Advocacy Matters: Will collective advocacy be the new frontier for community foundations in 2022?

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Community foundations offer by far the most place based, locally connected form of philanthropy in Australia. Mostly based in the regions, community foundations are owned, run, and supported by local people and distribute funds to causes and organisations that address priority needs. They are the heart and soul of local philanthropy.

Historically community foundations have played invaluable roles in recovery from disaster or rebuilding communities after economic changes. But one area community foundations have not yet been able to mobilise in as successfully is collective advocacy. Will this be the opportunity for 2022?

Collective advocacy draws together groups of people who typically do not align on all issues yet decide to form a coalition to drive specific outcomes they agree are important for their community.

For example, a local rural or country fire service may work with church groups and sporting clubs to achieve an outcome through “collective action”. Collective advocacy is the next step where those often-divergent groups decide to work together to advocate around a community issue.

I hope 2022 will be the year for collective advocacy, driven front and centre by community foundations across Australia. Who is better placed to network, connect and drive community outcomes than these foundations with their deep roots in community, and a strong network that understands local needs and raises funds to build a community asset that to support those needs through grants?

Collective advocacy can be the key to shifting the trajectory for entire communities whether those impacted by climate change, economic turbulence, or even by COVID. It’s how community foundations can be the broker, inspiration and drive behind change in a community. A rising tide lifts all boats after all.

So, over the festive season, as a trustee, member, or contributor to a community foundation, ask a few big questions:

  • What actions or activities can lift all the organisations in our community?
  • How can we bring groups together who may not agree on everything, but can work together to achieve change in a certain area?
  • What opportunities will next year’s elections create in our community, and how can community foundations amplify them?

Big ideas to lift an entire community are always a challenge, but I believe community foundations are uniquely placed to articulate them. What ambitions exist across multiple areas of your community? What lessons have you learnt from fundraising or donations to local organisations about what matters to people in your community? Just by spending some time thinking about the big picture, you can start to have a key role in shaping the community.

What areas can you get agreement on among organisations you have funded, or people who donate and support your community foundation? While some may be progressive or conservative, religious or atheist, what are the few areas where we can all agree?  By thinking of the 2 or 3 areas of agreement, you can mobilise and drive unique and different coalitions – this is collective advocacy in action.

Finally, what opportunities can you craft around the federal election to drive benefits for the local community? Even small things like writing to local candidates and members and explaining the projects you have funded in the past year, and how they might look as photo opportunities as part of the election campaign can start a new and different discussion. The local community program you have supported with a small grant might be on the cusp of something big, and if you can assist in amplifying their voice into the political sphere, the possibilities are endless.

So, this festive season, as well as taking a well-earned break, maybe take five and think about some of the opportunities for community foundations in driving collective advocacy in 2022. 

About the author: Neil Pharaoh has spent most of his voluntary and professional life in and around social purpose organisations, government, public policy and advocacy. He is co-founder and Director of Tanck, which advises social purpose organisations on their government engagement strategy and systems. Neil is a member of ACP and is offering his expert advice to other ACP members initially on a pro bono basis. If you have ideas, suggestions, tips or questions, please feel free to email neil@tanck.com.au or reach out to him via Tanck social media: @tanckconsulting on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, including over the holiday season

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