Foundation SA is Australia’s first new Community Foundation in five years. ACP spoke to Philanthropy & Engagement Manager Sophie Doyle about establishing a Community Foundation from scratch and the help Australia’s great network of Foundations provided.
Getting started from scratch
Over a year ago, Stacey Thomas, CEO of The Wyatt Trust approached her Board about creating a new state-wide Community Foundation in South Australia, the first new Community Foundation in Australia in five years. And with a little help from the network, they’re ready to launch on Thursday 13 May 2021.
As a state with a relatively long history of Community Foundations, with four well-established Foundations serving regional and rural areas, Foundation SA’s focus is a bit different. Based in Adelaide it will be the first Community Foundation supporting the city’s greater metropolitan area. Foundation SA will also work closely with the state’s existing Foundations. Sophie says their role will be to “partner and collaborate with the existing SA Community Foundations to help promote community philanthropy by referring donors and building awareness, while also seeking to learn from their experience in community.”
“With ACF’s support, we are now ready to launch with all our policy and procedure frameworks established, a clear plan for donor engagement and external promotion – all within 6 months.”Stacey Thomas, CEO of The Wyatt Trust and Foundation SA
With the task of creating the Foundation, Stacey approached Australian Communities Foundation (ACF) as a leader in the field. As a result, a wonderful partnership has formed, with ACF functioning as Foundation SA’s implementation partner and Trustee of funds under management during this all-important establishment phase. The plan is for ACF to support Foundation SA as a partner and Trustee until it becomes self-sustaining and ‘spin out’ to become an independent Public Ancillary Fund. This is expected to take about 5 years, with a goal of a $5m corpus at the end of this timeframe
“The guidance and support from ACF has been vital and has enabled us to expediate the establishment process,” says Stacey. “With ACF’s support, we are now ready to launch with all our policy and procedure frameworks established, a clear plan for donor engagement and external promotion – all within 6 months.”
Getting the word out there
A lack of awareness of the Community Foundation model has been one of the biggest challenges for Sophie and Stacey in getting Foundation SA up and running from scratch. People often love the idea of Community Foundations, they’ve just never heard about them. Once the concept is explained, they immediately see the gap the donor-advised sub-fund model fills in connecting donors with community.
Building community engagement has therefore been key to establishing the Foundation, but so far it has primarily been focused on the one-to-one conversations and meetings with potential donors than going direct to community. So far, this strategy is paying off – there have been some very positive meetings with key figures in SA’s state government, including the Premier, and the Foundation already has five sub-funds established – two from families, one from a business, one Gumnut Account, and one through a significant bequest.
Sophie says that the relationship with The Wyatt Trust has been key in starting conversations, earning trust and building a reputation: the ‘brand recognition’ of one of South Australia’s leading philanthropic trusts giving Foundation SA the credibility boost organisations need when starting out.
But alongside these more traditional models of awareness raising, the Foundation has also looked to more unlikely models to get the word out there. On International Women’s Day 2021, they organised a soft launch event at with 40 prominent South Australian women who were asked to be advocates, “handpicked,” Sophie says, “because of their connections and ability to share the story and influence others.”
This group of philanthropic influencers included CEOs of non-profits, philanthropists, government representatives and major donors. The call to action was clear: help us spread the word – engage with us on social media, share our website and talk about Foundation SA.
‘Goodwill of those who have done it before’
Getting to this point has required a lot of hard work – and Sophie and Stacey do much of it themselves, from the important one-to-one conversations to managing the social media channels. But Sophie says they have been lucky to be doing all of this within a “very collaborative community” – the Australian Community Foundations sector.
Help has come from every corner, on all manner of issues. The ability to tap into the expertise of others within the sector, including many ACP members, has been a result of what Sophie describes as the “goodwill of those who have done it before.”
The launch of Foundation SA marks another important step in the development of Community Foundations in Australia, and it is a testament to our sector that so many busy, dedicated people have made the time to assist those ‘still at the learning stage.’