“Very early on, I got the understanding that if you want the community to be a great place, you have to contribute,” says Rikki Andrews of her giving roots and upbringing in a small South Australian country town.
“It was one of those typical towns where if you want something, the community had to pull together and do it. My father and our family friends were very active community members so I grew up in an environment where that’s just what you did.”
Switching the small town for the city in 2000, Andrews gravitated towards postgraduate study in the art and science of giving, completing a Masters of Philanthropy and Social Investment at Swinburne University in 2007.
With her natural interest firmly piqued, Andrews’ official start in grantmaking came via an entry-level role at Victoria’s State Trustees. She remembers the experience as a valuable “opportunity to learn about the administration of charitable trusts.”
A self-described ‘philanthrocrat’ with an avowed career objective to become a community leader for the philanthropic sector, Andrews went on to hone her skills with roles at The Trust Company, Philanthropy Australia, Research Australia, Trust for Nature and in her present position at the Gardiner Foundation. She spent five years as a sessional lecturer at the Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Investment and Philanthropy and is currently serving on the board of Melbourne’s Inner North Community Foundation.
Anyone who knows Rikki, or follows her on Twitter, knows that her passion is the promotion of giving—and more specifically, giving circles. Launching the Melbourne chapter of Impact100 was a decision she didn’t think twice about.
“When you work in this field and become conscious of the amounts of money required to make an impact by scaling projects up to a shared model and paying staff to implement those projects, you’re talking about really large sums,” she says.
“The concept of Impact100 appealed to me because, although I can’t personally make those sorts of financial commitments, I can engage with others to make those commitments.”
“At the same time, here was an opportunity to engage other mid-career professionals who are well-placed both financially and with their networks, to start thinking about philanthropy and contribute to these sorts of activities. At Impact100 Melbourne we’ve seen the development of a fabulous group of people, largely in their 30s and 40s, whom you’d expect to see going onto boards and making big gifts in their 60s and 70s but they’re doing it now and they’re influencing their friends and connections to do it now too.”
Now in its third year of operation, Impact100 Melbourne has collectively given more than $230,000 to local nonprofits. With 85 members and counting, the swift success of Impact100 Melbourne, Andrews believes, has been helped by changing attitudes towards giving.
“There are a lot of things happening these days, like crowdfunding, where people are losing that fear of asking friends and colleagues to support them. I think people can see what happens when those small contributions are pooled and everyone can see a good outcome.”
The Impact100 blueprint is based on a global giving circle model with 100 members donating $1000 to culminate in a $100,000 annual grant. Active engagement of members, who vote on theme areas to support each year and select the winning project, is core to Andrews’ personal ethos.
“We’re really conscious to ensure our members get involved as much as possible so that it’s not a scenario where we take the money and decide what’s going to happen with it.
“The votes for this year’s theme clearly indicated young people and education were the areas of most interest to members so we combined the two to come up with ‘An Educated Future: Creating learning and earning opportunities for Melbourne’s youth.’”
“Access to education is so important,” Andrews says. “We want to ensure everyone has the opportunity to learn and participate in our society.”
Using an open expression of interest process that’s purposely “simple and short so that charities aren’t wasting time or resources just getting through that first step,” the grants committee reads through all the submissions before short-listing eight.
“Our grants committee is really interesting because it’s representative of how we’re letting people have a go and learn from the experience of others and respect the input of others,” Andrews says. “Some committee members are very experienced grantmakers working with big foundations and others are absolutely brand new to the concept.”
Members are involved in a range of activities to whittle the short list to four. The final four host site visits and Impact100 produces a film for each to tell the story of its organisation and what it hopes the project will achieve.
The whole process culminates in an awards night in November where the four finalists set up information booths and show their respective films before members place their votes. The interaction between grantmakers and nonprofits has been rewarding Andrews says.
“It’s definitely one of the advantages of the Impact100 model where charities can interact with donors and really engage on a personal level. We’ve found that some members go back to their family foundation or workplace and encourage further significant gifts whether that’s $5,000, $10,000 or even $20,000 either on the night or afterwards. Those gifts wouldn’t have happened without that interaction.”
Andrews is keenly aware of the amount of work involved in coordinating a group effort and says the hardest lesson she’s had to learn is to accept that time and resources are limited.
“All of our giving circles in Australia are run voluntarily which means we’re trying to engage people and inspire them to join in our spare minutes. When you’ve worked in the philanthropic sector for a long time, you know what can be achieved when things are managed professionally with lots of resources, but the reality is that when you’re working with a voluntary committee you do the best you can.
“There are ten members in our committee (pictured right) and we’ve all got little kids, mortgages, new jobs, ageing parents, all those
enormous mid-life issues going on and yet we’re still raising $100,000 a year for important issues in our community.
“There’s so much more I think we’ll achieve and for me, it’s so important to always be thinking about: How do we spread this wider? How do we lead the way and bring people with us and engage them with our enthusiasm and success?
“The answer, as I see it, is to keep telling stories, to share things publicly, to talk about how we’re going, how much fun it is to be involved and the impact we’re having.”
Impact100 Melbourne members can contribute their donation via a number of options such as workplace giving or regular giving. Impact100 Melbourne welcomes members at all stages of their philanthropic journey, including individuals and PAFs that want to further their learning and collaboration. All contributions are tax deductible and are managed as a sub-fund of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.