Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)
The Romsey Ecotherapy Park Inc (REP) group persevered for 14 years to deliver a very special place in nature for local community members and visitors to the Macedon Ranges region in Victoria. Their multi-stage project transformed a derelict historic school site into a unique park that is enhancing health and wellness in nature for all ages and abilities. It was finally completed in November 2022.
REP Committee member, Jenny Stillman, said the park is proving popular already. “There are almost always people of all ages using the Park (including engaging with its inspired-by-nature art installations). Earlier this year, Macedon Ranges Shire Council focused its youth initiative program activities at the Park. A celebratory “Party in the Park” community event held in February 2023 was incredibly well attended. All of the artists involved in the project were present and spoke about their work. In addition, the potential for the Park’s future use was showcased with music performance and story-telling included in the event’s program.”
FRRR joined REP’s journey in July 2020, partnering with them to support their ‘Art in the Park’ fundraising campaign, through a Not-for-Profit Fundraising Account. This allowed all those who donated to the project to receive a tax-deduction for their gift.
In total, REP raised around $108,000 through their partnership with FRRR, which was used to fund the art installations during the Stage 2 (Sensory Therapeutic Space) construction phase.
Ms Stillman said that the engagement and overall partnership with FRRR was outstanding.
“Thank you for all of your support and wise counsel. It has certainly been great for our project and our community group. The FRRR not-for-profit fundraising account has been incredibly important to REP’s capacity to launch and run a successful fundraising campaign. We have strongly recommended FRRR partnerships to other groups embarking on significant projects!”
Ms Stillman went on to explain that a hugely significant flow-on effect was the subsequent funding from Regional Development Victoria to cover the Park’s Stage 3 works, which resulted in the completion of Romsey Ecotherapy Park.
“We believe this commitment (in addition to RDV’s significant Stage 2 funding commitment) was partly facilitated by the success of REP’s ‘Art in the Park’ campaign, which RDV was very aware of.”
While they are justifiably proud of the achievements, Ms Stillman said that the Romsey Ecotherapy Park Inc committee members are, understandably, tired. The impact of a 14 year (total) project on these volunteers cannot be underestimated. There has been much learnt about resilience, determination, compromise and partnerships, while staying committed to their vision.
REP generously shared some of their key learnings, in the spirit of helping other community groups embarking on a major project:
- Identify the need for your project and back it up by referencing stakeholder (e.g. Council) documents.
- Be prepared to take risks (“No guts, no glory”) especially to promote a project that has a demonstrated “need” and which you genuinely believe in.
- Communication is critical. Speak to anyone and everyone you need to for information gathering and support (financial and otherwise).
- Partnerships with other local organisations are important, even if only to get volunteer help from them at fundraising events.
- Be prepared to acquire new skills if needed (e.g. marketing, graphic design, word smithing etc).
- Be prepared to play the “long game” (hopefully not as long as ours was – 14 years!). Persistence, determination and resilience were essential in this project.
Could your community group use fundraising support? To learn more about FRRR’s Fundraising Accounts for not-for-profits and community foundations, get in touch with Jo Kemp, our Philanthropic Services Manager.
“The NRCF Board and staff certainly value the long-term relationship with FRRR, which is so important to us as a rural and regional Foundation. The support for NRCF’s community impact and grants team has been essential to achieve impact in the community.” Sam Henderson, CEO, NRCF
Northern Rivers Community Foundation (NRCF) was established in 2004 to connect people who care with local causes that matter, to improve community wellbeing for the Northern Rivers region of NSW. They have one of the largest footprints of any community foundation in Australia, covering from Tweed to Grafton, from the ocean all the way up past Kyogle, Woodenbong and Casino. NRCF is dedicated to improving the lives of those less fortunate in their community, either from economic circumstances, mental illness, disability, learning difficulties or drug / alcohol addiction. More recently their focus has been to support their community to navigate their disaster recovery journey following bushfires and then widespread flooding events across the region in early 2022.
NRCF has held a Fundraising Account partnership with FRRR since 2017 to attract tax-deductible donations, enabling them to help community organisations meet increasing demands on their services and work together to build resilience across the community.
Initially they raised funds through a general Community Fund, and in 2020 established the Resilience & Regeneration Fund to raise funds specifically to support disaster recovery and preparedness in their region. The Fund responds to the increasingly frequent natural disasters affecting the region and the global pandemic. Recognising that these are not isolated events, and that resilience and regeneration are integral to a sustainable and prosperous region, they wanted to attract as much money as possible.
As at 30 June 2023, NRCF has raised $1,171,600 via these two Funds. In 2022, they announced a record distribution of $327,177 to 49 recipients across the seven LGA’s of the Northern Rivers. This was supported by distributions totalling more than $162,000 from their FRRR Fundraising Account in FY22. Projects span across disadvantage, housing and homelessness, recovery and resilience, and the environment.
NRCF will also be looking to use the funds raised through the Resilience & Regeneration Fund to respond in a meaningful and impactful way to the devastation brought about by the two 2022 flooding events that occurred in quick succession through their Annual Community Grants program. Informing their response is their ongoing research project to understand the issues and conditions impacting community recovery with a view to better support local not-for-profits and their activities into the future. In May 2023 they released their second flood impact report ‘Research, Respond, Recover: A year on from disaster’ which offers valuable insights across a range of indicators about how the community is recovering. It highlights gaps in funding for medium to longer term recovery, and ongoing key issues of concern around health and wellbeing, housing and homelessness.
With this increase in support comes a need for increased resourcing. Fortunately, NRCF has also received donations via their Fundraising Account specifically to support their operational and staffing costs through their General Fund. As a result, the role of Grants and Community Impact Manager has been introduced, which will boost their capacity, enabling them to expand their community grant programs and supporting them to broaden their reach.
Sam Henderson, NRCF’s CEO, said ‘The NRCF Board and staff certainly value the long-term relationship with FRRR, which is so important to them as a rural and regional Foundation. The support for NRCF’s community impact and grants team has been essential to achieve impact in the community.’ The need to respond to disasters has now increased so much that they’ve also recruited a part-time Grants Administration Officer to support the Community Impact Manager.
Ourschool connects students and alumni
Ourschool is a not-for-profit organisation that believes past students have a lot to offer current students when it comes to driving equity in education and positive, systemic social impact. In fact, Ourschool’s vision is that every Australian public secondary school has a thriving alumni community whose members are easily able to give back to their old schools. Since 2019, Ourschool has worked with school staff and alumni to inspire and support current students through meaningful engagements in school-based alumni programs.
While principals generally see the value of alumni programs, limited funding in public school budgets makes it hard for school principals to invest resources into an alumni program’s establishment and growth. Chronic teacher and education support staff shortages at regional schools (thanks in large part to continued disruptions from COVID and teacher shortages) make it hard to plan alumni sessions and alumni engagement at schools.
But Ourschool is persisting and working hard to make it possible. They partner with FRRR, using a Not-for-Profit Fundraising Account to assist them to fundraise by offering tax deductibility for donations to help them deliver the program in more public secondary schools in rural and regional Victoria.
The funds are used to build program capacity and increase the number of regional schools receiving assistance from Ourschool. And it’s working, with the program operating in 14 regional schools, up from 10 in 2021. This involved employing more staff to deliver the services to the partner schools.
The reach is impressive — during FY22, 7,174 students were involved in 71 alumni career pathways or subject specific sessions, and 110 past students were involved in the sessions across the 14 schools in the Geelong and Ballarat regions alone.
As these alumni programs are “revolutionary” for public high schools, they require small steps, persistence, and a methodical approach to proving the worth of starting such a program. But even valued programs are faced with challenges.
One of Ourschool’s proposed solutions to this problem is the creation of a walkathon prototype school event to mobilise the fundraising capacity of a school’s community and its alumni to help fund and sustain each school’s alumni program. Ourschool is using some of the funds they’ve raised to develop an event resources and operations manual that will be packaged up for the partner schools to use and amend to run a high-quality, annual walkathon or other type of community-school event that raises funds to continue a school’s alumni program.
Check out this post to learn more about what Ourschool’s alumni activities look like.
Tomorrow Today Foundation (TTF) is the community foundation for the Benalla region in Victoria. It connects people, resources and ideas to create a stronger, more resilient and prosperous rural community.
Like many community foundations, Tomorrow Today has a community fund that receives donations to their corpus, and the income generated from that investment provides grants for Benalla and district projects. In FY22, they distributed more than $89,500 in grants to groups, families and individuals across the region.
Their fundraising is supported in partnership with FRRR through a Community Foundation Fundraising Account, which enables tax-deductible donations to be received on behalf of TTF.
One of the key projects Tomorrow Today fundraises for is their Education Benalla Program (EBP) – an initiative that aims to improve educational outcomes for Benalla’s children. In FY22, they worked with over 120 local partners to run activities that give every Benalla child the chance to thrive in life.
Their transformative program aims to create systemic changes to educational, social and environmental challenges, with the overall goal of raising the education and training completion rates of Benalla’s 17-24 year olds to equal or above the Victorian average to break the self-perpetuating cycle: poor school retention leads to life-long social and economic disadvantage; and disadvantage results in poor levels of school retention. The program starts at the very beginning of the education journey, working with families from the earliest ages and stages to prepare children for school and ensure they are ’ready to learn’.
And the results are in: there is significant quantitative and qualitative evidence indicating that the initiative is having the desired impact. In the 10 year anniversary publication of the EBP released earlier this year, Tomorrow Today’s founder and former EBP Convenor Liz Chapman OAM described how the last 10 years has been ‘a wild ride’. In that time, the percentage of children deemed developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains has decreased significantly, bringing Benalla much closer to state and national averages (source: 2021 Australian Early Development Census, which measures how young children are developing in their first year of full-time school).
“If there was a Tomorrow Today in every town, the positive contribution to community, education and engagement with young people would solve most of the common problems we face. I have enormous respect for the work they do.”Danny O’Donoghue, Executive Officer of the NE Tracks Local Learning & Employment Network in the EBP 10 year anniversary publication
You can add your support by donating securely online, or check out the Tomorrow Today Foundation website to learn more about their work. To learn more about FRRR’s Fundraising Accounts for not-for-profits and community foundations, get in touch with Jo Kemp, our Philanthropic Services Manager.
FRRR has today welcomed the extension of DGR-1 status for the country’s Community Foundations, in particular those in regional areas, which was confirmed in Tuesday night’s Budget announcements. This special status means that from 1 July, they can directly receive tax deductible donations from a broader range of donors to support more place-based philanthropy, which FRRR has long-championed.
Place-based approaches are critical, especially given the compounding impacts of back to back disasters and the challenges and opportunities in each community. They allow local people to prioritise resources to deliver outcomes that they know will make the most impact, taking account of the unique circumstances of every place.
For the rural and regional communities that have a local Community Foundation that is a member of Community Foundations Australia, this legislative change will mean that they will soon be able to directly accept tax deductible donations to channel toward their local community needs, as well as give to local community organisations that do not have DGR-1 status.
FRRR CEO, Natalie Egleton, says that this reform paves the way for much-needed additional local giving, and that FRRR will continue to support rural communities across Australia to address local and regional issues.
“FRRR was established in 2000 through a partnership between the Australian Government and philanthropy to facilitate long-term and flexible funding to reach and stay in remote, rural and regional communities. In fact, we were set up to address many of the issues raised in the Pride of Place Inquiry, which recommended this DGR extension. We have long championed the important role of place-based philanthropy and indeed, have channelled more than $135 million to in excess of 12,000 projects to support local projects in remote, rural and regional Australia.
“Of this, more than $22 million has gone to support Community Foundations, with some $6 million via the 22 Community Foundations that we have partnered with through a Community Foundation Account. We are proud to have been able to help these Foundations raise and distribute those funds, and to have played a key role in the establishment, development, and promotion of the sector as a whole. We welcome this legislative reform, which will enable even more funding to be channelled locally,” Ms Egleton said.
Over the coming months, FRRR will work closely with the 19 Community Foundations that currently hold Community Foundation Fundraising Accounts and are in a position to take advantage of this legislative reform.
“FRRR will continue to back regional Community Foundations and to facilitate funding and collaborations for other remote, rural, and regional not-for-profits and community groups to advance resilient, vibrant, sustainable regional communities. Our role in connecting resources and supporting the capacity of local leaders and not-for-profit organisations, and having a long-term focus in our work, will remain a key pillar of FRRR’s work.”
Community Foundations Australia commented that “FRRR has been the engine room for the development of Community Foundations in regional Australia, where four out of five of these Foundations operate. This reform may change how we work with each other, but it does not change our shared ambition of working together to support regional community development. Our sector as a whole very much looks forward to building on our well established relationship with FRRR for mutual benefit.”
For more information on the services that FRRR offers, visit www.frrr.org.au.
The Mirboo North and District Community Foundation (MNDCF) was set up in 2010 to strengthen their community. Serving Mirboo North and surrounding rural townships, two hours southeast of Melbourne, they embody their mission statement of building strong community through giving, facilitating and investing.
Their partnership with FRRR, through a Community Foundation Fundraising Account established in 2018, has helped them fund numerous community organisations and projects in the area, including buildings – all in the name of a cohesive and flourishing community.
An FRRR Community Foundation Account allows organisations to leverage FRRR’s special tax status and secure donations for an agreed purpose, with FRRR providing a tax deduction for the donor where required, and the funds ultimately benefit local priority projects. It also supports Foundations to give organisations in their community that do not hold DGR-1 status.
In this last year, two projects have stood out among all the wonderful work the MNDCF does. One is building a Medical Centre for the Mirboo North community. Earlier in the year, they purchased a block of land. With this fantastic new facility, they aim to bring affordable and accessible healthcare to the region.
MNDCF also lent their support to the Mirboo North Community Pool project. This redevelopment involves updating the old pool structure and expanding it to support the community more effectively, especially through safe swimming classes and health and wellbeing activities. With an $18,000 contribution from the Foundation made possible through the Community Foundation Account, and their grand reopening scheduled at the end of October 2021, this project has all the hallmarks of success. The Mirboo North community is justifiably proud of the efforts of all involved.
MNDCF has also been a longstanding partner in FRRR’s Back to School program. Since 2012, they have distributed more than $38,000 in what has become a cornerstone of giving in the community. The Back to School program assists Australian rural and regional communities by distributing $50 vouchers to students and families in need of assistance with items like uniforms, shoes and stationery. In the 2021 program MNDCF gave out 90 vouchers to families in need across the district.
MNDCF is a shining example of how place-based philanthropy can support the growth of a community.
Yarra Valley ECOSS is an environmental and educational not-for-profit organisation based on a 7.4 hectare permaculture-designed farm at Wesburn, just east of Melbourne. Their vision is to promote local food production, earth education, and multicultural living, while building work skills and developing a vibrant, resilient, inclusive and sustainable community.
They play a critical role in their community, supporting people with disabilities, as well as providing food relief.
ECOSS currently has five part-time staff, supported by a management committee and an active and enthusiastic group of volunteers, students and work-experience partners. Like many not-for-profit organisations, their usual fundraising activities were curbed by the COVID-19 pandemic. ECOSS’s Executive Officer Chelsea McNab explained.
“At the beginning of 2021 we were all still thinking that 2020 was ‘the pandemic year’ and that 2021 would be able to go back to normal living.
“But there have been many adjustments – reacting to the ever-changing COVID restrictions and operating in a safe way. This includes constant updates to our COVID Safe plans, the ability to run programs and have people on site, purchasing of equipment, extra cleaning costs, building an outside kitchen and hand-wash stations, shutting down the office and staff working remotely, as restrictions require.”
Ms McNab said that with many facilitators and performers to account for, the costs of rescheduling events and school programs took a lot of staff time, and they have had to create new policies and strategies for adjusting to the instability of the times.
Despite it being a difficult year, ECOSS has actually shown its strength over the last six months.
“Our mission and focus on food security, volunteerism, and supporting small business have all been able to thrive through our Community Garden and The Valley Market. We have found that we are able to continue all of these aspects of our NFP during the pandemic. The Crops for Community program has also been able to continue through lockdowns, as it is seen as an essential service, offering our community members with disabilities a place to continue to come in the community garden, and continue to grow crops that are distributed to two local food relief agencies. There has been a huge demand for food relief this year, and we are grateful to be able to support these programs.”
The pandemic forced ECOSS to think outside the box, and they have attracted new co-locator tenants, whose rent increases their income, and also enables ECOSS to support the growth of small businesses run by locals and new migrants. Chelsea McNab again:
“We have learned that we have to be able to adapt to the ever-changing scenarios very quickly. We have also learned that co-locator tenants’ income is a great way to underpin our finances, and offers a richness of diversity to the site.”
ECOSS partnered with FRRR in April 2019 to open a Not-for-Profit Fundraising Account, which allows them to receive tax deductible donations from donors to support their activities. This is how they hope to raise enough funds to cover one staff member for two and a half days per week.
“We can achieve so much with extra staff hours. We have been able to support more volunteers, increasing and supporting their growth and skill development. The stability of having staff enables us to forward plan and to run the site more sustainably,” Chelsea says.
Earlier this year FRRR received an application to establish a Fundraising Account for St Paul’s Carcoar Community Facility Ltd (CCF), as they had an urgent need to leverage our DGR 1 special tax status. They had been given just 90 days to raise $450,000 to purchase their local Anglican Church for use as a community facility.
They achieved that goal with just five days to spare, incredibly around $390,000 of that was raised in the preceding two weeks!
Almost all of the funds were channelled via their FRRR Not-for-Profit Fundraising Account, which allowed them to offer tax deductibility to secure the pledges of their donors, so they didn’t lose the option to purchase.
George King, one of the directors of the community association, was quoted in the local Blayney Chronicle explaining how many people thought it was an impossible task to raise so much money in such a short space of time.
“A united community, the incredible generosity of a lot of people and the love of a small village made it all happen ahead of schedule and above budget.”
Carcoar is an historic town, being the third oldest town in NSW west of the Blue Mountains. It has a small community of 300 residents and has recently joined something of a revival, with a medical practice opening and the hotel reopening on a full-time basis. It has a strong community spirit, but it lacked an accessible venue for community groups to meet.
The purchase of the church means there will now be a place to host various community gatherings, association, and group meetings, and even the odd wedding, baptism or funeral, all of which attract people into the town. As a community facility, it will be open to any religious domination or to people with no religious beliefs.
The CCF committee is now seeking to raise $100,000 to pay for an accessible toilet and canteen, which will allow them to hold community functions. So far, they’ve raised $635,506 through the FRRR account.
If you would like to support the renovation of the Carcoar community church, you can do so securely online, or by completing this donation form.
Yackandandah is a small town with a well-preserved history from the gold-mining boom. But it’s also forward-thinking and there was a push to be more sustainable in terms of power generation.
Totally Renewable Yackandandah (TRY) is the town’s driving force behind the push for renewables and increasing local ownership. Every year, millions of dollars leaves the town’s economy each year. TRY received $4,878 from the Australian Communities Foundation’s (ACF), through their FRRR Community Foundation Fundraising Account, to invest in community engagement and education around renewable energy hubs.
Totally Renewable Yackandandah and its partner Indigo Power, initially planned to bring locals together in a series of ‘town hall’ style events to discuss the benefits of a community solar energy hub, as well as the practical side of establishing and maintaining such a facility. While the first of these meetings went ahead, the last two events were converted to online forums due to COVID-19. Turnout was still high, with more than 500 people in total attending the events.
Cambell Klose, who has driven the community project, said the community response was phenomenal. “Every year more than $160 million leaves our region because of people paying their electricity bills; people were really excited to be part of a movement that is changing that.
“Local residents learned what a community energy hub is and how they can use solar to power our region with clean energy, and reduce their power costs. We also covered how to support and undertake community projects, like solar on town halls, to promote renewable energy hubs.”
Cambell also said that the community was very motivated by the sessions.
“Residents wanted to go away and power their local town hall with renewable energy or work to put solar on government housing. It was incredible to see so many local people come together for climate solutions.”
ACF partnered with FRRR to establish a Community Foundation Fundraising Account to streamline the process of making grants to community organisations that don’t hold DGR1 status in remote, rural or regional areas which are conducting charitable activities in line with FRRR’s purposes.
If you’d like to explore having a Fundraising Account for your community project, contact Jo Kemp, FRRR’s Philanthropic Services Manager.
The Friends of St Brigid’s (FoSB) Association Inc is a community organisation formed in 2006 after the closure of the local Church and Hall in Crossley, Victoria. The group purchased the buildings and are now caretakers of the five-acre community-owned and operated precinct which celebrates 150 years of unique Australian Irish history in south-west Victoria. The facilities include a 1914 Romanesque Church and community hall, home to the St Brigid’s Australian Irish Cultural, Heritage and Community Centre, and have evolved to include the Crossley Men’s Shed and peace and healing gardens.
FoSB has a long partnership with FRRR, opening a Not-for-Profit Fundraising Account in 2011, which was subsequently renewed in regularly in the intervening years, and again this year. The Fundraising Account assists them to raise much needed funds to contribute to ongoing facilities upgrades that allow people of all abilities to access and participate in activities at the precinct.
FoSB’s typically holds many events during the year through which much of their income is generated. However, like many community organisations, the onset of COVID-19 brought a halt to their regular events such as concerts and hiring out facilities for public and private events.
The year had started out well, with a Blues & Roots Festival in early January, two private family functions in February, and then two events in March. However, they were left with a COVID-quandary – how to find alternative ways to raise funds and / or reduce their overheads.
FoSB Treasurer Sue Elms said their first action was to request relief from paying their monthly mortgage instalments and insurance premiums. While that granted them a brief reprieve, the stark reality remained that they still had to find the funds for future payments.
This led to the organising committee donning their thinking caps, with considerable success thanks to the enthusiasm of their Committee Members and many volunteers, which highlighted the tenacity and commitment of FoSB’s.
They came up with a list of alternate fundraisers, which included the Men’s Shedders cleaning and reselling 600+ old bricks; a bus outing with appropriate social distancing measures in place; a walk and talk event, which was a great financial and social success; a letter of appeal was sent out to members and past supporters; and a 50:50 raffle raised more than $2,500.
FRRR’s Philanthropic Services Manager, Jo Kemp, says that it is innovative responses like these that will help community groups overcome the challenges that the pandemic has presented.
“I’m so impressed with FoSB’s response to the unexpected situation we all find ourselves in. They have successfully come together and adjusted their plans to find other ways to meet their financial obligations, and continue to serve their community. However, it is an ongoing challenge and they continue to seek donations to support their operations,” she said.
FoSB would appreciate your support for this initiative. If you’d like to explore having a fundraising account for your community project, contact Jo Kemp, FRRR’s Philanthropic Services Manager.
If you’re looking for advice on how your community group can respond to the COVID crisis, there are lots of resources available such as those listed on the OurCommunity website.