SIMNA Victoria held the “What Do Funders Want?” event on 29 July 2015 with guest presenters;
- Lisa Waldron (Westpac Foundation),
- Elena Mogilevki (The Myer Foundation) and
- Vanessa Meacham (Impact100).
Lisa Waldron (Westpac Foundation) kicked off by describing the 5 Foundations across the Westpac business and the priority for their philanthropy- disadvantaged Australians, with a mission of “opening doors”. The goal of the Westpac foundation is “Increased meaningful pathways to opportunities” with a belief that poverty and disadvantage can be overcome.
The Westpac Foundation is particularly focussed on innovative ideas where they can act as true partners, and focus on three programs- Financial Hardship, Community Grants and Social Enterprise. In each program the Westpac Foundation is seeking long term relationships with funding recipients and expects that organisations applying for funding have a robust business plan, supported by your Board.
Lisa spoke to the elements which impact a decision to fund an organisation, including:
• The products
• Financial forecasts
• Social and financial outcomes
• What do you want to achieve?
On what a funder expects once a project is funded, Lisa included:
• A solid project plan
• Regular progress report
• Feedback on outcomes and impact.
Elena Mogilevski (The Myer Foundation) provided insight from the philanthropy sector and a history of the Foundation commencing with the migration of Sidney Myer in 1899 who went on start the Myer business. Two philanthropic organisations now exist – the Myer Foundation and the Sidney Myer Fund. Both entities are administered from one office, as a coherent portfolio with a focus on arts, humanities, sustainability, education, disability and the environment.
Elena described the time frames around moving through the application process and illustrated examples in education which highlighted the scale of change that can be made through funding high impact projects. However, part of the funding portfolio is dedicated to high risk, high impact projects that invest in individuals not just organisations, such as the Creative Fellowships and the Innovation Fellowships which seek to develop a game changing idea.
Key messages from the Myer Foundation included:
• Define your objectives as clearly as possible
• Seek alignment with the focus of a potential funder
• Establish a baseline
• Use program logic
• Be creative
• Embrace complexity!
Vanessa Meacham (Impact100) described the innovative model Impact100 has used since forming in 2013. The 100 members each donate $1000 per annum to give the full $100,000 to a winning applicant with a focus on high-impact change in the focus area theme for each year.
Vanessa described the growing presence of collective giving in the community, which began in the US. As a young organisation – they are still learning, including how to progress social impact measurement. Stressing the voluntary nature of their organisation, there is an emphasis on usin established tools that exist and relying on the applicant to detail the approach they will take.
As funders, Impact100 have had success previously in having funding recipients present at Foundation meetings, presenting in their own words, the impact that grant has made. To be present, chat to people, highlighting upcoming events, and tracking the successes along the journey. This consistent and direct relationship approach allows for funding members keep in touch and to offer non financial help across the network.
Simon then led a discussion panel with the guest speakers to taking questions from the audience. A key theme that came up was data: how much is too much and what to do when an organisation doesn’t have a culture or history of collecting data. Suggestions from the panel included focusing on what you expect to see in 12 months time, then MEASURE THAT! And keep the end in mind to determine what measures you need to track. Focusing on how a person could progress along a pathway identified potential indicators to measure. It is here that an evaluation framework is critical in demonstrating the impacts desired have been truly considered.
A question around a good benchmark for investment in project impact and evaluation, referencing 10% as a rule of thumb generated discussion around basing this amount around undertaking a logic model to determine the extent of measurement. Panellists were not prescriptive for which methodology to use for measurement, indicating the best fit for a given project should apply.
In closing, final remarks were sought from the panellists in getting into mindset of an investor to sum up what is really wanted. Some of the tips included:
- Keep the end in mind and communicate this vision clearly.
- You know your business better than the funder – tell us what you are doing well and focus on what you are doing to solve problems.
- Align your objectives with a funder’s and focus on how your project creates a shared value.
- Be pragmatic – describe what kind of impact measurement work you may need to do.
The SIMNA Victoria team would like to thank Simon, Lisa, Elena and Vanessa for their time and valuable insights into “What Funders Want” and look forward to seeing you at our future events.
For more information, please contact Marli White, Committee Member – SIMNA Victoria.