This past year has been one of reflection and renewal at the Foundation. The Board’s decision, at its planning day in October 2018, to add ‘sustainable’ as a fourth element in the Foundation’s vision informed this renewal.
During the first half of 2019, the grants management team spent considerable time reviewing all the Foundation’s program areas and respective funding objectives to align them directly with our vision. The revised program areas and funding guidelines have been announced and are effective from the first open funding round of 2020 (opening in November 2019). See a detailed breakdown of the revised funding guidelines.
The Governors of the Foundation believe these revised funding guidelines will lead to impactful and catalytic grantmaking, as the Foundation narrows its focus to areas we believe justify increased effort and attention. Strong alignment of the Foundation’s vision with its grantmaking, combined with focused funding guidelines will allow our program management team to become ‘subject matter experts’, ensuring the Foundation can engage and partner with not-for-profit sector leaders to achieve the greatest impact for the benefit of many Australians across a range of issues.
In conjunction with these changes, in fiscal 2019, some program areas were permanently closed. In September 2018, the Board decided to close the Conference program, and in May 2019, the Travel program also closed. In total, more than 2,900 grants were awarded in these areas over 55 years valued at approximately $5.5 million. The Foundation is proud to have been a leader in opening up this area of international experience and exchange, and we will continue to support early career and established researchers via the strong focus on research within the new Healthy and Sustainable funding pillars.
The International Learning & Development program was also closed during fiscal 2019 subsequent to a detailed review of this program area. Due to the closure of these areas, we are no reporting on them this year. The Environment & Conservation area was also closed this year as we undertook research on where to invest in this sector in the future.
In early 2020, the Foundation will again be engaging The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) to conduct surveys of the Foundation’s grantees and declined applicants. CEP previously conducted the same surveys on behalf of the Foundation in 2015, the results of which led to a variety of changes to our grantmaking practices.
The CEP surveys are designed to assess the Foundation’s performance against its goals and strategy. It allows us to pause and reflect on whether or not our actual grantmaking has improved in the eyes of those organisations we seek to partner with and will inform our future grantmaking. Undertaking these CEP surveys in 2020 is a key part of the Foundation’s commitment to continuous improvement as we strive to be the best grantmaker we can be. The Foundation's Board recently approved a recommendation for CEP to undertake these surveys every five years, embedding this important review and reflection into our practice.
The grantee and declined applicant feedback received in the 2015 CEP surveys confirmed the Foundation’s decision to invest in our research and evaluation capability but also highlighted a need for the Foundation to increase the transparency of our practice with our grantees and with the broader philanthropic sector.
We seek a partnership with our grantees, to pursue a strategic relationship built on mutual respect, trust and an environment that promotes transparency and open, honest conversation. By investing time and effort into better understanding our prospective grantees and better understanding their place in the NFP landscape, we can achieve genuine partnerships with those organisations we believe can benefit many Australians through their particular missions.
Examples of transparency are the learnings gleaned from our grantees and from our own grantmaking that we share with the broader sector. We’re getting very positive feedback from both funders and grantees on the quality of the learnings that we’re sharing and the value that they add to the thought processes that many non-profit organisations and other funders go through when considering how to achieve their particular mission.
Being recognised for this approach, alongside the Rockefeller Foundation and the C&A Foundation, by receiving the inaugural #OpenForGood Award from Candid was a highlight this year and a great honour.
In this report, we reveal other ways The Ian Potter Foundation seeks to adopt best practice, collaborate with other foundations and engage experts to understand complex issues to determine how philanthropic support can fill identified gaps. There is always room for improvement so, above all, our team will continue to develop their capacity to support the best organisations, people and projects to achieve the greatest impact.
Read the full Annual Grants Report 2018–19.