#NCFF17 – What is the role for community foundations in a world full of charities?


Hannah Fitch-Rabbitt


After attending the Australian National Community Foundations Forum 2017 in Melbourne last week, I was left contemplating the unique role community foundations play in philanthropy.

In a country where there are 54,835 charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) and donors who, as Wendy Scaife, Associate Professor and Director of the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at QUT, pointed out, ‘care about the cause not the organisation’ one might question the value of using a community foundation.

Wendy Scaife addressing the conference. Photo credit: Australian Community Philanthropy.

Whilst the above statement might seem like a predicament for community foundations, it also speaks to the heart of community foundations and their distinctive role.

Each session at the three-day NCFF conference reiterated three key reasons why individuals should give through community foundations. First of all, community foundations are experts in their communities and passionately grounded in a place. And through the use of Vital Signs many community foundations are initiating conversations about the health and vibrancy of their community within their communities.

But our knowledge extends beyond the borders of our community as well; we are part of a larger network of national and global community foundations. And this is integral to our success.

In his keynote address at NCFF, Ian Bird, President of Community Foundations of Canada, spoke about the ‘new normal’ for community foundations in Canada. The common problems and issues facing community foundations throughout Canada have global roots. Community foundations can target local needs whilst also working as part of a global network, collaborating with others, to address the systemic cause.

And this neatly ties into the second reason why people should give to community foundations – strategic philanthropy.

The community foundation model allows donors to give and grant strategically.

A staggering 60.5 per cent of respondents, in the Giving Australia 2016 research, indicated that they give on the spur of the moment. Whilst all giving is good, planned giving allows donors to make more strategic decisions about their granting and impact.

If you sat down and added up your spur of the moment donations you might be surprised at the total – granting with a focus and strategic lens is more effective. Community foundations can work with donors to navigate the 54,835 charities in Australia and identify projects with the greatest impact.

Working with a community foundation to build an endowment also allows donors to assist the community both now and forever – it doesn’t get more strategic than that!

Third and finally, community foundations offer ease. We exist to make giving easy, flexible and effective. We work with our donors to make philanthropy enjoyable without the hassle by providing good governance and operational efficiency to our fund management and granting.

Hannah Fitch-Rabbitt is Social Impact Manager for the Fremantle Foundation in Australia.

Tagged in: #NCFF17

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