It’s the “beautiful, heartening story” of a 10-year-old girl that springs to mind when Greater Charitable Foundation CEO Anne Long thinks about the impact the Foundation’s funding has had on families and communities in NSW and South East Queensland.
The primary school student recently took part in a GCF-funded program called NEST (Nutrition Education Sustenance Training), which is run by food-rescue organisation OzHarvest for disadvantaged young people and adults.
“OzHarvest was working out of a community centre close to a huge social housing precinct in Newcastle and this 10-year-old girl was coming to their classes every week,” Long says. “They were teaching her how to cook, how to choose produce for meals, and they were giving her recipes, which she was taking home and cooking for her mum and her siblings. The staff said she was the first to arrive and she was the most enthusiastic. She told them it was her favourite activity each week.”
Long says it’s a powerful example of a grassroots program changing not only the life of a child, but a family as well. NEST, which OzHarvest received $50,000 to run over two years, has had significant impact.
“Since September 2016, OzHarvest has delivered 11 programs, 44 workshops to nine agencies with over 60 people,” Long says. “The social return on investment for the NEST program nationally is $9.73 for every dollar.”
The customer-owned Greater Bank kickstarted GCF in 2011 with a $1 million allocation and it continues to fund the Foundation from its profits. To date, GCF has granted more than $7 million in funding to 25 charities in NSW and South East Queensland.
STAFF VOLUNTEERS A KEY TO SUCCESS
Staff involvement and volunteering is a key part of the Foundation’s activities, so much so that the Greater Charitable Foundation Volunteer of the Year Award was established in 2015 to recognise employees’ contributions.
Between a third to one half of Greater Bank’s 750-plus full-time staff volunteer at any one time with one of GCF’s charitable partners, which this year include Cancer Council NSW, the Clontarf Foundation, the McGrath Foundation and Tantrum Youth Arts.
“Once they volunteer the first time, they are usually hooked, then they will volunteer for more than one partner over the year,” Long says. “It’s everything from a couple of hours volunteering in the Starlight Express room to nine months of mentoring, and everything in between. We’ve had working bees for Autism Spectrum Australia at their school in Thornton and staff have helped out at the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s open day.”
PLAYING TO ITS STRENGTHS
At the helm of the Foundation since inception, Long says the GCF treats its charity partners as family and equals and has maintained a steady focus.
“The two areas of interest to us are families and communities. We are looking at programs that can demonstrate that the beneficiaries’ lives will be altered for the better. So that may be through tangible and practical ways, such as gaining a qualification or employment, or that could be the medical research we have funded.”
The Foundation has a unique board composition that keeps staff involved and connected to decision-making. “Representatives are appointed by the bank. We have an executive appointee, and we also have staff-appointed directors. So every three years our staff can nominate other staff members who can come on board as a director,” Long says. “That is quite unique and I think that is a great strength for our organisation that we have those staff-appointed representatives who sit on our board.”
Alongside funding and volunteering, GCF also garners media attention for its charitable partners, which has turned out to be a valuable component of those partnerships. A report by UK-based social impact consultancy firm, New Philanthropy Capital, found GCF’s partners highly valued the Foundation’s volunteers and its ability to attract media attention because these aspects increased awareness and understanding of their organisations.
MEASURING THE FUTURE
“We have just announced $1.1 million in funding to six new partners, so that’s very exciting for us,” says Long. “We are looking to further refine our focus on impact measurement and evaluation and what that looks like.”
Part of this involves harnessing the power of the information that flows through every organisation every day.
“We probably need to look at some technological advancement for ourselves, as do a lot of foundations and funders, so that we are capable of aggregating that big data and telling these stories in a more meaningful way.”
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR GIVING IN AUSTRALIA
As for philanthropy in Australia, Long believes it is growing in impact and influence.
“This is the halcyon days for big gifts. We are seeing so many big gifts happening, with Andrew Forrest and Anthony Pratt. I think we need to capitalise on that movement itself and what it means to the sector,’ she says.
But with more NGOs and charities sprouting up all the time, she believes the sector needs to find better ways to collaborate.
Ultimately, Long thinks Australia will follow America’s lead on philanthropic advocacy. “We are not as far advanced as the US in terms of looking at real movements such as Black Lives Matter and gender equality,” she says. “We haven’t seen that yet in Australia. I do think that will come.”
3 TIPS FOR GIVING
Greater Charitable Foundation CEO Anne Long has some good advice for organisations starting a giving journey:
- Determine those causes that are going to be of interest and/or of concern to the business; it’s going to be different for every single business.
- Ascertain the priorities for giving. Do you want to prioritise giving just a large sum to cancer research or add more diversity to your funding strategy?
- Start assessing the work that you are doing right from the start and don’t be afraid to make course corrections as time goes on if you are not being as effective as you’d like to be. We expect this of the NGOs and we need to put that kind of pressure back on ourselves as well.
To learn more about Greater Charitable Foundation visit its website.