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6 min read

Supporting people in times of crisis: National Crisis Response Fund

Profile of Dom O'Donnell
Written by Dom O'DonnellPosted on 21/7/2022

As communities in New South Wales begin the recovery from the state’s third flooding event in little over a year, Australian Communities Foundation (ACF) has relaunched the National Crisis Response Fund’s Flood Appeal.

Established at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Crisis Response Fund (NCRF) is a collective fund that provides support to grassroots organisations in times of crisis.

“The NCRF is an example of what funders can achieve when they come together in difficult times,” says Georgia Mathews, ACF’s Director of Philanthropic Services.

“The Fund has enabled our giving community to pool our resources and respond effectively to communities most affected by Covid-19 and the recent flood events in New South Wales and Queensland.”

Over the course of two years, the NCRF has raised over $1.5 million and provided over 100 grants to respond rapidly to the needs of organisations helping communities in crisis.

The NCRF is an example of what funders can achieve when they come together in difficult times

Collaboration and an agile approach to grantmaking have been the key ingredients to the Fund’s success, says Georgia.

“Australian Communities Foundation’s national reach has meant we have been able to collaborate with an extensive network of organisations across the country to identify community need and funding gaps.

“Our fortnightly granting cycle has enabled us to then quickly distribute the dollars raised through the Fund to fill those gaps.”

Recognising the merit of this approach, the Paul Ramsay Foundation contributed $500,000 in 2020 and has been partnering with the NCRF since. The partnership has included dedicated Covid response funding for First Nations-led organisations, as well as general support to complement the ongoing contributions from the Fund’s many individual donors.

One of the Fund’s earliest grantees was Inner Melbourne Community Legal (IMCL). When public housing communities in Melbourne were sent into a hard lockdown in July 2020, IMCL worked to fill gaps in public health and legal rights communication for affected residents.The NCRF moved quickly to support IMCL with a $15,000 grant for communications support. 

“With help from the NCRF, we were able to assist callers to our helpline and digital platforms with basic clarifications about the applicable directions and their rights,” says Nadia Morales, Strategy, Engagement & Projects Director at IMCL. “We would not have been able to respond to urgent community need without this grant.”

When New South Wales was hit with extreme weather and flooding in March 2021, the Fund’s Flood Appeal facilitated funding for community organisations working on the recovery.

One organisation supported at this time was BackTrack Youth Works – a not-for-profit enabling disadvantaged young people to reconnect with education and training. The NCRF supported BackTrack to employ a team of young people for flood recovery work, helping the community while providing on-the-job training for young employees.

We saw a huge outpouring of support from our giving community earlier this year, enabling us to quickly channel resources to where they are needed most

Throughout 2021, the NCRF continued to focus on supporting communities most affected by Covid-19, then came the Eastern Australia floods earlier this year.

“We saw a huge outpouring of support from our giving community earlier this year, enabling us to quickly channel resources to where they are needed most,” says Georgia. The NCRF distributed over $387,000 to 21 local organisations helping people affected by the disaster.

Grants distributed during this period include:

  • $20,000 to repair and replace water-damaged furniture and personal items for young women and children in Brisbane Read more
  • $10,000 to deliver free meals to Indigenous communities facing food insecurity around the Lismore region Read more
  • $10,000 for an accommodation hub and free counselling in Mullumbimby Read more
  • $10,000 to support Resilient Lismore’s crisis response Read more
  • $10,000 to provide free meals for young people and families affected by floods in Brisbane and surrounds Read more
  • $5,000 to support Queer Family Northern Rivers’ crisis response Read more

Given the Fund’s focus on filling gaps and the unprecedented extent of the flooding’s impact, Australian Communities Foundation chose to partner with a local community foundation to distribute some of the funds raised.

“We wanted to ensure we were reaching communities missing out on existing support,” explains Georgia. “To complement our team’s efforts to reach these communities, we partnered with the team at Northern Rivers Community Foundation, whose connections in the region meant they were well-placed to quickly fill gaps.”

Northern Rivers Community Foundation Acting CEO Allison Henry says the Foundation’s knowledge of the local area and an understanding that “the devastation of the floods extended far beyond Lismore, which rightly attracted so much attention” meant support was provided all over the Northern Rivers region.

Community foundations can be a focus for donations in times of crisis, as well as the rapid distribution of funds.

“Our experienced team distributed almost $1 million in rapid response grants to 106 organisations across the region in six weeks, with most grantees receiving funds within 10 days of application,” says Allison.

“Community foundations can be a focus for donations in times of crisis, as well as the rapid distribution of funds; as such, we proved to be far more nimble than governments in responding to the immediate crisis.

“Having had the unique opportunity to connect with so many organisations dealing with the flood disaster, and the subsequent phases of recovery, we’ve also provided leadership in collating and sharing research about the experiences of community organisations in the region, at a time when these groups are busy providing critical support to our communities.”

With communities in New South Wales again impacted by the flooding earlier this month, the National Crisis Response Fund is seeking additional support to quickly distribute funds to organisations working with the people most affected.

“We are continuing to get resources out to local communities,” says Georgia. “And we are talking with local partners every day to make sure our support is landing in the right places. But we can only do it with your support.”

To support the National Crisis Response Fund, make a grant request from your fund by contacting our team, or donate directly here.