FRRR and TFFF – an enduring partnership

Insights: 27 September 2019

The Tim Fairfax Family Foundation (TFFF) has been a long-term partner of FRRR, first supporting the Foundation in 2005. TFFF recently agreed to contribute to the Strengthening Rural Communities program to ensure small grants are available to communities across the Northern Territory and Queensland.

In an interview with FRRR, Executive Officer Samantha Jorgensen explains what TFFF values most about FRRR; how they worked together to initiate the Tackling Tough Times Together program; the value they see in contributing to collaboratively-funded programs run by FRRR; and in particular why they are supporting Strengthening Rural Communities.

TFFF has had a long-standing relationship with FRRR – what do you value most about partnering with FRRR to support rural communities?

As a Private Ancillary Fund focused on supporting the bush, it can be very difficult to fund organisations at a grassroots level because not many hold DGR1 endorsement. We can only go so far by ourselves; with FRRR, we can go further and do more.

FRRR was established for this very reason, among others, as they can distribute funds to those hard to reach organisations. FRRR really is a well-honed tool if you are trying to achieve what TFFF is – we can achieve more with them. That is something we really value.

“We know how vital these community organisations are in rural and regional communities, understand the value of their structure and want to support them. Through FRRR, we can do so with confidence.”

FRRR does a fantastic job understanding these organisations and we trust their judgement. TFFF just doesn’t have the infrastructure to be able to do the work that FRRR does.

TFFF was instrumental in helping develop the Tackling Tough Times Together program with FRRR. Can you reflect on working with FRRR to shape that program? What worked well? What would you do differently, if anything, if you had to do it again?

This program gets to the heart of what FRRR does so well. While it’s primarily a drought support program, it had its genesis after the floods of 2011. I was speaking with Annie, one of FRRR’s team, who like me was in Brisbane and saw the impact of the floods first-hand. We both knew the impact in rural areas would be devastating, especially as so many of those areas had been in drought for 10 or 20 years leading up to the floods. We knew they would continue to need support long after the media attention and government money had gone and before the next big weather event. Together with FRRR we wanted to support these communities to become more resilient and adaptive, to strengthen their social fabric and improve mental health and wellbeing for the long term.

The FRRR team undertook some in-depth research around what type of support would make a difference, drawing deeply on what they and others learnt from long-term drought, the 2009 Victorian bushfires and other natural disasters. They explored the gaps in terms of what Government and the public could and would help fund, and what would be needed after that support had been exhausted. During a visit throughout Queensland in 2013, FRRR listened to the stories of the communities, families and individuals. This well-informed base helped shape the program and inform the guidelines, which continue to be iterative to the changing context for communities.

“It’s been a constant conversation – FRRR are our eyes and ears on the ground.
What’s happening right now; what’s going to be happening next year and three years down the track.”

Tackling Tough Times Together (TTTT) started in Queensland, as that was where the crisis was at the time, but is now national, which is what we always hoped would happen.

In terms of what we’d do differently, perhaps we could have gone with FRRR to try to seek other funders, bring them along for the journey. Thankfully this happened naturally four years later, as the drought worsened. Having the TTTT program established and clearly delivering strong outcomes eventually compelled the government to contribute.

Over the years, TFFF has contributed to several collaboratively funded grant programs run by FRRR. Why do you do that, rather than supporting projects directly, given you are a Foundation?

We know what a difference small grants make, however TFFF only gives grants over $50,000; and as our annual give increases, we simply don’t have the resources to run a small grants program and we can’t grant to organisations that aren’t DGR1s.

Our trust in FRRR’s processes and their reach began in 2003 with the Rural Education Program, which addressed educational gaps for children during the drought. The program was jointly funded by Tim & Gina Fairfax, Baillieu & Sarah Myer, and John & Janet Calvert-Jones. Together this group of engaged funders undertook annual learning tours to see first-hand what was needed and the difference the support made. I think many of those experiences informed what TFFF continues to do today, and cemented our belief in collaborative funding and the power of FRRR.

Your most recent commitment is to support the Strengthening Rural Communities program in Qld and the NT? What gaps do you see that it will help address?

Supporting the Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) started as a conversation with FRRR about how to provide more support into the Northern Territory. It’s a key focus area for us and it’s taken us years to learn how to support the Territory in a meaningful way. We believe we can improve how we do this by providing much broader support through this partnership with FRRR. We visit small communities in the Territory, so we know there are many great local organisations on the ground doing amazing work.

“Often the reason they haven’t applied to FRRR in the past is because funds available to them were too small to accommodate the additional costs they face due to remoteness.  They also often just don’t have capacity or skills to apply.”

By supporting SRC, including FRRR’s outreach and capacity building activities, we hope to help FRRR expand into the NT. It’s a geography that has historically been difficult for FRRR to engage as there just hasn’t been the donor funds to gain any traction. We hope our involvement will raise awareness of FRRR’s programs among community entities and boost their capacity to be successful. We also hope our commitment will encourage other funders to join us in providing this key support for Territory communities.

We are also providing funding for projects in Queensland through SRC, especially in northern and western areas, as we know that there are many great organisations out there. We want to ensure that there are options beyond drought funding.

And finally, do you have any insights from your experience for philanthropic organisations / individuals on how to get the most out of working with FRRR?

We encourage anyone to partner with FRRR; they are deeply knowledgeable and easy to work with, and very efficient at what they do. I encourage anyone keen to support rural, regional and remote Australia to start a conversation with FRRR, tell them your hopes for these communities and find a way to work together towards shared solutions. It’s really important to have open conversations, which is easy to do with FRRR, and has certainly worked for us. Our support of FRRR is driven by our belief that they have a demonstrable impact at a grassroots level in communities, it is one of our most rewarding and enduring partnerships.