Meet the trainer: Gina Cirillo

Posted on 04 May 2018

Cirillo Gina

You're Our Community's principal trainer for SmartyGrants. What's SmartyGrants?

SmartyGrants is software that helps grants funders to administer their grants, but it can be much more than that. By using SmaryGrants to ask (and classify) the right questions, we're revolutionising the way grantmaking is done in Australia and beyond. It's a pretty exciting time to be in grants.

Who uses SmartyGrants, and what sort of training do you provide to them?

Anyone who is in a positon to give away money, from federal government departments to local councils to philanthropic organisations to universities to the local RSL - and we train all SmartyGrants subscribers who need training. That could mean anything from the basics in a beginner class to masterclass or custom training, where we fit the training to the organisation's needs.

In the past, you've worked as a guide at Melbourne Zoo and as a GIS mapper. What do zoos, maps and online grants management systems have in common?

Ha! I know you expected me to say "Nothing at all", but all provide some direction, whether it's the best way to get to the butterfly enclosure, to find a street, or to find the most efficient way to administer grants.

What's your own involvement in the community sector?

I worked for a while with the Brunswick Tool Library in Melbourne. It's a great local group that provides inner city residents, mostly apartment dwellers, with access to tools they have no interest in buying outright or no space to store, for those one-off DIY projects. Unfortunately, my involvement has dwindled because of my work travel commitments.

Your job takes you all over Australia and New Zealand, from Chinchilla to Norfolk Island. You must come across some really interesting organisations giving out grant money. What have been some of the biggest surprises?

Norfolk Island really stands out to me for so many reasons. I was completely enamoured of the place and its people.

I really liked the "bounty box" at the local RSL. The RSL isn't an official grant funder or a SmartyGrants client but its impact on the community is undeniable.

I was out for dinner one night and went to the bar, and while I was waiting, a local was short by a couple of dollars for his beer and dinner. The bartender looked up to a small wooden box, tapped it twice and said, "Bounty box, mate". The local opened the box, took out whatever he was short and paid the bill.

The bartender explained that when that guy has a couple of dollars spare he will replace what he took.

Cynical, I asked how many times the "house" topped up the bounty box. "Never," the bartender said. He said it's always in surplus, and every so often a local family in need comes in for a dinner or a night out on the box.

Now I'm not sure if this is just a story they tell mainlanders, but I happily believed it.

What's the most memorable thing anyone's ever said in one of your training sessions?

"You have changed my life!"

They were talking about SmartyGrants and moving from a very manual process to a much more streamlined online system - but I'll take it.

What's your teaching style?

Relaxed. It's tricky, because we have so much information to give during our workshops and we know that people won't remember every single thing we say, but if they remember a good experience, a joke and where to find help when they need it, that's a start. The rest will come with practise, the support of the service team and a well-documented Help Hub with video tutorials.

What's the most significant lesson you've learned outside the classroom recently?

I was lucky enough to be part of an Our Community women's leadership group that went to Bali recently. In Bali we met inspiring people doing amazing work. They came from varied backgrounds, brought with them a multitude of experiences, and were all working to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them. Each of showed a huge amount of strength and passion and the ability to rise above difficulties and circumstances that would defeat many of us.

We met Ibu Sari at the PKP Women's Centre. She greeted us with a warm hug and a big smile, then proceeded to break our hearts, before feeding us until we were bursting. She told us her story: a divorced woman in a patriarchal society making her way in the world; marginalised, without rights, without money. Life for women in Bali who leave a marriage - for whatever reason, even if the husband initiates it - is tough.

PKP Women's Centre is a place where women like Ibu Sari can receive (and give) help. The centre offers programs such as house visits, and classes in cooking, sewing, yoga and English.

Ibu Sari taught me about "quiet leadership". She is formidable.

SmartyGrants' slogan is "Revolutionising grantmaking". Does that make you Robin Hood?

Ha! Well, it's about influence, leadership, community, trailblazing and learning from each other, but khaki is not my colour.

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