As Australia’s oldest and largest community foundation, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation has been supporting the health and wellbeing of Melbourne for 95 years.
Over the past five years, almost $46 million has been granted to community initiatives and charitable organisations small and large working to support, provide care and improve the lives of people across Melbourne’s communities.
As the community foundation for greater Melbourne, the Foundation has been at the forefront of identifying emerging issues and recognising the need to lead the way in tackling the issues of the day.
The inspiration for innovative grantmaking
“We’ve been able to approach donors to seek support on emerging issues and begin the process of tackling these head-on through our research and grants program. We have used a combination of research, consultation, collaborations and grants to learn and fund strategically. Having undertaken due diligence, we are prepared to go in early and fund pilot and demonstration projects where there is potential for major change. This is an important leadership role that a philanthropic foundation can play,” says Catherine Brown, the Foundation’s chief executive officer.
“Preventing homelessness has been a long-term priority for the Foundation, and issues such as older women ageing in poverty, sustainable food systems, transitioning to a low carbon economy, and access by young people to the jobs of the future, are more recent issues that Foundation has been working on.”
The Foundation is known to take informed risks in its grantmaking and several years ago introduced a ‘challenge’ series to its grants program to find new solutions to tough problems.
The Foundation’s funding of innovative projects that showcase new solutions for tackling issues often attracts government attention through extra long-term funding or recognition through awards. Barwon Child, Youth and Family Services received a $2.8 million grant from the Victorian government for The Geelong Project which was first funded by the Foundation in 2015. The Geelong Project was an innovative solution to reduce youth homelessness whilst maintaining engagement in education.
“This is an amazing achievement not only for Barwon Child, Youth and Family Services but also demonstrates how a community foundation can contribute to the health and wellbeing of a community and take a risk on innovative solutions. We are pleased to learn that the project is attracting interest from other regions, interstate and from overseas,” says Catherine.
Other examples include early funding of VincentCare’s innovative redevelopment of Ozanam House that is doubling the housing available for older men and women in a sustainable and high-quality building, and the University of Melbourne’s research project FoodPrint, which mapped Melbourne’s foodbowl and highlighted the need to drought proof and protect Melbourne’s ability to provide 41% of the city’s food needs from Melbourne and its peri-urban fringe.
The uptake of technology in the not-for-profit sector saw the Foundation fund solutions-based projects in this area. Gather My Grew, Hireup and Domestic Violence Victoria were all funded through an ‘innovation’ lens, and each organisation has gone on to develop their programs with success.
Community foundations and local knowledge
The Foundation’s Donor Engagement Manager Bianca Moore says that community foundations are uniquely placed to bring people, ideas and resources together to help build and strengthen communities, “They are created by and for a community of people,” she says.
Community foundations provide everyone with an opportunity to participate in philanthropy and work in partnership with donors, local organisations, other funders and community organisations to pool and grow charitable funds, ensuring a sustainable source of funding to meet the immediate and long-term needs of the community.
There are about 38 community foundations across Australia who are part of a growing network of more than 1860 around the world.
Local communities know and understand their needs more deeply than anyone else. Community foundations help to support positive change by bringing donors together, making grants and running community initiatives that address issues affecting a local community. Many community foundations use research to help inform their grantmaking and understand issues. At the end of 2017, the Foundation launched its Greater Melbourne Vital Signs report with the aim to promote discussion on the key issues affecting Melbourne and encourage innovative solutions to the city’s current and emerging challenges.
“Community foundations build partnerships around important initiatives and leverage other support. They offer opportunities for donors to work together with expert staff to make a real difference,” says Bianca.
At the grand age of 95, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation is a very contemporary organisation, providing opportunities for donors to participate in a wide range of community philanthropy. It currently hosts two of Melbourne’s largest giving circles Melbourne Women’s Fund and Impact100 Melbourne, as well as offering charitable fund accounts, giving accounts, a bequest program in honour of founder Lord Mayor Sir John Swanson, and an informative events calendar.
To learn more about Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation please visit their website lmcf.org.au.