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7 min read

Celebrating five years of making change together: the Impact Fund

Profile of Dom O'Donnell
Written by Dom O'DonnellPosted on 10/3/2022

In 2017, Australian Communities Foundation (ACF) established the Impact Fund to bring funders and changemakers together to tackle the biggest issues facing Australia.

“Five years on, we can celebrate some incredible achievements on our journey towards a fairer and more sustainable Australia,” says CEO Maree Sidey.

From helping win the marriage equality campaign, to overturning laws that discriminate against Indigenous peoples; from showing that farmers care about climate, to standing up for our gun safety laws against a powerful gun lobby – Impact Funders are behind some of the most powerful changemakers in the country.

Want to learn more about the Fund’s key achievements? Join us at the five-year celebration on 7 April 2022 at the Victorian Pride Centre or online. Register here

Strong foundations

Recognising collective giving as a force for change, ACF launched the Impact Fund with the support of significant bequests to help more people give together and maximise their impact. Since 2017, the Fund has mobilised over $4 million to support 40 civil society partners with contributions from over 100 funders.

Key to the Fund’s success, says Maree, has been the strong foundations that were laid through initiatives like MacroMelbourne, which ran from 2003 until 2011.

We developed the Impact Fund as one of the first collective giving initiatives to support changemakers working on bold solutions to big issues

“Through MacroMelbourne, ACF had a strong history in supporting donors and NFPs to share knowledge and work together to tackle place-based disadvantage. We drew on the success of that history and with the subsequent change of name and geographic focus to Australian Communities Foundation, applied a national lens.”

“We built on the momentum in the sector at the time and developed the Impact Fund as one of the first collective giving initiatives to support changemakers working on bold solutions to big issues,” says Maree. “We identified four impact areas for the Fund – inequality, democracy, Indigenous self-determination, and the environment – because of the scale and entrenched nature of the challenges they present to our country.”

The Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) was one of ACF’s early partners on the national stage with the release of $5,000 of funding to send the first lawyer to Manus Island. HRLC then became one of the first recipients of support from the Impact Fund for its work on marriage equality and abortion reform.

Hugh de Kretser, HRLC’s Executive Director, says that early support for advocacy and the subsequent emergence of the Impact Fund in 2017 was game-changing.

“What really struck me about the Impact Fund was the innovation, willingness and creativity to set something up that was able to respond to nationally significant opportunities for positive change.”

Change takes time

The Impact Fund community’s quick and agile support of HRLC’s work helped bring about change almost immediately: marriage equality was won and abortion was decriminalised in Queensland and New South Wales. As Hugh highlights though, these examples are unusual.

“Change takes time. Even in these examples, change was the result of generations of people fighting for equality.”

We seek to build relationships through the Fund – between Impact Partners and our giving community

This has been one of the guiding principles of the Fund’s approach, says Georgia Mathews, ACF’s Philanthropy and Engagement Lead.

“We recognise that change takes time, which is why we seek to build relationships through the Fund – between Impact Partners and our giving community,” says Georgia. “Through the Fund’s Large Grants stream, we have been able to provide multi-year funding so that Partners can plan ahead. Smaller Agile Grants complement this approach by providing Partners with rapid funding when they have an unexpected window of opportunity for change.”

Using this approach, the Impact Fund has played a role in securing some incredible achievements for our country over the past five years. Beyond the marriage equality win and abortion reform, the Fund has worked together with other likeminded funders to support Impact Partners to:

  • establish Australia’s first coalition for gun safety (2018)
  • stop supermarkets and AFL clubs from continuing to invest in poker machines (2019)
  • bring 191 refugees and people seeking asylum from offshore detention to Australia to access urgent medical care (2019)
  • achieve a commitment from the National Farmers Federation to net-zero emissions by 2050 (2020)
  • establish grassroots organisation to support Indigenous families affected by deaths in custody (2020)
  • decriminalise public drunkenness laws in Victoria that discriminated against Indigenous peoples (2021)
  • secure $700+ million in government funding for Indigenous ranger groups (2021)
  • increase JobSeeker income support by $50 a fortnight (2021).

These are just a few of the many achievements celebrated in our forthcoming report, Making Change Together: Five years of the Impact Fund, which will be launched in early April this year.

Collaboration is key

“The Impact Fund has only been able to contribute to work at this scale because of many individual funders coming together,” says Georgia.

“Funders tell us it’s the collaborative aspect they enjoy most about the Fund – the opportunity to get together with others and back partners working on the big issues.”

As Impact Funder Bruce McGregor puts it, “collaborative funding is a very effective way for smaller funders to resource larger, impactful projects.” Impact Funder Jackie Yowell echoes Bruce’s support for the approach: “You share in the enthusiasm about the impact with other donors – you all feel good about it.”

We are now inviting the community to come together again to celebrate five years of supporting good people to do good work.

There is so much joy when we come together to back a positive vision for our future

To coincide with the anniversary, the Impact Fund is calling for support for collaborative work between Impact Partners across the four impact areas.

“One of the key themes in our Partners’ work over the past five years has been collaboration, and we’re excited to help them further join forces,” says Maree.

“There is so much joy when we come together to back a positive vision for our future. We’re creating a movement and I can’t wait to see what the Impact Fund achieves in its next five years.”

Register now
Thursday 7 April

Impact Fund: Celebrating Five Years
Join us at the Victorian Pride Centre or join online from anywhere in Australia.

As we celebrate the Impact Fund’s fifth anniversary, we will also be inviting our community to support the Fund’s running costs so we can continue its important work. The Impact Fund model adds so much value, but it is resource-intensive, and necessarily so. Change takes time and we must dig in.

To enquire about supporting the work of the Impact Fund, please contact Georgia Mathews or Anna Demant on 03 9412 0412 or email More details to follow.

Feature image: (1) Jessica Kendall from Impact Partner, Economic Media Centre (EMC), with community leaders participating in EMC’s media training. (2) Impact Partners at the Impact Fund 2019 Showcase. (3) Impact Partner, Farmers for Climate Action, supports farmers to take action on climate change.