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New ‘Self-Generating’ Philanthropic Body Launches

13 October 2016 at 11:32 am
Ellie Cooper
Not-for-profit and community organisations across Melbourne will have a new avenue to grant funding with the launch of a philanthropic body with a difference.

Ellie Cooper | 13 October 2016 at 11:32 am


New ‘Self-Generating’ Philanthropic Body Launches
13 October 2016 at 11:32 am

Not-for-profit and community organisations across Melbourne will have a new avenue to grant funding with the launch of a philanthropic body with a difference.

Connected Communities Melbourne, launched on Wednesday evening, awards grants to large and small organisations across 10 sectors, including youth work, community safety, environment, sport and arts.

Bendigo Bank, as a founding partner, will fund the initiative with profits from its 28 Melbourne branches, as well as providing customers with the option to direct part of their income into the fund.

Chair Melanie Raymond, from youth homelessness initiative Youth Projects, said the initiative was a “centralised, self-generating funding alternative”.

She also said Connected Communities Melbourne would give everyday people the opportunity to engage in philanthropy, setting it apart from other funds.  

“There are so many wonderful philanthropic bodies in Australia, we know that, and have the highest regard for them. We’re entering into that space with something where just by doing your banking you’re going to be giving back,” Raymond told Pro Bono Australia News.

“I think that people are really wanting to do something. I’m contacted all the time by everyday people who are appalled at some of the problems facing the community and absolutely mystified that more isn’t being done.

“They want to do something and I really think it taps into the very generous heart of the community and making it very accessible and very local at the same time.”

Grant applications open in February 2017, and the fund will take an “agile approach” to funding.

Grants will be given on a rolling basis as the funding pool accumulates, rather than delivered on a static basis.

Raymond also said the body would be accessible to organisations that would normally face barriers to philanthropic funding.

“The model is different in that it has a very broad range of grant categories, it’s very simple to apply online and the response times are going to be faster,” she said.

“For a lot of community organisations, some of the bigger philanthropic funds require a level of complexity that they’re simply not able to deal with.

“These are people who just want to get on with the job of running their community organisation and not employing research officers and collecting complex data, they just have a great idea.

“We’re focused on your idea, we’re not focused on who you are. We’re not focused on whether you’re too big or too small, or whether you already have other sources of funding or whether you’ve had funding before.

“This really rests on what is the great work that people are doing and how can we support them.”  

Alongside Raymond, a voluntary board made up of sector leaders, including Neighbourhood Houses Victoria CEO Bridget Gardener, will make grant decisions.

Bendigo Bank local connection executive Alexandra Tullio told Pro Bono Australia News the fund would support small projects as well as help tackle Melbourne’s most challenging social issues.  

“The beauty of this is it can actually be at real grassroots level, so it could be the local footy club, or a contributing piece to bigger themes that are really impacting Melbourne, so for example homelessness or domestic violence,” Tullio said.

“The way we’ve tried to establish it is that there’s a whole range of levels that people can get involved in and actually apply for grants.

“And I think on the bigger level… when we see themes like homelessness, people can then use the grants to leverage more funding from all levels of government. So it’s quite a platform to actually get more funding.”

As well as engaging their customers, Bendigo Bank is hoping to get corporate sponsors on board to grow the funding pool.

“Corporates can become a sponsor and provide funding to actually increase the pool,” Tullio said.

“We’re certainly hoping and pretty confident that we’ll attract some more corporate partners as well.

“We’ve already got groups like the TAC, and a couple of accounting firms that are already a part of it as well.”  

She said the fund was an opportunity for the bank to increase its involvement with community organisations.

“Partnering is our model, so it is what we’re good at. We’re involved in 300 communities across Australia so we’re very used to partnering and returning profit back to communities and working with volunteer boards,” she said.

“So it made total sense for us as an extension of our business.

“But I think the thing is as well… we saw a real opportunity to find a different way to contribute profit back to communities.

“The other key point that really started this conversation was that we saw how difficult it was for not for profits to actually access funding and we thought this was a really great way for us to have a positive impact.”

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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