Close Search
News  |  PhilanthropyGrantmaking

How effectively do Australian grants match UN SDGs?

29 March 2022 at 9:02 am
Jonathan Alley
A new report takes a look at $6 billion distributed via the SmartyGrants platform in eight years.

Jonathan Alley | 29 March 2022 at 9:02 am


How effectively do Australian grants match UN SDGs?
29 March 2022 at 9:02 am

A new report takes a look at $6 billion distributed via the SmartyGrants platform in eight years.

A new report by Our Community has examined how effectively Australian grantmakers match United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs). Strong environment and climate goals are evident, but how well does Australian funding allocation match broader global direction?

The SDGs are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”.

Our Community assessed over 440 grantmakers’ activities over an eight year reporting period, deducting that goals related to sustainability, community, health/wellbeing and education were key sector priorities. Conversely, the areas of clean energy, beating world hunger, life below water (or marine life) and peace/justice issues were looked upon least favourably as areas to fund. 

A key outcome of the Our Community report lay in exposing a wide gap between Australian program priorities and the UN-established SDGs. 

This report said the gap is partially caused by the SDG’s logical focus on lower income nations, whereas a more prosperous nation such as Australia may more easily focus grant funds upon so-called “higher order goals” such as the arts, humanities and sports. 

Tellingly, the report revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic had little bearing on changed priorities for grant makers. However the report illustrated a universal groundswell to support climate action and associated environmental issues, with several of the stated sustainable development goals seeing funding increases. 

Clean water/sanitation, affordable and clean energy and life on the land saw an aggregate 20 per cent increase over the eight-year study timeframe. According to Our Community, 17 per cent of all monies allocated by SmartyGrants fell into areas strongly linked to sustainability and meeting the challenges of climate change. 

The report examined grants from various levels of government, in addition to philanthropic funding. It found the philanthropic community allocated money to highly specific causes within their self-defined remits, and had different funding priorities to government. Philanthropy generally favoured health and wellbeing, local and state governments supported sustainable cities more than their federal counterparts, while the Commonwealth government allocated more energy to gender equality. 

Report author, Dr Paola Oliva-Altamirano, strongly encouraged funders to establish transparent and realistic program goals before program makers responded to published criteria.

“The process of considering the goals and setting road maps to achieve [SDG indicators] in different scenarios is as important as the outcomes. Once you have clear goals, then you can move to the next stage of measuring impact,” Oliva-Altamirano said. 

She also said the study brought up questions around community engagement, using the UN endorsed SDGs in initial program design and demographic considerations such as population size and make-up.

The report also investigated the impact of philanthropy on the Australian social sector through a local policy lens, assessing which funds more significantly affected stated social goals. 

Read the report in full here.

Jonathan Alley  |  @ProBonoNews

Jonathan Alley is opinion editor at Pro Bono Australia.

PB Careers
Get your biweekly dose of news, opinion and analysis to keep you up to date with what’s happening and why it matters for you, sent every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers? Get in touch at or download our contributor guidelines.


Create a Reconciliation Action Plan/></a></div></div>    </div>





    <div class=

Get more stories like this


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Snow Foundation reveals 2022 social entrepreneurship fellows

Maggie Coggan

Tuesday, 29th March 2022 at 4:47 pm

Philanthropy has a role to play in funding NFP journalism

Luke Michael

Monday, 13th September 2021 at 4:37 pm

More money, more impact? Not necessarily.

Maggie Coggan

Tuesday, 13th July 2021 at 8:24 am

Funding for impact and wellbeing

Julia Keady

Monday, 31st May 2021 at 4:09 pm

pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook