Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Macdoch Foundation is the Australian philanthropic foundation of the MacLeod family, and its vision is to build the resilience of people and the planet. It’s the philanthropic arm of the Macdoch Group, an investment group with Sydney and London offices, which includes Macdoch Ventures (specialising in post-seed capital investment) and Macdoch Agriculture Group (operating businesses and investments that seek to contribute profitably to a low carbon and climate resilient future). 

The Macdoch Foundation’s relationship with FRRR is both as a donor and a fundraiser. They hold a Fundraising Account with FRRR enabling them to receive tax-deductible donations towards their Farming for the Future project, while they have also donated to FRRR, most recently to the Flood Appeal to support flood-affected communities in their mid-long term recovery and disaster preparedness. 

We caught up with the CEO of Macdoch Foundation, Michelle Gortan. Michelle was previously a partner and the Head of Philanthropy at Mutual Trust, Australia’s premier multi-family office, and prior to that, a philanthropy advisor and foundation manager at the Myer Family Company in Sydney.

Can you tell us a little bit about the Macdoch Foundation and its background?

Macdoch Group is a family office with offices in London and Sydney. It houses an entity that owns some cattle operations, an ag-tech business and is a passive investor in climate related funds and advisory firms. Macdoch Foundation is a family foundation and was established by Prue Murdoch and Alasdair MacLeod in 2019. Prue also chairs her own Foundation in the UK, which is focused on youth mental health. Alisdair chairs the Macdoch Foundation, which is his vehicle for mobilising philanthropic (or risk) capital into his passion areas, which he also feels are very under-served: agriculture, climate change and rural and regional communities.

The Foundation’s purpose is to build resilience of people on the planet, and we do that in three areas – the restoration of productive landscapes and natural landscapes; climate change solutions; and regional and rural mental health and wellbeing. It’s a relatively new Foundation, but Alasdair has been involved in agriculture for more than ten years. He’s a person who really brings his ‘whole self’ to work – and when he had the opportunity to establish a relatively large Foundation, it was very clear what those fields of action would be.

What is the aim of the Farming for the Future project, and what are your hopes and dreams for this project?

It’s early days for this project, and it’s a very sizable, three to five year project that has a number of goals. We always thought FRRR would be the ideal philanthropic partner, and grassroots partner, for this program.

One of the things that we both share as organisations is a deep commitment to thriving regional and rural communities, but very much through an economic lens. And I think we’ve all been in philanthropy for long enough to know that actually, what transforms people’s lives is meaningful employment, and the ability to generate income and make decisions, to be empowered to participate in the economy.

Photo by Mike Terry

So, this project really emerged from a growing concern that we had around agriculture, as a community, facing these burning platforms of climate change, and growing macro-economic pressures coming from the financial services sector and trading partners as we as a nation start to head into a low carbon future.

A lot of philanthropy and efforts have been heavily focused, and rightly so, on energy transition and trying to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. But we really feel that the next frontier, and the next economic sector that we need to turn our minds to – and work for – is agriculture and our producers. Our producers are at the coalface of climate change. Their livelihoods depend on it, their families depend on it, regional and rural communities depend on it – and those of us outside of those communities depend on it for our food and fibre, and we depend on them to manage our landscapes. So, we very quickly need to mobilise pathways to help prepare the sector for changing conditions.

Farming for the Future was developed with that as a backdrop. More than 51% of our landscapes are in the care of our farmers, and if we are interested in restoring our landscapes, reversing biodiversity loss and reducing emissions, and optimising our carbon sequestration opportunities, we need to work and invest in our productive landscapes and the producers who manage them.

It’s private land, and they are the eco workers managing them. But to pull through those really powerful and important public benefits, we need to make the business case for them to do that; they’re running businesses, and those communities are dependent on those businesses. This project is about discovering how to make the economic business case for farmers to invest in the natural resources on their farms because it will deliver private and personal benefits to them and their business. We’re hoping that the research will show that investments in nature on farm businesses will deliver more profitable, more climate resilient and more sustainable farming businesses – farming families and communities that can stay on the farm. So, it’s a very particular theory of change.

We know that producers have a variety of goals that they want to achieve, and they’re not all profit related. This large-scale research project is trying to understand the relationship between natural resources on a farm and the farm business goals, which might be profitability, wellbeing, animal welfare, increased levels of biodiversity, less variability in production, and less risk embedded in that business.

And if we can help producers meet those goals, by investing in nature, we think that we can then pull through the enormous public benefits.

Until now, we’ve been asking farmers to invest in nature completely at a cost to them, and that’s not a sustainable way of doing it, certainly not at scale. If we’re looking to engage a critical mass of producers, we have to say, what’s in it for the farmer? Because our hypothesis is that what’s in it for the farmer will also be in it for the Australian community.

We know that we need to show the private benefit to pull through the public benefit.

Macdoch Foundation recently contributed to FRRR’s Flood Appeal. What was it about FRRR’s approach to disaster recovery and resilience that that you made you choose to give to this appeal?

I have a had a relationship with FRRR over many years, prior to running the Macdoch Foundation, and I have always been deeply impressed by its deep commitment to regional communities. When we made the decision at the board level to do something in response to the floods on the NSW North Coast and southern Queensland, we were interested in getting the funds out efficiently and in a way that would be deployed by the community at their discretion. I knew from my dealings with FRRR that that is precisely how they work. FRRR sits alongside communities and within community, it doesn’t dictate to communities how things should happen. They are very much there as a trusted partner and enabler. I knew FRRR would deliver and would do it in a way that respected the agency that communities need to have in these times of disaster.

What do you think some of the biggest barriers are to enabling rural communities to make step changes in response to the risks of a changing climate?

I think clear pathways, information and the capacity building that needs to accompany a transition are the missing links. Our focus on is on agriculture, and we know that we can’t just keep asking producers to wear all the risk and the challenges on their own – we need to work with the system to demonstrate ways to support producers. I think more communities want to be included in conversations about a low carbon economy and excluding them or shielding them from that discussion hasn’t been particularly helpful because the truth is, they need to be in the driving seat around understanding what they need to better prepare and to shift. It’s imperative that we swiftly turn our minds to supporting this sector if we want regional communities to do more than just survive.

We’ve started working with an organisation called ClimateOutreach, which is about working with communities, particularly those that are under-served, around climate change helping communities embrace the climate change issue in the same way that they value health or education. Climate change is not just a political issue. It’s a community issue. It’s an Australian issue. And we need to embrace it in the same way that we do those other values. The polarisation around climate change – the politicisation of climate change – hasn’t been being helpful for regional communities. We are really interested in kind of shifting that. I think the longer that we kick the issue of how we’re going to support regional communities in the face of climate change down the road, the slower we will be in developing meaningful pathways to help them prepare.

Can you tell us about any of Macdoch Foundation’s other partnerships?

We fund a really fantastic Indigenous land enterprise in WA called the Noongar Land Enterprise Group – that’s a grant we’re very proud of and a team that we’re very proud of, and we hope that that’s going to set the benchmark for a lot of work that we’d like to do around Indigenous land management, bringing to the fore excellence in Indigenous thinking as our first land stewards – expert Australian land managers that have been around for 60,000 years!

We’ve funded an organisation called Accounting for Nature, which is a certification program for producers who are delivering verifiable environmental outcomes on their farm. We’ve funded a number of family refuges and family counselling organisations, particularly through COVID. One of those is the women and girls’ emergency centre, as an example. We also funded a program called Changemakers, which is through Odonata Foundation, building the next generation of farm advisors who are very trained in environmentally positive or regenerative agriculture, because there’s a skill shortage in this area. We’ve also funded Climateworks Centre – they’re developing what is called a natural capital measurement catalogue (the NCMC), which is an attempt to create a set of measures that are broadly agreed upon to determine the condition of elements of natural capital in land use in Australia.

We also fund in the United States. In the US, we are particularly interested in working with leaders and models that are innovating in agriculture: creating meaningful opportunities to support producers, current and future, as well as,exploring non-traditional finance models to better support them towards more climate and nature positive articulate. Our second track of activity will focus on global agenda setting work – how do we raise the profile of the role of agriculture in climate change solutions; and more clearly communicate and embrace the nexus between nature, climate and agriculture, which has traditionally existed in silos, particularly in the NGO space. We are also interested in shifting the narrative around the livestock, and its critical role in managing landscapes.

So, we’ve got a fairly large program, it’s pretty focussed.  

So you have had a varied background across philanthropy. What have been some of your biggest ‘aha’ moments along the way and what attracted you to working with the Macdoch team?

Those two questions are related. One of my biggest a-ha moments is that agriculture really is the next frontier for us to address as a climate change solution, and the opportunity to work in that area is what really excites me about Macdoch Foundation. It’s very much in the DNA of the Foundation – we are really interested in a kind of agenda setting discussion around the role of agriculture, livestock in the context of climate change. For Australia, in particular, given how much of our landscapes are productive, it’s a huge opportunity for Australia. I’ve been concerned about how under-served agriculture is in philanthropy – for a really long time agriculture has been seen to be the domain of big business, and we’ve forgotten that people are at the heart of agriculture. It’s the people in regional communities, producing our food, producing our fibre, meeting our export demands. Entire families and communities that are dependent on that.  

If we can start putting our producers at the centre of our decision making and understand and see things from their perspective, we will start heading in the right direction. Hopefully, that will help to mobilise increased investments, philanthropic and otherwise, into a really important sector for the Australian economy.

Another big a-ha moment is that the role of philanthropy is, in times like these, to worry less about being being ‘right’, and focus more on ‘winning’. You know, we are facing massive existential challenges, and I think we need to fund like we’re trying to win.

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

I think we really need to embrace complexity to make a meaningful difference. Ask if you can fill a critical gap that can have catalytic impact in terms of the change you’re trying to achieve in the system.

If you are able to identify that issue, that organisation, that leader, that element of a problem, your investment can help make a shift that can catalyse change through a whole system. It’s not necessarily about millions of dollars, it’s actually about just being comfortable with the complexity that makes up that system and saying, ‘this is an area or issue that’s under-served; this is a community that’s not being addressed; this is an organisation that can play a really critical role in the system’, for example.

Also, working with partners, building collaborations not only at the funder level, but also at the NGO level can be really powerful, especially because the challenges we’re seeking to tackle are not single issue problems. I’ve always been very impressed with the lens FRRR takes to these things, because it does recognise the kind of ecosystem even within single communities, but the point is it takes that systemic lens, and I think we have no choice anymore but to do that, if we’re going to be effective funders.

Husband and wife, Neville and Di Bertalli are committed to charitable giving that makes a real tangible difference to some of society’s most concerning issues.

The couple started personally gifting in 1982, when they were in their late 30’s. After three decades, they established the Bertalli Family Foundation in 2010, to both increase the volume of gifting and to do it on a regular, annual basis. In 2011, the Bertallis started channeling their giving through FRRR.

We spoke to Neville recently, to find out more about the Bertalli Family Foundation’s relationship with FRRR and the causes close to his and Di’s hearts.


“We’ve been at it for quite a bit of time,” Neville said. “When I was doing my investigation, reading about FRRR – it was a very well read and reputable Board of Directors that were running the place. What we thought was so good about it was that they do lots of small, small grants to non-DGR status charities. This suited our Foundation enormously.”

Neville, a Melbourne University Commerce graduate, started a small transport business in 1972, after having worked for three public companies over 10 years. The Bertalli’s business interests grew, and they wanted to give back to areas they felt were important to invest in. One of these is Australia’s regional and rural communities. As so often happens, Neville’s country upbringing stayed with him. He came from Benalla in Victoria’s north-east, where his parents operated the local bakery, and four generations on, it’s still in the family.

“In my first 16 years of life, I lived in five country towns with my parents and the bakeries. And so I’ve got a very strong attachment to giving support to rural areas.”

Neville and Di value the reach they are able to achieve through being FRRR donors. Through FRRR, they make a number of grants to “worthwhile causes that we would never ever come across”.

“FRRR is a wonderful umbrella organisation that covers lots and lots of small charities that have a good impact in the country areas,” Neville explained.

The couple also continue to do a lot of their own research into appropriate charities to support, and look after around ten grants a year personally.

“My wife and I are quite skilled at finding eligible charities that fit into our Foundation’s aims. Our Foundation has a mission statement which defines the areas of support that we work in. And we pick each of these areas, and then we go looking for relevant charities. There is education, and then there’s hospitals, and medical science, and some Indigenous scholarships. We’re driven by our mission statement.”

One of the activities that the Bertalli Family Foundation is currently involved with is the No Limits Program. Delivered through the Mornington Peninsula Foundation, it’s a linguistic and reading skills program for primary and secondary education in the region.

Neville is excited by what the program is achieving, and believes that the work is incredibly important. He says that the teaching methods used in the last 30 years have not always resulted in great outcomes for students in the areas of reading and speaking. No Limits supports seven primary schools to employ speech pathologists and teacher’s aides to implement lessons that build confident communication through phonics methods. They have been tracking 300 primary school students for three years and are seeing some amazing outcomes.

Neville says that childhood literacy and speaking skills are one of the quite specific areas that the Bertalli Family Foundation seeks to support, and they have committed to funding it for another three years.

Meanwhile, the Bertalli’s continue to put their trust in FRRR’s work, each year giving a sum to the Strengthening Rural Communities small grants program, and another sum to the Back To School program. “They’ve done a pretty good job for 12 years!” He explains.

In the past they have also directed support through FRRR to the Tomorrow Today Foundation via the Benalla & District Community Fund and to the Charlton Community Theatre. Recently, they are ensuring their reach makes it south, too, with a special allocation of funding specifically to projects in Tasmania.

We asked Neville if he had any advice for others in the realm of philanthropy; the businessman was very diplomatic in his response:

“Neither my wife nor I are up to advising others what to do. Really, we would just encourage them to support FRRR, because it’s got a wonderful, Australia wide and rural network of great charities. But I’d be encouraging other people rather than advising!”

FRRR is very proud to work with passionate, intelligent people such as Neville and Di, and look forward to many more years of helping them to direct their support into worthwhile and hard to reach places in remote, rural and regional Australia.

“What we thought was so good about it was that they do lots of small, small grants to non-DGR status charities. This suited our Foundation enormously.”

Mary Jung has a dual role with Pinnacle Investment Management – as the Community Investment Manager for the company, and as the CEO and Company Secretary of the philanthropic arm of the company, which is the Pinnacle Charitable Foundation.

The Pinnacle Charitable Foundation first supported FRRR’s programs in 2011. At that time, it was known as the Wilson HTM Foundation, and donated to the Repair-Restore-Renew programs to support mid-long-term disaster recovery. The Foundation has continued to support a number of programs over the years, and has recently committed a generous $150,000 across FRRR’s programs. The Foundation’s vision is to foster ‘an increasingly clever, creative and compassionate Australia’.

We caught up with Mary to ask a few questions about the partnership with FRRR, and their views on giving in general.

Mary Jung, Pinnacle Charitable Foundation

Can you tell us a little bit about Pinnacle Charitable Foundation, its background and how it sits alongside the business?

The Pinnacle Charitable Foundation has been with Pinnacle since 2016, when Pinnacle became the listed entity forged out of Wilson HTM Limited. The Foundation became aligned with Pinnacle’s business at the end of 2016, starting a new life building on a wonderful legacy of partnerships – including with FRRR. Today, it is very intrinsically linked with the Pinnacle Group, including its affiliated fund managers. They engage closely with the Foundation, which is a central part of a broader sustainability agenda that the company focuses on. It is a very strategic and intrinsic part of the business. Pinnacle has a mission to enable better lives through excellence in investing. And we feel that the Foundation enables better lives through investing in tremendous not-for-profits, who can help communities that we can’t reach.

Why do you believe it’s important to support remote rural and regional communities?

The support to remote regional and rural communities across Australia is really essential. I mean, they are the lifeblood of Australia, but they’re not always communities that we can reach effectively. Pinnacle’s offices are predominantly on the eastern seaboard, and whilst the Group certainly has clients from across the length and breadth of Australia, that’s not the same as being able to reach them and to touch them and to work with them. So, we feel that working through conduits and partners such as FRRR is incredibly important, and it’s something that we’re also incredibly proud to be able to do.

Can you tell me about the interest in supporting flood and bushfire affected communities in particular

Pinnacle as a company – and the Pinnacle Charitable Foundation as its philanthropic arm – tries to be very strategic in its giving, but also very responsive to natural disasters, particularly within Australia. So, flood and fire are, of course, incredibly powerful and impactful across Australia and becoming more frequent than anyone would like to see. So we do believe that it’s important to be nimble and quick and react to those events, and to join in with our employees. We do a lot of matched giving programs; we have a workplace giving program, we run special appeals. And we also believe it’s important not just to support the emergency relief, but to work with entities such as FRRR.

I love that phrase about FRRR rebuilding the social fabric; we often align our giving to the longer-term recovery, because of course, that’s what takes so much time once the bricks and mortar have been rebuilt.

You’ve touched on it, but what was it about FRRR that made you choose to partner with us to work on this important issue?

The Pinnacle Charitable Foundation and its predecessor, Wilson HTM Foundation has always loved the philosophy of FRRR.

We first found FRRR over 10 years ago, when we were looking for a partner who could help us give some disaster relief that was going to be long-term, and the FRRR approach of coming in a little bit later / a little bit down the track resonated with us. We love the idea of community-led, community-driven, community-initiated activity.

And again, we can’t often reach the small grassroots communities, and some don’t have DGR-1 status, so we have worked with FRRR as an auspice entity to help us reach some communities. The recent discussion this year of adapting and evolving and becoming stronger and more vibrant, I think is exceptionally powerful and relevant.

Can you tell us a bit about the Foundation’s other philanthropic activities and partnerships?

The Pinnacle Charitable Foundation works to match and meet the needs of our affiliated fund managers and strategically partner with entities and causes that resonate with them. But at the same time, we have built a framework around key themes with six dedicated focus areas. Within those, the most prominent one is mental wellbeing and mental health, where we partner with R U OK?, ReachOut and batyr. We’ve been on that journey for quite some years actually, long before the pandemic evolved. FRRR sits within that theme, but it’s also a natural fit with our environmental focus, which links closely to our broader sustainability goals and the ESG work that all our fund managers take incredibly seriously.

The other area that we’ve been working with for a number of years, again well before the pandemic, is domestic and family violence. We do a lot of advocacy work in supporting legislative change through a partnership with Full Stop Australia, as well as facilitating legal help and legal advice to help sufferers access courts and jurisdictions and legal options. Another key area is around children facing acute and systemic disadvantage, as is medical research. We work with CMRI for very young children and congenital genetic defects. And we work at the other end of the spectrum with Alzheimer’s research, with the Australian Alzheimer’s Research Foundation based in Perth. We also work in the kindness area – we work with COVID kindness, as we call it, with the Kindness Factory with a school’s based Kindness Curriculum, and we work with the YWCA to help women over 50 who are homeless, which is the fastest growing cohort in Australia. So, six areas, quite broad, but it gives us a thematic scope that we can stick to.

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

When we’re looking for not-for-profit partners, apart from the due diligence, and the checking of the actual factual parameters around how they can work with us, I think it’s about being very clear as a funder on why you’re doing it, how it fits, and whether the values are aligned.

I know that sounds logical, but I think values alignment builds trust – and trust has been the incredible ingredient that I think has been so important in the last two years. I’ve certainly found that having enormous trust with our partners has meant that when inevitably, with COVID, they’ve had to chop and change and swap their priorities and their activities in their initiatives, it’s been a happy conversation and an open conversation, not one that’s been full of angst or any sense of duress. So, I think that gets back to values, which gives you that trust. And I think the other thing, too, is to look at it through a lens of flexibility and long term.

I really think that the long-term aspect of giving is incredibly important. And I think for both parties, I think if you’re going to invest and you’re going to make an impact, you need to have time to do that.

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Portland House Foundation (PHF) is a family foundation based in Melbourne. They first connected with FRRR in 2013 when they donated to BlazeAid’s not-for-profit Fundraising Account held with FRRR. In the last few years, PHF has supported FRRR’s Strengthening Rural Communities and Back to School programs, including bushfire streams. In total, they’ve generously donated more than half a million dollars to support Victoria’s remote, rural and regional communities.

In this Q&A, Paula Thomson, Philanthropy Manager at Portland House Foundation shares their appreciation and understanding of the challenges that disadvantaged members of remote, rural and regional communities can face, and their belief that small grants are often the seed funding needed to support an idea that will make a big difference to local people and their livelihoods. PHF has a history of collaboration, in fact they see it as the key to funding. 

Can you tell us a little about Portland House Foundation, its background, and what impact you’re seeking to achieve through your generosity?

Portland House Foundation (PHF) is a Melbourne family’s giving vehicle, and began operating in 2004. It has a charter that’s aimed at moving people out of disadvantage. 

Why do you believe that it is important to support remote, rural and regional communities?

While there are many aspects of rural and regional living that exemplify community and connection, we understand there can also be disadvantages in living long distances from major cities. Services and specialist health care are often scarce, meaningful employment opportunities for young people can be rare, and the smaller populations means there are fewer people to support community projects. We recognise that responsibility often falls to the same people in small communities to get great ideas off the ground, and they often just need seed funding to help them on their way. These small grants go a long way in places where volunteers and in-kind support are plentiful.PHF funding is generally focussed on Victoria, and on the importance of maintaining the vibrancy, health and wellbeing of the small communities that provide food, fibre and cultural fabric of Australian life. Where we can, we like to co-fund too.

Since 2013 Portland House Foundation has donated more than half a million dollars to FRRR to support rural, regional and remote communities. Can you tell us more about who else you’ve partnered with and what impacts that has had?

PHF has a history of giving through community foundations, and the devolved giving has extended our reach in various communities from inner city to regional areas.

PHF has partnered with Northern Rivers Community Foundation, Border Trust and Inner North Community Foundation. The impact of all these funding relationships is the closer understanding they have of their local communities, which we could never achieve from our Collins Street location.  These organisations give us eyes and ears on the ground, and local acumen which is worth so much in attracting the right projects and tracking the outcomes for locals.

FRRR was a natural fit when we sought to benefit rural Victorians, and particularly to support bushfire recovery. In the beginning, it was the understanding that FRRR really has the best reach into smaller remote and rural communities. We’ve been able to support a wide range of projects that we might not be able to fund directly, such as:

  • the refurbishment of Corryong Youth Hall, so they are better equipped to support the community during emergency events such as the Black Summer bushfires; and
  • enabling the Mallacoota and District Historical Society to repair damaged grounds from the fires and create a native bush walk.

More broadly funds have been used to support local arts programs; healthcare equipment; software that helps aged care residents connect with their families to reduce social isolation and many more.

Over the years, Portland House Foundation has contributed to several collaboratively funded grant programs run by FRRR. Do you see benefits in collaboratively funded programs?

PHF is pleased to have funds pooled and projects shared with other funders, collaboration will always be key in funding. Many hands make light work. For example – we have been contributing to FRRR’s Back to School and Strengthening Rural Communities programs including their additional bushfire streams. It’s so heartening to know that this year PHF’s contribution supported 1,054 students and families with $50 Back to School vouchers in places affected by the Black Summer bushfires. The distribution of these vouchers is assisted by local community organisations and community foundations, ensuring they get to the children and families who need a helping hand. It would be very difficult for a family foundation like ours to have such far reach and support so many without collaboration.

A great example of this is when our funds were combined with The Ross Trust to enable the Centre of Participation to purchase a coffee machine and other accessories for their ‘Harmony Van’. It is used to provide hospitality and food handling training to migrant women and disabled youth across the Wimmera Southern Mallee region.

How would you describe your relationship with FRRR / If someone asked you about working with FRRR, what would you tell them?

We would recommend FRRR to any donor wishing to reach small communities in regional Australia. The aspect of FRRR that allows funding of non DGR projects is a distinct advantage, as is the reach into areas that metro based entities cannot easily achieve. We have found the FRRR team flexible and accommodating in recommending projects that fit our charter, and importantly meet the needs and priorities of local communities.

Finally, do you have any advice to other philanthropic organisations / individuals when choosing a not-for-profit to partner with?

Philanthropy is such a great way to learn about the world around us, so don’t wait until you’re an expert. Seek out experts like FRRR and reap the benefits of their networks. Work with people you trust, who have access to projects you could never reach and enjoy the learning that comes from branching out.

Thankful4Farmers in one of FRRR’s newest donor partners who are generously supporting our latest program Future Drought Fund’s Networks to Build Drought Resilience program, which seeks to help agriculture-dependent communities that are vulnerable to the impacts of drought become more prepared for and resilient to these impacts.

We spoke to Kim McDonnell CEO and Founder of Thankful4Farmers to further understand the challenges that our farmers face, how drought not only affects yield and the supply chain but also causes social and health challenges. Kim shares how the organisation works collaboratively across a diverse range of stakeholders and influencers to address the systematic challenges faced by remote and rural communities recognizing the valuable contribution that farming and agriculture play in our lives, every single day.

Kim McDonnell photographed by Kristoffer Paulsen.
  1. What was it that drew the Foundation to partner with FRRR?

Thankful4Farmers is committed to supporting and helping regional and rural communities to thrive by helping fund initiatives that address the systematic challenges faced by these communities. We were impressed that FRRR shared similar values and vision through their commitment to “ensure the long-term vitality of rural and remote Australia”. 

  1. You are supporting the Future Drought Fund’s Networks to Build Drought Resilience program, which seeks to help agriculture-dependent communities that are vulnerable to the impacts of drought become more prepared for and resilient to these impacts. What is it about this program that resonates with the work you do? 

Thankful4Farmers promotes and recognizes the valuable contribution that farming and agriculture play in our lives, every single day, three times a day and COVID has certainly highlighted farmers as being on the front line of our food security. Drought and unprecedented climatic conditions, not only potentially impacts our food supply and affordability, but causes economic, social and health challenges to agriculture-dependent communities. We are passionate about helping these communities become more resilient through initiatives that create sustainable solutions.

  1. We understand that this is the first time you have partnered with FRRR. How have you found working with FRRR to date?

It has been a delight working with the FRRR team who listened, understood and helped identify how best our grant could be applied. The FRRR team have kept us informed of the process and will provide regular updates of the impact of the program.  

4. Thankful4Farmers is an initiative which brings together industries, brands, influencers and consumers in a united effort to raise awareness and generate revenue to support sustainable agriculture and regional communities across Australia. Can you share some insights into the ways you collaborate with these diverse groups?

Thankful4Farmers partners with brands and organisations to raise both awareness and money to support agriculture and regional communities. We partner with brands to co-brand products or services and through a product for purpose model, Thankful4Farmers receives a percentage of revenue generated through sales. Our goal is to have multiple products co-branded across multiple categories. When it is not possible to co-brand there are also sponsorship opportunities for brands and organisations to be involved.

Our model is collaborative and we firmly believe that through unity and partnerships our impact will be far greater. We welcome the opportunity to work with organisations who share the commitment to supporting agriculture and regional and rural communities to amplify awareness and impact. 

  1. FRRR is very focused on creating resilience and adaptability within remote and rural communities. Given your support of the Future Drought Fund’s Networks to Build Drought Resilience program, we can see you share our belief in the need for this kind of focus. What does your organisation see as the particular challenges / opportunities for our remote and rural communities over the next decade, and how can organisations like ours help?  

Unprecedented climatic conditions, trade wars and tariffs resulting in economic fluctuations, increased mental health and wellness challenges, COVID and the impact of boarder closures on labour supply and changing consumer expectations are just a few of the challenges facing agriculture and regional and rural communities. To help these communities become more resilient they need infrastructure and services to thrive, industry diversification, access to the latest technology and information to promote climate smart agricultural practices and recognition of the value and contribution they make to the Australian community and economy.

  1. And finally, do you have any advice to other philanthropic organisations / individuals when choosing a not-for-profit to partner with?

When choosing a not-for-profit partner it is important that you take the time to ensure you share the same values and vision. For Thankful4Farmers it was also an imperative that we had clear objectives and transparency to measure and understand both the short and long term impact our donation was going to make. 

In February 2021, we announced a new partnership with Kellogg Australia Charitable Foundation to help local communities access support to address food insecurity in their communities. We asked Esme Borgelt, Managing Director at Kellogg’s Australia and New Zealand to tell us why food insecurity is so important to them, and more about their approach. 

Esme Borgelt, Managing Director at Kellogg’s Australia and New Zealand. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images for Kellogg's)
Esme Borgelt. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images for Kellogg’s)

1.  Tell us a little about Kellogg’s and your approach to CSR.

Our company is focused on doing well through doing good and has been since we were first founded. This purpose and commitment to doing what is right and having a positive impact on the lives of the communities where we operate runs through the heart and soul of our business. Our heart and soul strategy is focused on driving transformational change by addressing the issue of food insecurity to help nourish people and nurture our planet.

This issue of food insecurity is intertwined with other major challenges. Namely, the impact of climate change, food waste and the depletion of our natural resources. We know that if we are going to tackle food insecurity, we need to understand all the root causes and then we need to work holistically to address them. 

That’s our approach – working holistically through our own operations to reduce our impact, through our supply chain to build resilient food crops and through our philanthropy work with the KACF and our other food relief programmes to help make a meaningful difference on these issues.  

2.     The focus of your partnership with FRRR is food insecurity. Why is that so important to Kellogg’s?

Kellogg’s has long been focused on fighting hidden hunger across Australia and NZ. Access to healthy food is a daily challenge for many vulnerable people throughout Australia. They might not be able to get to a secure and reliable source of nutrition or cannot afford the quality of food they need to be healthy.

Far too many people in this country experience food insecurity. Unfortunately, the last 12 months has further exacerbated this issue with the drought, bushfires and the pandemic putting more pressure on those exact communities who were already doing it extremely tough – many of these rural and regional areas. The 2019 Foodbank Hunger report showed that 24% of Australians experiencing food insecurity live in regional or remote areas.

This is why the Kellogg Australia Charitable Foundation and FRRR partnership has a focus on supporting food insecurity initiatives and enterprises, food affordability and food access program, as well as projects such as community gardens, and school and educational food program.

3.    How do you expect that this partnership will help you deliver on your corporate mission and vision?

This three-year partnership with FRRR is part of our commitment to supporting communities in need in Australia and is aligned with the mission to helping solve for food insecurity in regional and rural areas.

It is supported through the Kellogg Australia Charitable Foundation (KACF), formed in 2007 and focused on supporting charitable initiatives that promote a healthier world with long term commitments that make a meaningful difference. FRRR’s strategic focus on creating healthier more vibrant communities in Australia perfectly aligns with the purpose of the KACF. 

4.   What was it about FRRR that made you choose to partner with us to work on this important issue?

The purpose and strategic focus of FRRR and the impact that we want to have through the Kellogg Australia Charitable Foundation to help solve for food insecurity in regional and rural areas, were very aligned.

Further to this, the local approach that the FRRR team take in ensuring that the grants get to those communities who need it most was also a key part of the decision to partner. The belief that “local leaders are best placed to know what their community needs” resonated with us quite strongly. The people and place-based approach where locals are the ones working out what their community needs made complete sense for the how the Kellogg Australia Charitable Foundation could help have the greatest impact on the ground. 

5.       What do you look for when seeking to partner with NFP organisations?

Impact Focused: We look for partners who are really focused on impacts. Making a meaningful and measurable difference to the lives of the people in Australia is at the core of what we look for in a partner.
Collaborative: When we look for a partnership it’s not just about donating funds through KACF and job done. We look for how else we can partner to ensure we have the greatest impact together. With FRRR, this will be through finding opportunities for us to support with additional food donations for the grant recipients if needed, or providing access to the Kellogg Company employees who will donate their time as skilled and unskilled volunteering, and also engaging in the conversation and policy discussions around the issues facing our rural and regional communities to help create lasting change.
Aligned vision and values: We want to make sure our vision and values are aligned for the partnership but also more broadly as two organisations coming together. This is important.  

6.    We have partners that collaborate on programs, as Kellogg’s is in contributing to SRC, while others prefer to establish stand-alone programs. What are your thoughts on these approaches and why the collaborative approach was the right avenue for Kellogg’s, in this case?

What appealed about the SRC program and this collaborative granting approach is that it is flexible and focused on responding to the community’s needs. The people on the ground are living the challenges every day. They are best placed to tell us what support they need. Not the other way around.

Ultimately, we want to ensure that the funds from the KACF help communities in need and having a meaningful and lasting impact for that community. While we have a focus on food insecurity, the funds can flex if needed to help with other pressing issues, such as disaster relief or the like.

Mark Muller is the Editor-in-Chief of R.M.Williams Publishing, which produces the much-loved OUTBACK magazine. Mark is a member of the R.M.Williams Leadership Team and takes a keen interest in the organisation’s philanthropic activities, which have always been a core part of R.M.Williams’ DNA.

Why are you personally passionate about supporting rural, regional and remote communities?

R.M.Williams was born in the bush and our business remains intimately engaged with country Australia. Part of the underlying agenda of OUTBACK magazine is to share positive stories that showcase the best of what happens in rural and remote Australia.

I grew up in Penola in South Australia and appreciate just how rare, beautiful and unique these smaller places are. There is an amazing culture in rural, regional and remote Australia, and I am delighted to be able to engage with that every day of my working life.

I also know how important it is that communities can get the help that they’ve identified they need. In a small community, you have to rely on yourselves, but you can seek assistance. Strong communities have lots of support. In fact, if it wasn’t for people volunteering, giving their time – whether for local sporting clubs, breed societies, community groups, garden clubs, local theatre, water catchment groups or whatever – many things just would not happen. It takes lots of volunteers to make places tick. And people also need money for these things.

What was it that drew R.M.Williams to partnering with FRRR?

R.M.Williams’ history is deeply entwined with rural, regional and remote Australia. We have a wide, strong network and connection with life in the bush through our retail stores and through the many stockists selling our boots and apparel. Seventy-five percent of the 350,000 readers of OUTBACK magazine are in rural Australia. We feel it’s important to continue to engage with and give back to this community.

Through the magazine, we have always promoted and had an interest in the important role that philanthropy plays in the bush. FRRR has always come up as an organisation that does good work in this space, so when the time came to formalise this aspect of our commitment to our heartland, FRRR was considered – and ultimately settled on – to be our main philanthropic partner. We have had a long editorial association with FRRR, going back to when Sylvia Admans was CEO, and have respected the work of the Myer family (founders of FRRR) for many years. In addition to FRRR’s national footprint, it is a grassroots-up organisation. People on the ground, who actually know what they need, approach FRRR for help, rather it being a body that ‘imposes’ help from above.

FRRR has the apparatus in place to ensure that money goes where it is needed. We simply don’t know all the places where that might be, even with our touchpoints. The structure and grassroots connections of FRRR give us confidence that money gets to where it’ll most help. We also like the fact it is well-managed, that proper protocols regarding charitable giving are in place; and the pedigree of the other organisations that are attracted to and donate to FRRR also gave us confidence that FRRR was right organisation.

Do you have any advice to other organisations / individuals when choosing a not-for-profit to partner with?

It is important that there is the appropriate governance in place to ensure effective distribution of funds, and without having overheads that disproportionately reduce the end-of-line of impact. We’ve all seen examples of money going to worthy causes but, all good intentions aside, they are unable to effectively use the funds. It is important to ensure that organisations in the philanthropic sector with whom corporates engage have the structure, protocols and experience to ensure that what the organisation can deliver aligns with what the donor wants.

It is vitally important that when organisations want to engage in the not-for-profit space, they can see proper governance, protocols, administration and a track record of money ending up where it is needed.

The first major contribution of R.M.Williams to FRRR has been allocated across the bushfire recovery and general streams of SRC, what drew you to this approach? 

Fires, floods, drought and economic challenges are part of rural life. It is important to acknowledge that any disaster has an immediate impact, but there are also long-term needs in the bush. We believe it is important to engage in medium-to-long-term recovery, which is vital to underpinning the strength of rural, regional and remote communities. In this instance, some of our support went toward disaster recovery – after the fires. In the Orara Valley on the NSW central coast, some of our funding helped to engage two locals to act as Community Recovery Officers to lead the establishment of community hubs in Glenreagh and Nana Glen. I spoke with Stephanie Luck from the Orara Valley Progress Association about this after the grant was made and she said that in that community, people weren’t comfortable in talking to outsiders to get the help they needed. They now have local people they know and trust who act as liaison between themselves and the various government and private resources that they can potentially tap in to. Stephanie told me it has really changed their lives.

To have the funding secured to ensure a local touchpoint for locals to get help is meaningful and functional, and an important and proper thing to do.

It’s equally important to have funding available outside ‘fast’ disasters like fires and floods. There are ongoing challenges such as drought that have been impacting people for a long time. That’s why we made the decision to split our support between immediate disaster recovery and ongoing support. It gives us confidence that our engagement is not a kneejerk to a specific event, and has longevity.

For example, with R.M.Williams funding, FRRR has also made grants that have: helped put solar panels on the Robertson Men’s Shed; obtain stackable chairs in the Collombatti public hall; and helped rebuild garden beds for the Belulah Historic Learning and Progress Association.  These are things we wouldn’t know about ourselves, but that play to the underlying warp and weft of what makes communities strong. To have that engagement, to have FRRR as a touchpoint into those communities, underpins value of the networks FRRR has.

How did your staff and customers respond to the launch of the partnership? What kind of feedback did you get?

We’ve had good feedback in response to this partnership, though we didn’t enter into it  recognition, or to pat ourselves on the back. We did it as it’s part of our cultural responsibility and for our community.

The bushfires became a focal point, ‘though we have always been engaged in rural and regional communities. To formalise this through the relationship with FRRR gives our colleagues comfort that we are doing the right thing. After all, we rely on the bush; our history was born in the bush and we use outback Australia as an underlying reference point and inspiration in our business. So, to be able to give back makes us all feel good. Similarly, for our customers and our readers, they want to support businesses that do the right thing, organisations for which proper corporate cultural engagement is not just something talked about, but is actually done. Having a relationship with FRRR gives us the peace-of-mind that the money is going where it’s needed.

We happily shared news of the partnership – not for praise, nor for any underlying commercial agenda ¬– but because we’re glad we’re able to help.  People get it – staff and customers. They see our business engaging in an appropriate way with the right sorts of organisations. This is meaningful. It is part of our cultural capital. To assign a dollar value to every engagement belies the fact that of course the dollar is not the only measure of value; there is much of worth that can be done that isn’t done for a commercial return, but for a cultural return – both to us within the business and to the broader base of R.M.Williams customers, and communities everywhere.