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Fire, pandemic and a plan

Employees from the Dunn & Lewis Centre preparing for an event

After catastrophic bushfires and a global pandemic, founder of Dunn & Lewis Foundation Gayle Dunn needed a new business plan.


In early 2020 Dunn & Lewis had planned to open a facility in Ulladulla on NSW’s South Coast to provide activities, indoor sports, training and employment for young people in the region who don’t have access to the same resources and opportunities as their counterparts in major cities. But before the event space could get going, the region experienced some of the worst bushfires in history, followed closely by the onset of Covid, which saw travel and events cease overnight.

It was with organisations like Dunn & Lewis Foundation in mind, that led Social Impact Hub, Paul Ramsay Foundation and Westpac Foundation to establish the RISE program, providing urgent tailored capacity building support to social enterprises to help them navigate the pandemic. 

“We needed help to develop a business plan to ensure our youth programs will always continue,” says Gayle.

Through the RISE program, she was connected to Geoff Briggs, a member of Social Impact Hub’s Professional Impact Network, who dedicates one day every week to share his skills with community organisations. Working closely with Gayle, Geoff provided advisory support that helped connect the board and management team back to their inherent purpose and focus.

“We created some clarity on five key focus areas over the next three years, developed some milestones and immediate actions to ensure the organisation is on the pathway to achieving its priority impact areas, as well as a financial modelling tool to help forecast and track outcomes from the activity plan,” he says.

“I hope that I have given Gayle and the team some time to step out of the day-to-day noise of running a business and reflect on what is important to them.”

And it’s this support that Gayle has found beneficial. “Geoff is fantastic to work with,” she says, “he really cares about youth and community. He has the ability to decipher thoughts, hopes and ideas to create a working business plan for all our Foundation members to follow.”

Since the RISE program began it has supported almost 100 social enterprises with over 120 ‘matches’ to professional support, either mentors or advisors. Evaluations from the program to date show that 100% of social enterprises surveyed said the RISE program has been effective or very effective in helping them to navigate the challenges of COVID-19.

But it hasn’t only been a positive experience for mentees.

Geoff says he found it inspiring to work with people like Gayle and her team. “They really care about the Ulladulla people and ensuring they have opportunities to connect, have confidence and purpose.” 

Through Westpac Foundation’s Community Ambassador program, Gayle has also connected with Westpac pro bono volunteer Shannon Jenkin who is using her marketing and advertising skills to help Gayle put the business plan in action.

Together they’re about to embark on an advertising program that promotes the facilities in the centre to help drive revenue, support the business objectives and provide much-needed jobs for young people in the region.

For Shannon, who originally connected with Dunn & Lewis Foundation because she saw it as an opportunity to help a community that had endured a lot, the experience has reminded her why she got into advertising and marketing in the first place, “To connect great things with the people who need them.”

So, what can we expect next from Dunn & Lewis?

Gayle says the team will “continue to build the business to increase opportunities for the youth of the region. Hold some great events. And finish the building.”

The Dunn & Lewis Centre hosts some great activities for locals and travellers alike including ten-pin bowling and a rock-climbing wall. They also have the capacity to host conferences and large events and hope to draw events from across the Shoalhaven. Visit