Reflections on 25 years from our co-founders and patrons
Marion Webster OAM and Hayden Raysmith AM
Marion Webster OAM and Hayden Raysmith AM meet with members of our giving community
Co-founders and Patrons of Australian Communities Foundation (ACF), Marion Webster OAM and Hayden Raysmith AM pioneered the community foundation model in Australia.
After a modest start in 1997, when the fledgling ACF operated out of Marion’s spare bedroom “with pen and paper and a MYOB program”, the Foundation is now home to 460+ funds and foundations which have collectively distributed more than $100 million across Australia and overseas.
How does it feel to see the organisation you established all those years ago achieve such significant milestones?
MW: I’m just filled with such enormous pride – I can’t believe that the organisation has come this far, it really is amazing. I also have a sense that there’s still enormous generosity in Australia and if we can promote the sort of philanthropy ACF does well, that there is so much room for even more growth and success.
HR: To be honest, one of the first things I felt was a sense of relief! It’s almost like watching your kids grow up, and you’re never quite sure how they’re travelling – you continue to worry about how it might ultimately turn out even though the model’s been quite secure, and the funding’s been terrific for some time.
It was also confirmation that the community foundation model that we brought to Australia all those years ago has stood the test of time and was doing so well. The way in which ACF has evolved over time has been one of its greatest strengths.
Are there any personal highlights from this journey that stand out for you?
MW: Something that stands out for me is that, despite us starting out as a tiny little dot on the horizon, we were embraced by the other progressive foundations and were able to work with them right from the start.
The other moment that really stands out was our 10th anniversary party at Abbottsford Convent. We didn’t know what sort of response we’d get from our donors and supporters but we ended up with 100 people and a waiting list! It was, in a sense, a coming of age – we had a critical mass of support and a strong sense of wellbeing.
“The building of trust has enabled our donors, in many cases, to be our best advocates.”
What do you think is special about ACF and its community of givers? Has there been a ‘secret’ to its success?
MW: Put simply, for me it’s about building trusting relationships and how those relationships have enabled donors to come on the journey with us. The building of trust has enabled our donors, in many cases, to be our best advocates.
Something else that’s special is the Community of Giving office itself. I think that has been a terrific innovation to have that energy, collaboration and creativity all concentrated in one space with people sharing ideas constantly.
What are your thoughts on the current state of philanthropy, and community foundations in particular?
HR: I think it’s still very under-developed in Australia and it doesn’t seem to me that the idea of giving back to the community has taken hold.
I think there’s room for really creative thinking where not just philanthropy but also businesses will be driven by their social purpose.
MW: I agree that philanthropy is under-developed, but I feel that will change as the generations change. There are so many innovative younger people who are doing things under the radar who are going to move philanthropy in a much more creative direction with things like social investment. ACF, the Reichstein Foundation and other progressive funds are providing really good role models for that change.
What message would you like to leave with the ACF donor community?
HR: Three points: Every contribution matters. Collaboration is good. Continue to explore the best ways to make your contribution matter.