People with purpose: Food for thought

Posted on 29 Jul 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Our Community

Matt Tilley Foodbank

Matt Tilley spent 25 years in the cut and thrust of breakfast radio before bringing his passion for fundraising to the not-for-profit sector as chief communications officer at hunger relief charity Foodbank in 2020. The former DJ shares with the Community Advocate what motivates him as a food waste fighter and why food security is such a pressing issue for many families struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

When did you join Foodbank and what is your current role?

I started at pretty much the same time as covid did. Any similarities in our trajectories up and down are purely coincidental.

My official title is chief communications officer – I was trying to use every letter in the alphabet but only nailed the vowels.

Basically, I look after all marketing, comms, fundraising, other ways to wrangle money and emptying the dishwasher. We’re a charity, so you do a bit of everything!

How did you make the transition from radio to the not-for-profit sector?

The transition was underway for decades.

I’d hosted hundreds of charity events and one day a mysterious man called Denis Moriarty [the managing director of Our Community] tapped me on the shoulder after I was speaking and asked me to join the McAuley [McAuley Community Services for Women] board where he was chair.

Next thing you know, I’m head-first into the Diploma of Governance offered by Our Community and trying a little charity start-up of my own called the Aussie Dollar Drop.

I kept trying to have a gap year after radio. Luckily, it was a bit of a failure and I’m where I am today.

How has your 25 years' experience in breakfast radio helped you in your current role?

Fundraising and marketing are really quite similar to commercial radio.

You’re basically trying to get people to love you or your cause – only we’re chasing donations not ratings.

But you still need to be clever and creative because the NFP sector is a very competitive space and it’s not enough just to tell your story. There are a lot of very deserving and compelling causes out there.

It’s also a very emotional space, and I think radio taught me the power of actually engaging with people rather than simply trying to bombard them with facts.

Why is the work that Foodbank does so important?

What we are seeing right now with this cost-of-living crisis is that food becomes the only expense that people can compromise on.

Mortgages, rent, electricity, gas, petrol to get to work – these are all set-price non-negotiables.

The biggest growth in demand is coming from that hackneyed political phrase “working families”, but it’s true.

So, we hear about mums and dads feeding their kids but going without themselves. Or pensioners needing medicine so living off cheap, calorie-dense and poor-quality foods.

For kids to grow and people to be well, though, you need fresh fruit and veggies. The prices of these basics are increasingly prohibitive.

I have never forgotten about the $11 lettuce just over a year ago.

What do you find the most rewarding part of your job?

Unquestionably it’s when I’m lucky enough to head out to one of our markets or when we hold an emergency hamper drive-through event, and you see people so relieved, happy, and grateful – because it’s been a very big thing for most of them to pluck up the courage to turn up and ask for help.

Also, they realise they’re not on their own and that so many other people are in the same place they are. They are funny and loving and full of hope again.

I also like Friday knock-off beers…but I guess you can get that at any job, right?

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