21 September 2020
3 min read

Head of the Australian Ethical Foundation Nick Chadwick explains how we help fund charities and not-for-profits to create a more caring, resilient and environmentally aware society.

Helping to do big things

Community-led grassroots groups can create community engagement and provide powerful solutions to local issues. That’s why every year the Australian Ethical Foundation offers community grants to charities and not-for-profits with operating revenue under $1.5 million.

Our grants target groups working in areas aligned to our pillars of people, the planet and animals. Some, like the Karrkad Kanjdji Trust, address all three.

Karrkad Kanjdji partners with Mimal Land Management in West and Central Arnhem Land. It delivers positive outcomes to this culturally rich region through meaningful work for Aboriginal women that includes preservation of country and important species conservation initiatives. It is also working to combat climate  change through locally implemented carbon abatement activities, most notably fire management.

Our grants also help fund Pollinate Group, which supports and trains female entrepreneurs in remote communities of India and Nepal. Trainees sell products like solar lanterns and cookstoves to replace kerosene products, providing a livelihood for the women as well as healthier and more sustainable communities.

Image: KKT. Some of the land managed by Indigenous rangers in Arnhem Land.

Tough times ahead

While it’s clear the organisations we fund do amazing work, many are facing existential challenges due to COVID-19. As the economic downturn bites, financial support has fallen, further eroding their funding base. At the same time, many are experiencing increasing demand as more people seek help through this difficult time. For those organisations that typically deliver their services through face-to-face or group interactions, social distancing and limits on gatherings are also forcing them to review their models and find new ways to carry out their important work.  

Over recent months, we’ve stayed in touch with our grant recipients to understand their situation and provide practical help. We’ve offered to bring forward or hold back payments to help with cashflow, and we’ve relaxed reporting deadlines to help free up their time. In some cases, we’ve also offered to move funding between specific projects, to help them meet their most important priorities. For example, Ugandan healthcare charity, Living Goods, supports community health workers in remote communities to provide treatment for malaria, malnutrition and other life- threatening issues, as well as maternal health and family planning services. As COVID-19 hit the country, the organisation had to quickly adapt its service model – adding support for education, prevention and diagnosis of the virus. To assist with this, the Australian Ethical Foundation is providing additional emergency funding to Living Goods.

Image: Living Goods. Living Goods supports medical workers in remote parts of Uganda.

Continuing the fight against climate change

Much of the world’s focus throughout 2020 has been on COVID-19. But climate change hasn’t gone away. Its impact will continue to threaten everyone on the planet – especially vulnerable communities.

Our other funding initiative, the strategic grants program, focuses solely on organisations that address climate change. Our choice of organisations to fund is inspired by Project Drawdown, which conducts important research that identifies the most effective ways to reduce carbon in our atmosphere.

For example, one of the most effective steps to combat climate change is by educating and empowering women. That’s why nearly one third of our strategic grants go towards women-based initiatives in Australia and around the globe.

We’ve also focused on funding green carbon drawdown, which helps support and maintain temperate and tropical rainforests. We also assist projects promoting blue-carbon drawdown – where the growth of mangroves, kelp and seaweed forests helps capture carbon into the ocean.

Industrial agriculture is another large contributor to climate change and a source of animal suffering. Our strategic grants also fund groups like Food Frontier, which works with businesses, governments and innovators to develop and bring to market plant-based and cell-based meat as protein alternatives. These products make it easier for more people to move to a plant-based diet, reducing our carbon footprints, and helping reduce animal cruelty.

This article originally appeared in Good Money magazine. You can read the latest issue here.

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