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7 min read

‘Investing In Our Future’: 4 insights from the Community Foundations Forum 2022

Profile of Dom O'Donnell
Written by Dom O'DonnellPosted on 7/11/2022

Representatives from the Australian Communities Foundation team have recently returned from the 2022 National Community Foundations Forum – the first time our sector has come together in person since 2019.

“It was an inspirational time for reconnecting and sharing learnings from the past few years,” said Australian Communities Foundation CEO and Community Foundations Australia Board Member, Maree Sidey.

“And with this year’s theme ‘Investing In Our Future’ asking us to look ahead, it was the perfect occasion for our sector to collectively explore opportunities on the horizon.”

Here are four inspiring insights our team has taken away from this year’s Forum.

1. Australia’s community foundations have played a vital role in addressing the challenges of the last few years.

Since the last Forum in 2019, communities across Australia have faced bushfires, floods and the local fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the opening plenary, we heard from four regional community foundations from different parts of Australia on how they have responded to the challenges of the last three years. This included a reflection from Sara Jenkins from the Upper Murray Innovation Foundation in Corryong on their Foundation’s vital role in the region’s disaster response to the 2019/20 bushfires.

Responding to a crisis is truly an adaptive process.

NRCF CEO Sam Henderson reflected that “responding to a crisis is truly an adaptive process”. In both examples, the capacity of community foundations to respond quickly using local expertise was clearly on display.

‘Disaster response, resilience, and community adaptation’ session (L-R): Genevieve Timmons (Paul Ramsay Foundation), Natalie Egleton (FRRR), Carolyn Phiddian (Inner North Community Foundation) and Sam Henderson (Northern Rivers Community Foundation).

2. There is a huge opportunity for community foundations to help fulfil our ‘ancestral mandate’.

In one of our favourite sessions from the Forum, Gunditjmara man, actor, theatre maker, and diversity and inclusion professional Tom Molyneux introduced the concept of ‘ancestral mandate’ – the responsibility we have to our ancestors and future generations – and highlighted the role community foundations can play in fulfilling that mandate.

“Being a good ancestor is not something that is limited to people of the past. Being a good ancestor starts today… How can you carry your ancestral mandate forward in what you do?”

Joining the session to facilitate an audience Q&A, Foundation SA CEO, Stacey Thomas, reiterated the concept’s relevance to our sector’s work: “I don’t think there’s a single community foundation in the room that isn’t considering the future generations and trying to understand what our role is today.”

Tom generously responded to questions from the room on how we can support First Nations communities. He spoke of the opportunity we have “to do the reconciliation work that [previous generations] never could”, noting community foundations “can effect change that is meaningful”.

In another session focused on supporting future generations, Arron Perriam and Eleanor Cater from Community Foundations NZ shared their learnings from a national campaign encouraging people to leave lasting legacies to their local communities. With the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth now underway in many developed countries, there is a huge opportunity for community foundations to help individuals carry their ancestral mandate forward through bequests that will benefit the communities they care about in perpetuity.

Gunditjmara man and diversity and inclusion professional, Tom Molyneux, in conversation with Foundation SA CEO, Stacey Thomas.

3. Community foundations have an important role to play in doubling giving by 2030.

We need a big, bold vision for community foundations to match the huge opportunity that exists.

In conversation with Maree Sidey, Philanthropy Australia CEO, Jack Heath, said the opportunities presented by DGR reform, the increased trust that was building at the local level and the unprecedented intergenerational transfer of wealth set the scene for community foundations to have ambitious goals.

“The plan to double giving by 2030 shouldn’t mean just doubling giving for community foundations. We need to be thinking about five times as much. We need a big, bold vision for community foundations to match the huge opportunity that exists.”

In a separate presentation, the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury, Dr Andrew Leigh, told the Forum the Government’s commitment to working with the sector to double giving was “a big job” and reiterated the value of local giving.

“There’s great value in giving locally – you’re able to understand the challenges and problems… community foundations can give much more than money – they can give that expertise and connectedness.”

Philanthropy Australia CEO, Jack Heath, in conversation with Maree Sidey.

4. Responsible investing is increasingly important for community foundations

A breakout session on the final day explored the value of community foundations investing endowed funds for impact.

community foundations need to take a whole-of-organisation view around impact.

“We started on this journey back in 2015 because we listened to our donors,” Maree explained. “It’s increasingly important for donors that their endowed funds achieve not only positive financial returns but positive social and environmental returns too, so community foundations need to take a whole-of-organisation view around impact.”

Dr Catherine Brown OAM (third from left) was recognised with the Sue Charlton Lifetime Achievement Award as one of a series of awards announced at the Forum.

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2022 Community Foundations Awards which were announced at the Forum.

  • Sue Charlton Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr Catherine Brown OAM
  • Outstanding Community Leadership Award: Ballarat Community Foundation for the Ballarat Community Hub initiative
  • Outstanding National Disaster Response Award: Northern Rivers Community Foundation for its Quick Response Flood Recovery Grants
  • Outstanding Work in Covid-19 Response Award: Tomorrow Today Foundation for the Education Benalla Program’s Early Years Response to Covid-19.

Thank you to Community Foundations Australia for bringing our sector together to reconnect, and to this year’s member co-hosts, Geelong Community Foundation and Give Where You Live.

Feature image: Community Foundations Australia Board at the National Community Foundations Forum 2022.