A recent article in ProBono magazine highlighted the findings of an Australian Institute of Grant Makers survey of grantseekers which found that one of their key concerns was the need for multi-year grants to sustain projects and build genuine partnerships with funders. This finding reflects the lessons we have gathered through our own evaluation processes identifying common success factors in our grants.
As a result of this evaluative review process we are in the midst of a transition to exactly this type of approach across all our program areas, building on past successes to ensure consistent, effective, strategic philanthropy. At its core, this approach is simply about trying to ensure our funding has a greater, sustained impact that benefits as many Australians as possible.
Our program managers are spending more time getting to know organisations well. Changes made to our processes and grant rounds, plus the appointment of a second program officer, means that program managers are able to spend more time really understanding the sectors we work in. This increased focus on developing knowledge and expertise will enhance their ability to consider specific applications, as well as better assess the many organisations we have the opportunity to work and partner with. The fundamental difference is that we are trying to be more proactive in engaging with prospective grantees, although we recognise that our structured application process inevitably means we will still react to some applications we receive.
Since we have learned that our larger grants tend to be more successful, we have also increased the minimum amounts that we will consider in a number our program areas, (Education, Science, Community Wellbeing, Medical Research, Health & Disability, Environment & Conservation). In the near future we anticipate establishing multi-year grants as the norm in many program areas, with agreed key performance indicators (KPIs) embedded in the project from the outset of each grant.
We have also started running regular outreach events, where we gather together and work proactively with recent grantees to:
- Assist them to set realistic project-specific KPIs, measure these and evaluate them
- Consider appropriate long term outcomes, their measurement, evaluation and dissemination, and
- Connect them with other NFPs and relevant state/local government contacts
Our Research & Evaluation Manager and our program managers are also running information sessions for prospective grantseekers as we seek to inform the sector about the important elements of our grant making process.
Convening, informing, educating, connecting, assisting – these are all fundamental elements of our strategy and achieving our own objective of being a leader in Australian philanthropy. We are keen to reach out to a large number of grantees, to extend our relationship well beyond that of a simple funder.
This evolving approach to our grant making is occurring at a time when our funding commitments for fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018 are already significantly committed. I estimate that the Foundation has already committed to pay approximately 80 per cent (FY17) and approximately 70 per cent (FY18) of our estimated distributions in those two years. As a result, it is very likely that our Board will be considering fewer grants, and approving fewer grants in the next 18 months than they have in recent years. The funds available in FY 17 may also be further reduced by the recent significant impact to financial markets caused by the outcome of the Brexit referendum.
During this period our team will continue to seek ways to work closely with the NFP, government and philanthropic sectors with the aim of ensuring that our philanthropy is meaningful, relevant and valuable in every respect.