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4 min read

Celebrating 25 years of community philanthropy

Profile of Nicole Richards
Written by Nicole RichardsPosted on 13/12/2022

More than 100 guests joined the celebrations at famed social enterprise STREAT on December 5th to see out Australian Communities Foundation’s 25th year of giving.

With it being the first time the community of giving has been able to gather for an end of year event since 2019, the night sparkled with a jovial ambience, helped by the piano playing talent of Morgan Mansell fund holder Peter Mansell and delicious canapes from the STREAT Catering.

As the speeches got underway, Australian Communities Foundation Co-founder and Patron, Marion Webster OAM, shared personal reflections on the extraordinary growth of the giving community over a quarter century, noting that many of the Foundation’s earliest donors are still actively involved.

Image: Australian Communities Foundation Co-Founder and Patron, Marion Webster OAM.

“These were people who, for the first time, saw philanthropy as an accessible form of giving for them and were willing to take the risk and invest often small amounts of their money in an unknown form of philanthropy – a community foundation,” Marion said.

“Hayden and I are delighted to say that 25 years later, this community has thrived and diversified, to much better reflect the breadth of donors and supporters who make up the broader community.

“We take great pleasure in seeing the line on the website: ‘Join Australia’s largest community of everyday philanthropists’ because not only has ACF grown, it has also supported and encouraged the growth of other community foundations across the country, all of which have their own communities of support and are working in their local communities to encourage generosity and build greater sustainability.”

This community has thrived and diversified, to much better reflect the breadth of donors and supporters who make up the broader community

Marion credited a shared vision and mutual trust with her co-founder and fellow Patron, Hayden Raysmith AM, for the successful base from which the then Melbourne Community Foundation was able to establish and grow a community of generous Australians.

From left: Australian Communities Foundation CEO, Maree Sidey, and Co-Founders and Patrons Marion Webster OAM and Hayden Raysmith AM.

“What is most gratifying for Hayden and me is that the original vision still holds true today, in spite of all the changes that have been placed in the sector and beyond, that original vision continues to be championed by the board, the talented and committed staff, and of course, by you as donors – you are truly an amazing and talented lot.”

Eric Beecher, Chair of the Australian Communities Foundation Board, echoed Marion’s sentiment, noting that in the Foundation’s first five years, 46 funds were established whereas the number of funds and foundations that are now part of the ACF giving community is ten times that figure, at more than 460.

“That gives you a sense of the growth,” Eric said, “and there’s a lot of momentum behind that growth.”

The achievements of the Impact Fund were also highlighted, with more than $5 million raised in the Fund’s first five years to tackle some of the biggest issues facing Australia.

Passion and drive and commitment are traits that are never in short supply at ACF

“This has resulted in more than 15 changes in policy and regulation, and contributed to wins such as achieving marriage equality, establishing the country’s first coalition for gun safety, securing over 800 million in government funding to support at Indigenous Ranger groups, and bringing 191 refugees and asylum seekers from offshore detention to Australia to access urgent medical care,” Eric said.

After acknowledging Marion and Hayden as pioneers of the community foundation model in Australia and thanking them “for being wonderful role models and champions for all of us,” Eric thanked two Board directors, Sue Woodward AM and Cath Smith, with the former having already stepped down to take on the role of Commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission, and the latter due to retire from the Board in early 2023.

From left: Outgoing Australian Communities Foundation Board Director, Cath Smith, Chair Eric Beecher, CEO Maree Sidey, and former Board Director and new Commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, Sue Woodward AM.

Rounding out the formalities, Australian Communities Foundation CEO and the night’s emcee, Maree Sidey, said that the Foundation has grown to become “a powerhouse of progressive philanthropy in this country.”

“The road ahead is truly exciting,” Maree said. “With the help of the Board, we’ve just outlined our new strategy for the next three years and it’s fair to say that, true to form, our ambitions are high.

“It will take passion and drive and commitment to achieve the outcomes we want for this country, but passion and drive and commitment are traits that are never in short supply at ACF.

Image: Maree Sidey.

“As we wrap up ACF’s 25th year it strikes me that the story of this foundation is one of generosity, of community and purpose,” Maree continued.

“There certainly would be no story without the vision and grit of Marian and Hayden. And there’s no story without our donors who continue to write the next chapter in the story of this inspiring and unique giving community.”

View the photo gallery here