Equity Trustees is supporting organisational learning, innovation and growth to amplify positive social impact.

Institutional learning is one of the keys to unlocking social impact.

Ahead of upcoming Generosity Forum, Equity Trustees’ General Manager Charitable Trusts & Philanthropy, Jodi Kennedy, shares some of her thoughts around the philanthropic sector’s potential to support organisational learning, innovation and growth to amplify positive social impact.

Equity Trustees is moving beyond just being the responsible steward of philanthropic funds to ensure that these funds are applied wisely to create lasting positive change in our community.

We believe greater impact is achieved when the for-purpose sector is heard, supported and valued for the work it does and is enabled to deliver lasting change.

Australia is a prosperous nation, yet we still face many intractable problems that cannot be solved simply or in isolation and they certainly won’t be solved while the sustainability of the organisations and communities working on them is at risk.

As Australia’s leading specialist trustee company, Equity Trustees occupies a unique position in the philanthropic sector – we have the opportunity to fund initiatives that build and strengthen the capacity of the for-purpose sector as a whole (not just fund service delivery).

Get more insights from the Grant Hooper at the Generosity Forum

Grant Hooper, Senior Manager – Granting at Equity Trustees, will discuss the role philanthropy can play in building capacity in the not for profit sector at the Generosity Forum. Click here for more information and to register.

We appreciate clearly that we are funders, not doers.  Our success as funders is largely tied to the strength and success of the for-purpose sector and the organisations that make it up.  It is therefore incumbent upon us to play a role in building the capacity of organisations and the sector as a whole. In order to make informed decisions, we spend a significant proportion of our time engaging with key stakeholders in the sector to understand the complex challenges facing their organisations and what will truly help to unlock the sector’s full potential.

We take the time to understand key considerations, such as:

  1. What are the barriers stopping you from delivering better outcomes?
  2. How does philanthropic funding help or hinder your organisation and your sector?
  3. Beyond funding, what role does philanthropy play in helping you deliver on your organisational purpose?

What we hear, loudly and clearly from the sector, is that limited philanthropic dollars and more competition for government funding, along with an ever-increasing demand for services, have created the perfect storm. From our experience, this intense competition for funding has created an environment that is sometimes conducive to protective behaviours, often at the expense of organisational collaboration.

We are told that accessing capital appropriate to the age and stage of the organisation is still a challenge. Likewise accessing meaningful data to assist organisations to prove and improve their impact is out of reach for many.

To address some of our community’s most challenging issues we need to increase the number of for-purpose organisations that are actively collaborating and innovating to amplify their positive social impact.  Philanthropy must play a role in reducing some of these challenges by providing support that strengthens the for-purpose sector as a whole.

We have primarily focused our attention to date on intermediaries whose work can directly support organisations on the ground and who are also committed to learning and sharing what works in this space to improve outcomes. This serves to strengthen the whole sector.

We recognise that strengthening the system or addressing current market failures is a complicated challenge that will not be solved quickly. We therefore generally make these grants for periods of three-to five-years.

Critical to this approach is the formation of a strong relationship based on high levels of trust between Equity Trustees and those organisations key to the collaboration. It is also imperative that all stakeholders have a shared vision, with flexibility built into the program delivery because we know things can change, and we are committed to supporting these sector-strengthening initiatives to achieve their long-term goals.

Equity Trustees has been actively working towards unlocking the potential of the sector in order to deepen community impact.

One example of unlocking private resources to enhance capacity is a partnership between Equity Trustees and Impact Investing Australia.  Australia’s social enterprise ecosystem is underdeveloped by global standards, meaning social entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas often struggle to find the support they need to realise them. In November 2018, Equity Trustees committed $750,000 of philanthropic funding over three years to support Impact Investing Australia.  This grant will enhance the delivery of the Department of Social Services’ $7M Impact Investing Australia’s Sector Readiness Fund (SRF) grant program, allowing social entrepreneurs to access finance and specialist advice.

In 2019, we launched our inaugural Giving Review, a report that starts a journey towards mapping, measuring and communicating how we are deepening impact through our support.

We’re committed to openly communicating our progress, our successes and areas where we can evolve and do better. We will acknowledge and celebrate the work of our partners, collaborators and philanthropists because only together can we fulfil our shared mission and realise our vision of a better Australia.

We recognise that measuring the impact of capacity building support is likely to be even more challenging than measuring the impact of a ‘project’.  Similarly it will present challenges for funders wanting to know about their specific contribution to solving a social or environmental challenge.

However, we’re confident that there will be ways we can know that our support is making a difference and we believe that unlocking sector potential in this way is too important for egos to get in the way!

Grant Hooper, Senior Manager – Granting at Equity Trustees, will discuss the role philanthropy can play in building capacity in the not for profit sector at the Generosity Forum. Click here for more information and to register.


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