Supporter Spotlight: Hand Heart Pocket

Donor newsletter: 13 December 2023

For philanthropic foundation Hand Heart Pocket – The Charity of Freemasons Queensland – creating stronger futures for rural QLD communities through impactful partnerships is key.

With a strategic focus on driving climate solutions at a community level, Heart Hand Pocket has partnered with FRRR to deliver a program that focusses on building resilience and enables grassroots action on climate adaptation.

Sara Parrott, CEO of Hand Heart Pocket, explains why community is at the core of everything they do and how partnerships aligned with purpose create better outcomes and opportunities for everyone.

Hand Heart Pocket - The Charity of the Freemasons Queensland

Tell us a little bit about Hand Heart Pocket, its background and how you have designed your giving strategy.

Hand Heart Pocket is the charity of the Freemasons of Queensland. With a history of over 110 years of community work, it was first incorporated in the 1970s. Today, we operate as a philanthropic foundation. We manage an investment portfolio of financial assets that has been built up over the last 100 years by the Freemasons, and that’s money put aside for the benefit of the community. We manage that portfolio and do two things – we do philanthropy from the income and we also do social impact investing with our capital, as well as more traditional responsible investment to earn an income. We’re a relatively small team – there’s about eight of us.

Our purpose is stated as we partner for change for people in need in Queensland and Papua New Guinea. We put that purpose together with lots of thought around the fact that we partner, which means we don’t build things, and we don’t necessarily deliver ourselves, we find great organisations, and great leaders doing things that are very impactful, and we focus on people in need. Our strategic partnerships are focused on young people in need in Queensland, and then we do a range of other things where we support the community more generally, and we also support the members of the Freemasons of Queensland, in their community activity at a local level.

Why do you believe it is important to support remote rural and regional communities in particular?

The Freemasons and Hand Heart Pocket have always been involved in responses to disasters when disaster strikes, and also been a very regionally spread organisation. There are lodges of the Freemasons of Queensland right across the state – there’s about 200. They’re very connected to their local communities. Queensland is the most regionalised of the states – there’s more people living outside of the capital cities in Queensland than any other states. And we really understand the importance of the vibrancy and the sustainability of those communities, for the people who love to live in a more rural setting with more space. It’s really important that we remember that sometimes it’s more difficult to live there. It’s more expensive, the services don’t necessarily reach all the places in Queensland where people love to live. So it’s a combination of where our members are and the heritage of the organisation and also understanding that to sustain healthy and vibrant communities in Queensland. We have to remember that a huge portion of Queenslanders don’t live in the capital city.

Tell us about Hand Heart Pocket’s interest in supporting communities recovering from a preparing for disasters, and also in driving climate solutions?

The board is very forward looking and future focused. And so we understand that an investment in our young people is the best investment that we can make, and that the future that they’re facing is changing quickly. There’s lots of strategic level risks that the community is facing and it could really derail a lot of things about the way that we live our lives and a lot of things that we enjoy. We’ve done some really good risk analysis in our strategy process to understand what climate change will mean, for our organisation and for our members and the local communities. Really, climate change is probably the number one risk. So it, it poses risks to our members and to their communities but it also poses a risk to our organisation from the point of view of what it might do to the assets that we invest in through our investment portfolio and what it might do to in terms of shocks to financial markets, what it might mean for us to have investments that might become stranded assets. So that’s a big part of how we think about it.

And then also, what the possible negative impacts of climate change are on local communities – what it will do to food security, to people’s health, future pandemics, also what it’s going to mean for industries in Queensland. It will have negative impacts on tourism, it will have negative impacts on the Great Barrier Reef. And so there’s lots of communities in Queensland that are facing into very uncertain future.

As a philanthropic foundation, we don’t think about it just in terms of what we give, although it’s embedded into our strategy throughout our relationship with FRRR, but it’s also embedded into our strategy in terms of the way that we invest as well. And we have a responsible investment policy that has an exclusion for new fossil fuels and expansion of fossil fuels. We also have a real focus on investing our money in a way that drives a positive transition, and a sustainable future.

In our giving, we’ve had a historical ability to respond in times of disaster to support communities in Queensland when disaster does strike. We still do that, but we also have a way of giving through FRRR that allows us to invest into what I would call climate adaptation, which is preparation for possible natural disasters and natural hazards like cyclones and floods and fires at a grassroots level. The relationship with FRRR has allowed us to provide a large lump sum of money that FRRR administers and distributes as smaller grants to local grassroots community organisations who are working on all sorts of projects around resilience building in their local community.

We’ve also provided a second round of funding to FRRR to do an additional grant round of small grants that are focused not just on adapting to a potential different future threat from climate change, but also positive action by local communities, to reduce their carbon emissions, and actually mitigate the effects of climate change by changing up their activities in ways that are going to better protect the environment or reduce the carbon emissions. So our response to climate is I suppose weaved through lots of different in different ways through our strategy and the way that we work. And it’s about being future focused, it’s about being really understanding those big system level risks that our community faces. We try really hard to be kind of holistic and really authentic in the way that we address climate.

Tell us more about your partnership with FRRR.

Part of the reason that we’ve partnered with FRRR is because as a philanthropic foundation, we have a small team, and we’re not really geared up to deal with like lots of local communities and do multiple small grants to a large number of organisations across the community.

And so it’s a great partnership for us from that point of view, in that FRRR’s got the expertise, and the relationships across Queensland or across regional and rural communities. And they also have the infrastructure as an organisation to run those grant rounds, which we don’t have. We knew that if we were going to put philanthropic money towards resilience building, that sometimes those small investments, but across a number of different communities can be really, really impactful. We wanted to make sure that the money got down to the grassroots and out to the rural communities, and we didn’t have the capacity to do that. So we were looking for a partner who had the relationships and the internal mechanisms to be able to do it efficiently.

FRRR provides that for us and being able to have a focus on resilience building, and climate adaptation, was what we were looking for. FRRR had the ability and the understanding from a thematic and technical point of view about what those projects would look like in local communities. And then this year, when we came to FRRR saying, we’d like to shift from just disaster response to action on climate, FRRR was really open to that idea, and worked with us to develop the climate solutions grand rounds, so that that extra money could be focused on that as a very specific issue and a specific set of responses from local communities. Again, we didn’t have the infrastructure internally and the people to run those grant rounds and to be able to connect to local communities that we really love the fact that if FRRR already has all that. Our purpose is partnering for change, so we like to work with other organisations, and to be more efficient in the way that we give by joining together with other organisations who are already doing really good work.

Can you tell us a little bit about Hand Heart Pocket of philanthropic activities and partnerships?

There’s an interesting partnership that’s kind of complementary to the work that we do with FRRR. We also have a partnership with GIVIT. Being a Queensland organisation, we know that there’s going to be disasters during and things happening to communities during the summer, which is really unfortunate, but it happens almost every year.

So, in anticipation of that we have a placeholder in our budget for what we might be able to give to disaster. If disaster strikes, we already have a relationship set up with GIVIT where we can respond quite quickly, and we can give them funding and then they distribute that to people in need in local communities. And that’s actually through grassroots organisations. They’re a fantastic partner because they complement what we do with FRRR – so if we want to give immediate disaster relief to GIVIT, which is immediate and small amounts for things like emergency accommodation and replacement of furniture, and then, at the end of the year, if we have some budget put aside for FRRR for disaster response, which is the longer-term recovery, and the planning, and the climate adaptation work.

So those two are complementary – we see them as great partnerships for us to respond to local communities. Both organisations are really set up to support larger donors like us and distribute funds. FRRR’s expertise is in understanding local communities, and how to best inject that support that will really bolster the community’s own capability and GIVIT has a different set of skills, which is really around standing up things quickly in a disaster. So that’s an example of another partnership, but it’s kind of the way that we work – to find organisations that are doing really good work, that have great leaders that have really excellent strategies and are really good at executing. And then we partner with them and back them in their work.

Another thing that we do in our partnerships is we also really believe in that maxim about pay what it takes. With both FRRR and with GIVIT, when we work out a partnership there’s an amount that goes to the partner for their capacity. Every organisation needs governance, and you need to invest into your IT systems, and you need to invest into your people’s learning and development and all those things. And we actually believe that it’s really important when we work with partners that we have, that a good generous amount that actually goes to the organisation on expenses and work. We talk to our partners about that, and we like to understand how much is needed for those organisational costs. So that’s a key part of the way that we work as a partner.

Do have any advice for other philanthropic organisations or individuals, when choosing a not for profit to partner with?

Well, the first thing I’d say is that there’s lots of collaboration happening both with the community in the community sector between organisations that deliver services there, and amongst the funders and the organisations that give, and sometimes there’s organisations that straddle as well.

So, in the kind of area that FRRR focuses on, if you were starting out as a funder, in regional communities or in resilience building or in climate solutions or anything like that, I’d suggest there’s probably two places you could go. First one would be Philanthropy Australia. Philanthropy Australia has great networks of both organisations who deliver services and want to attract philanthropy and organisations who give and want to be part of philanthropic giving, and they have networks that they establish around different topic areas that people are interested in. So if you’re really interested in giving to Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander organisations or issues then you can you can join a network – like a learning circle around how to partner well. They have also lots of professional development opportunities and Philanthropy Australia also run a really interesting network that they call Second Gen, which is about younger people who are starting out in their giving journey, or the second generation of families who have a family history and a real tradition of giving and how to engage in in an interesting way for younger people.

Another really interesting collaborative network is called the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network. And I know that there’s lots of people within AEGN who are long term staunch supporters of FRRR. And that’s a place where you can go to meet people who are specifically interested in environment and climate. They have a climate community of practice around giving in and responding to climate as a philanthropist or a funder, which is really quite new but really a great place to meet other people who are trying to respond to climate in both their giving and their investing.

Through FRRR you can get connected to other donors, and I think one of the things that FRRR does really well is they act as an intermediary and a channel combining funds from different organisations, so I’m sure FRRR could also be a place where you find collaborations to join.