Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

A rural NSW grantseeker is proving that philanthropic investment in people and skills can produce a huge return on investment – bringing in more than $2.4million in grants for his community.

While many Government and philanthropic funders won’t give grants for funding people or capacity building, Junee Business and Trades Community Liaison Officer Nicholas Pyers is showing such investments can pay large dividends.

Nicholas’s role has been funded since 2019 by The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)’s Investing in Rural Community Futures program. He has been successful in helping win and advise on grants totalling $2,483,226 – and is awaiting news on a further $1million of grants that are in progress for Junee, which is located 440km south-west of Sydney in the Riverina region.

FRRR CEO Natalie Egleton said that since late 2018, regional NSW communities have faced a series of unrelenting disruptions, with drought, bushfire, flood and the COVID-19 pandemic continuing into 2022.

“The impact on these NFP organisations has been significant. It has taken its toll on the people that lead and run these organisations and has increased their load and affected their wellbeing. The sector has been dealing with extreme fatigue, burnout, limited fundraising options, access to volunteers, disconnection and, in some instances wholesale organisational change.

“The funding of Nicholas and the grant support role is a great example of how investing in local jobs and paying someone who has skills can result in high-yielding results and impact for organisations and communities,” she said. “This gives weight to our practise of employing local people and leveraging their position to help build the capacity of the entire town or community,” Ms Egleton said.

The impressive tally has been reached by a combination of activities. The grants have been won either by Nicholas directly developing a project concept and budget, then writing and submitting the grant application, or him reviewing other grant applications that have been submitted, as well as him identifying grant opportunities for other groups so they are able to apply. Nicholas also provides support to individuals in organisations, building their capacity and knowledge of grant writing, which allows them to prepare and submit grants, and secure funding for their own organisations.

FRRR’s Investing in Rural Community Futures (IRCF) model was developed in partnership with Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation (VFFF) and aims to strengthen local not-for-profit (NFP) organisations and, ultimately, enable them to thrive. It is a grassroots approach designed to build and support the capacity of individual and collective NFPs, over a sustained period of time.

This program now operates in seven communities in NSW, delivering a blend of grants and capacity building activities supported by local facilitators. Junee, Leeton and the Nambucca Valley were the initial cohort of communities supported by the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation. Supported by The Snow Foundation Nowra, Ulladulla & Batemans Bay started an IRCF program in 2020 and further investment by Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s Community Enterprise Foundation saw Bay & Basin communities join in 2021.

Successful grants for the Junee community range from upgrades to sporting facilities and meeting rooms through to projects supporting the likes of a museum.