December 16 2021

CEO Update December 2021

By Craig Connelly

As we approach the end of another year, feeling exhausted and expectantly looking to 2022 as a ‘more normal’ year, I am thrilled to share with you the work we have undertaken here at The Ian Potter Foundation over the last half of 2021.

This work, on the part of my program management team and the Board members, is evidenced by the variety of grants approved at the December Board meeting. These include three Major Grants directed to ‘capacity building’ – providing general operating support funding for an organisation’s growth and development. These three outstanding organisations will each benefit from a $2.5 million, 5-year Major Grant that will fund expenditure prioritised by each organisation as part of its comprehensive strategic plan, prepared by its management team, that aspires to amplify its impact in a meaningful and sustainable way.

Moving forward, the Board has agreed to no longer advertise nominated focus areas for Major Grants.  Major Grants will remain ‘by invitation’ only – prospective applicants can not apply for a Major Grant without first being invited to do so.  In determining which major grant applications to consider, management will work with external experts and the Board to prioritise matters aligned to the Foundation’s funding pillars and that are considered of great importance and significance to the community.  The Foundation will then work to identify specific opportunities to fund that it hopes will have a lasting and enduring benefit for many Australians.

The Board also approved several important recommendations including:

  • Multi-year, general operating support grants will represent an increasing proportion of the Foundation’s future philanthropic grants portfolio.
  • Such general operating support grants may also include a combination of non-financial and additional financial support that seeks to strengthen charitable organisations (including staff development, operating systems, and connections with peers).
  • Three new staff positions (to be advertised during 2022), including two support roles and one senior position to support the Foundation’s evolving approach regarding Major Grants.

We learnt that during 2020 and 2021, many for-purpose organisations were forced to innovate and adapt rapidly to changing circumstances. At the same time, funding and operating environments for the arts and social sectors continued to experience structural change.

In the latter half of 2021, the Foundation has enjoyed working alongside The Myer Foundation, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Gandel Philanthropy and The Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation. As a group, we have sought to take the lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic and – informed by detailed research that engaged with a variety of arts and social sector organisations – to understand how best to support such organisations to thrive and strengthen their resilience.

While organisations are responding creatively in direct response to the pandemic, further innovation and adaptation seem inevitable and necessary for not-for-profit organisations to be resilient in the face of a changing operating environment while still hoping to achieve their respective missions.  Recommendations from the research confirmed the need for innovation and greater collaboration within the arts and social sectors.

To translate the research recommendations into proposals that might benefit Australian charitable organisations, this philanthropic group launched an open call funding round for arts and community not-for-profits in October 2021, offering a pool of $1.5 million for a few innovative and potentially impactful collaborations.

I am encouraged by the quality of submissions received and hopeful that the process will unearth some outstanding opportunities for the group of funders to support and that ultimately benefit many Australians.

Working collaboratively alongside other philanthropic foundations, engaging with my Board members collectively and individually, and energising my team of program managers and the other staff here at The Ian Potter Foundation are key elements of my day-to-day role as CEO of this wonderful institution. I am blessed to have this role and to engage directly with so many incredible people with an aligned vision to assist as many Australians as possible in various ways. In such challenging times, it is nice to reflect on the good the Foundation seeks to achieve alongside the people, communities and organisations we aim to support as a leading Australian philanthropic foundation.

I hope everyone reading this message enjoys a wonderful festive season with family and friends they love.