Possibly the largest regional charitable foundation in Australia, Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation provides over $1.5 million in grants each year. Lise Taylor reports.


Foundation reaches out to regional NSWNewcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation was established in 2003 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Newcastle Permanent, a Newcastle, NSW, based building society. It was created to give back to and support the community that had supported it for 100 years.

The Foundation is a PAF and was established with a $30 million endowment from Newcastle Permanent Building Society. Newcastle Permanent provides ongoing support to allow the Foundation to remain focused on its aims and use 100% of its income to fund and enable charity partners.

With an annual community grant program that is entirely self-sustaining, the Foundation aims to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged, marginalised and vulnerable members of the community.

“We do this by providing funding for innovative, sustainable and beneficial community projects and initiatives in three key focus areas: health, social wellbeing and young people,” explains Graham Batten, Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation Executive Officer.

Each year the Foundation provides over $1.5 million in grants to eligible charities and community organisations.

Taking a regional focus

The Foundation allocates funding in two separate rounds each year, which typically close in April and October, after taking and reviewing applications for initiatives in its areas of operation – the Hunter, Central Coast, Central West, Mid North Coast, New England and Northern Rivers regions of New South Wales.

“This focus on supporting regional communities really does set us apart – we believe we’re the largest regional charitable foundation in Australia, and we are passionate about redressing disadvantage facing regional communities and ensuring people are not marginalised just because of where they live,” Batten explains.

To be eligible for funding, organisations need to be: endorsed by the ATO as a Type 1 Deductible Gift Recipient; endorsed by the ATO as a Tax Concession Charity; registered with the ACNC; a nonprofit that is charitable at law; a legal entity such as an incorporated association or corporation.

The Foundation seeks out projects that directly impact regional communities with outcomes that are measurable.

“We fund on a single grant basis with no recurrent funding offered outside of reapplying to a future round so project sustainability is important. We do, however, support pilot or seed programs that, with the kickstart provided by our grant, go on to be self-sustaining or then attract other funding,” he says. “The key exclusions are general fundraising appeals and those projects that are obviously the responsibility of government agencies so would have alternative funding sources. The Foundation also doesn’t fund recurrent costs like salaries.”

Assisting all organisations

The Foundation aims to support a wide range of eligible nonprofits each year. Last year, as an example, it funded 41 initiatives and the year before it was 40. Since it was established in 2003, the Foundation has facilitated almost 400 projects.

“We support the groups that are doing the hard work to improve life or redress disadvantage for marginalised people. With a focus on projects which otherwise might not be possible because they fall outside of other funding parameters, the Foundation continually adjusts its approach in line with changes in the broader funding environment,” says Batten.

To date, one of the Foundation’s largest grant amounts at $340,000 and most geographically expansive initiatives is Variety the Children’s Charity’s Vision for Life tele-medicine system rollout in 13 regional New South Wales’ hospitals.

The installation allows medical staff in maternity, neonatal and emergency departments of regional hospitals to connect in real time with specialists from the Newborn and Paediatric Emergency Transport Service at John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle, and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, giving families access to world class medical care when time is critical.

On a much smaller scale, the Foundation has funded facilities for a number of Riding for the Disabled programs, which allows these to be hosted in all weather. The projects are run by dedicated community volunteers and provide significant benefits to the community because they give respite and recreation to vulnerable and disadvantaged people.

“One group we have a long relationship with is Musicians Making a Difference – a youth support organisation that uses the power of music, dance and mentoring to inspire young people to make their lives remarkable,” says Batten.

The Foundation has provided grants to improve facilities for its Breakaway outreach program and to support its launch of The Lounge Room, a sustainable social enterprise cafe and performance space used to provide marginalised young people with the chance to develop skills for future employment and express their inner creativity.

Evaluation, sustainability and feedback

Evaluation is an essential part of the Foundation’s funding implementation, and the Foundation knows from each project’s completion report that it is improving the social infrastructure of its local communities, as well as improving access to critical health services for people living in regional New South Wales.

“Sustainability has also been a feature, with most of the organisations we have supported continuing to enjoy the infrastructure or provide the programs today. We have proudly watched as some of our partners have grown and evolved their programs to make an even bigger impact in the community after having started with a grant from the Foundation,” explains Batten.

“We’re also happy to provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants who have taken the time to apply for funding as we see open and honest feedback as important to ensuring charities continuously improve their programs and increase their chances of successfully gaining funding, whether that be from us or another source.”

Applications for the next funding round close on Monday 24 April. Apply at newcastlepermanent.com.au/charitablefoundation.

Top tips for fundraisers seeking grants

Batten has two tips to offer nonprofits:

• Fundraisers should understand the organisation they’re applying to for funding, including its goals, focus areas and requirements, so it’s clear where your project aligns with or helps to achieve those goals. If the funder permits, make contact before applying to discuss whether your project is compatible with the funder’s goals and funding criteria. This approach can increase the chances of success or save valuable time repeatedly applying unsuccessfully.

• Focus on the key outcomes of your project, how they address the social need or issue faced and how you’ll measure their effectiveness. When faced with a pile of strong applications that far exceeds the available budget for distribution, funders like Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation will choose the projects that are practical, achievable and measurable to ensure that scarce funds are being put to best use for the good of the community.

Image: Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation provided a grant to Hunter Surf Live Saving for its Surf Fun Safe program.


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