#NCFF17 – Simple yet powerful lessons


Sarah Matthee


I’m always interested in the ‘vibe’ of conferences – the feeling in the room. I feel that it reflects the undercurrent of purpose and values that brings people together, guides the narrative, and sets the mood.  

As I finished a presentation at the National Community Foundations Forum (NCFF) conference in Melbourne, Australia last week, Kate Buxton, Executive Officer of Australian Community Philanthropy, the peak body of Community Foundations in Australia, said ‘Welcome to the Community Foundation family.’ It was a beautiful reflection of the feeling in the room– a feeling of family, of curiosity, sharing, and reflection.

NCFF 2017 brought the Australian Community Foundation family together. It showcased examples of innovative practice, celebrated individual and collective impact, and provided attendees with tools to implement back home in their Foundations.

Aside from the vibe in the room, I had three key takeaways from my first Forum:

Recognise and celebrate the contribution of the charitable sector in your community

Murray Baird. Photo credit: Australian Community Philanthropy.

In his keynote, Murray Baird, Assistant Commissioner General Counsel, Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission, outlined the charitable sector’s contribution to the Australian economy and encouraged attendees to see the sector as a significant economic driver.

He spoke of its contribution to the health of our communities, and the ripple effect of impact that the charity sector generates.

It’s all too easy in our sector to feel like we are operating like ducks on a pond – seemingly calm on the surface and madly paddling under the surface.

Murray’s comments made me reflect on whether we really stop to consider the impact of our organisations on the communities within which they operate. What would happen in your community if your organisation no longer existed? We need to stop, reflect, recognise and celebrate our impact.

And celebrate we did! The Forum coincided with a wonderful evening celebration of Australian Communities Foundation’s 20 years, and Inner North Community Foundation’s 10 years. Congratulations to ACF and INCF on the impact you have achieved, and the inspiration you have provided.

Leverage reporting to guide strategy and inform your stakeholders
Ian Bird, President of Community Foundations of Canada, shared stories of the growth of the Community Foundation movement in Canada, and illustrated how Vital Signs can be used as a mechanism to value social intellectual property in our communities.

This was reinforced by Dylan Smith, CEO, Fremantle Foundation, and Catherine Brown, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, who outlined how useful the process of undertaking Vital Signs has been –enabling reflection upon strategy, providing a tool to inspire donors, and as a benchmarking mechanism to guide Foundation impact reporting.

The Forum also discussed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a mechanism by which we can locally and globally track progress and chart impact. With many businesses and governments reporting against the SDGs, there’s a really interesting opportunity for our sector to become more attractive partners by measuring and reporting with SDGs in mind.

Sharing to learn from each other
The innovation and adaptive reasoning of Australia’s Community Foundations was clearly demonstrated at NCFF. Conversations in each break were animated, with relationships between Foundations strengthened.

Three Community Foundations presented in PechaKucha style (20 slides, 20 seconds each). Rhett McDonald from Stand Like Stone profiled the power of a focused sub-fund that builds upon community strength, Amy-Lou Cowdroy-Ling showcased her Board Associate role at the Inner North Community Foundation and provided an overview of their Board Associate Program; and Bill Mithen, CEO of Give Where You Live, talked about the growth of their organisation and the impacts it is having on the Geelong region.

For me, it was another reminder of the strength of Australia’s Community Foundations – organisations who are employing innovative and appropriate solutions to challenges and opportunities seen in their communities.

Forums like these showcase why we should be looking locally for inspiration, in addition to globally.

Sarah Matthee is Philanthropic Services Manager for the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, Australia.

Tagged in: #NCFF17

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