Providing opportunities for people to volunteer is a hallmark of civic life. These contributions power the collective good of local community groups all over the country, and are crucial to the relevance and sustainability of not-for-profit organisations.
The Inner North Community Foundation is no different. Our small part-time staff team of two is supported by over 20 volunteers, who give their time in different ways – from providing strong leadership around the board table, to extending our reach into local communities through social media, to researching local social enterprises.
The Inner North Community Foundation focuses on Melbourne’s Inner North, the areas covered by Darebin, Moreland and Yarra local governments. We know that a fundamental principle of effective place-based models is that people affected by the work should have avenues to participate in the decision-making process.
Creating space for people fulfills the vision of the Foundation in clear ways:
- Prosperous: Volunteering can give some people the opportunity to use existing skills and learn new ones, with a view to stepping into paid work.
- Connected: For others, being involved gives a new sense of connection to their community, both through learning about the work of local groups and connecting to other people.
- Cohesive: With a wide range of ages and backgrounds, having different voices can provide nuanced approaches to contemporary challenges.
One recent initiative to deepen our connections to our community and achieve this was through a board development program. With a view to ensuring we were intentional in reflecting our community, our last board recruitment round specifically targeted women under 40 years old from diverse backgrounds and with a connection to Melbourne’s Inner North. Eighteen skilled and capable people submitted an application to volunteer as a director. With one vacancy, it was an embarrassment of riches!
From there the Board Associate program was created, engaging some of these candidates with the work of the Foundation.
Three young local women of diverse backgrounds were selected as board associates and participated in the Board Associate program with the Foundation in 2015/2016. They:
- Attended board meetings, strategy sessions, and committee meetings.
- Participated in workshops around governance.
- Supported the grant process as assessors, and gave a different lens on outcomes
- Attended events as representatives of the Foundation.
The Board Associate program aimed to:
- Build the strengths and capacity of local people to serve on not-for-profit boards crucial for future strength of civil society.
- Broaden the diversity of backgrounds of people involved with the Inner North Community Foundation.
- Build a pool of potential candidates for future Inner North Community Foundation director positions, while not confirming any expectations about a pathway to involvement.
The program has been successful in its aims. It gave better links to different communities, keeping people interested and involved in the Foundation. It was also an empowered model of volunteering, providing people a deeper connection to the Foundation.
The three people involved retain their connection to the Foundation, with one filling a casual board director vacancy this year.
Like all things, a volunteer culture needs cultivation. Creating a sense that people are giving time, without expectation of a return, for causes bigger than themselves is critical to the long-term prosperity of civil society organisations and the communities they serve.
The Inner North Community Foundation Board Associate program was a simple and concerted effort to support the progress and relevance of a place-based community foundation. By giving people opportunities to learn about the world around them, and put their shoulder to the wheel with others to create it, the program helped create bonds that tie people to a place and to each other.
More information about the program can be found here.
The Inner North Community Foundation was established in 2007 as an initiative of IntoWork and is supported by the three local Councils, Moreland, Yarra and Darebin. The Foundation manages philanthropic dollars to provide funds for projects that create prosperous, connected, and cohesive communities in Melbourne’s Inner North, particularly encouraging pathways to employment.