFL senior panel in 1997 where I umpired 23 games over two seasons.

I became President of the Old Scotch Football Club for 10 years from 2000. During this time, I went back to my old school to work as the Director of Alumni for 10 years before moving across into the Foundation fundraising role at the end of 2012.

How has your time at Scotch prepared you for your new roles as Hawthorn Football Club Foundation Chairman, and Director on the club Board?

I think my tenures as President of Old Scotch Football Club serve me in great stead to confront the challenges ahead on the Hawthorn Football Club Board. First thing I’d say, is that although it is clearly a much smaller organisation, a lot of the principles are the same. You’re planning strategically, you’re dealing with people, you’re dealing with football, you’re dealing with revenue raising, you’re dealing with fundraising, you’re dealing with things that go right and you’re dealing with things that go wrong. Although it’s a much smaller level, a lot of the fundamentals are very much the same, just on a far greater scale.

I think that experience, plus working with the school council, it’s struck me how the governance structures around a major independent school and a major sporting organisation are so similar. We each have a board, a finance committee, a governance committee, an investment committee and a fundraising committee. One obviously has a football committee whereas the school focuses on education, but the parallels in structures are amazingly similar.

I think my experience both at Scotch College and the Old Scotch Football Club have really given me a good grounding for my experience on the Hawthorn Board.

What is your long-term goal for the Foundation?

I see fundraising being critical in allowing organisations to be everything that they can be. Hawthorn Football Club will be strong on the back of the support it garners from its community. I think we’ve got terrific people involved, we’ve got a really strong governance model in place, and we’ve got strong leadership across all the key platforms this year.

The fundraising component adds value to the club. It enables the club to contemplate and do the things it might otherwise be unable to, perhaps due to resourcing or the like. It enables good things to happen. Some examples are already underway:

  • Building the Kennedy Community Centre, an amazing, state of the art facility which will serve the club and its members for years;
  • Providing great community engagement opportunities through our community programs;
  • Representing the magnificent history of the club through our archive museum.

Fundraising also allows to the club to be innovative by adding to the footy department and continuing to push into new frontiers. This is something the club has done really well over the last 10 years, and we will need to continue to pursue new frontiers to achieve future success.

I see the fundraising arm of the Foundation being critical to the continued success of the club. Of course, there is another factor being endowment, through the creation of a growing and predictable revenue stream for the club for a rainy day. We’ve had dire times before, but a strong endowment will serve the club very well on a rainy day. The Foundation’s Endowment Fund should help bullet-proof the club to deal with unforeseen challenges that might confront it in time.

How significant is the role the Foundation will play in building the Kennedy Community Centre?

The Foundation will be central to the fundraising efforts to deliver the Kennedy Community Centre. We will work closely with the Board, the club staff and every member of the Hawthorn Family to deliver the resources to build the facility. A target of $57 million from community fundraising has been set. Obviously, the balance of funds required to deliver the project will come from other areas as well.

The Foundation’s role will be central to the way we share the vision, how we engage with people, how we attract first-time donors and the way we steward existing donors. I hope the real legacy of the capital campaign will be the embedding of a sustainable culture of giving at the club; one that sees us be the philanthropic leader in the professional sporting space.

In a nutshell, the Foundation will be front and square when it comes to the fundraising for this exciting new centre.

How do you see Hawthorn establishing itself as the leader in philanthropic activity amongst Australia’s sporting community?

I think we’re really well positioned to be a driving force in this space. I think it’s a space that a lot of sporting clubs have perhaps been a little slow to get into. If you look at schools and universities, they’ve been working hard in these areas for 30-40 years.

It’s really exciting to take a leading position.

I think it’s through the success that we’ve had as supporters. I look at my time, I’ve had the joy of a Hawthorn premiership every 4.5 years of my life, which is exceptional, and long may that continue, although, like Jeff, I do want to see that average come down! I think that, plus the club’s demographic, positions us very well to effectively fundraise. I believe people like investing in success and will want to reaffirm their commitment to the club by investing in its future.

Making a philanthropic contribution is another way that people can reaffirm their commitment and belief in our club on top of their annual membership. Making a gift to the Hawthorn Football Club allows people to demonstrate that they’re prepared to invest in the club; to invest in the club’s future and to invest in future success.