10 Jul 2023
In her July blog, The Ross Trust CEO Sarah Hardy outlines the reasons behind changing the organisation’s granting priorities for this financial year.
Philanthropy is uniquely placed to pivot quickly in a changing environment – and there has been no greater change than that caused by the pandemic.
COVID-19 exacerbated social and economic inequalities and left many people in desperate need. We responded as best we could with many small, emergency grants to communities and organisations. These grants often helped with short-term ‘need’ - but not with long-term solutions to the problems.
As the months went on, and the needs became even greater, we realised that our granting strategy needed to respond to the emerging needs of the Victorian community.
For us, that means that we are changing our granting allocation for the 2024 financial year to support organisations and projects relating to:
• educational equity, with an increased focus on school refusal
• responsive grants, focusing on social justice and human rights, and
• building rural community resilience in Victoria
As a result, we are keeping on hold our funding to support biodiversity conservation for the 2024 financial year.
It hasn’t been an easy decision. The Ross Trust has a long history of commitment to biodiversity conservation and are proud of the many projects we have supported, such as restoring Port Phillip Bay reefs and the first comprehensive report on Australia’s invasive species.
We’ll continue to work with, and celebrate, our active biodiversity conservation grant partners who continue to deliver successful outcomes, but the urgency of the economic, educational, and social challenges ahead are our priority for this financial year.
Equity in education has long been a key focus for The Ross Trust and we have seen the pandemic have a profound impact on our educational landscape. Remote learning challenges and disrupted academic routines have exacerbated existing inequalities and created new barriers to education. This disruption has led to more absenteeism, disengagement, and school refusal, while a lack of access to technology, internet, and suitable learning environments has widened disparities. Unfortunately, we are seeing and hearing this through the work of our grant partners.
We believe that Ross Trust funds can contribute to playing a pivotal role in testing, piloting, evaluating, and supporting initiatives that identify and understand the root causes of school refusal post-COVID.
In addition to education, we have all witnessed the pandemic severely exacerbate challenges related to accessing basic human needs, such as food, healthcare, wellbeing and legal support, and affordable housing.
Particular members of the Victorian community have been overly affected. As such we will focus our responsive granting on women, refugee and asylum seekers, ethnicity, First Nation Peoples and the LGTBQI+ community.
Lastly, we are also going to focus on grant making that builds the resilience of rural Victorian communities.
Across Australia, philanthropic responses to natural disasters are inconsistent and while research into disaster management is well documented, there is little coordination and understanding about how philanthropy is motivated and organised. At worst, this can lead to inefficient and ineffective use of philanthropic resources.
The Ross Trust will take time to reflect on initiatives that have been evaluated, and then explore more sustained, appropriate funding responses to natural disaster and community resilience philanthropy.
We hope to contribute to rural Victorian communities’ capacity to strengthen their social, economic, and environmental fabric that binds them together in the face of mounting challenges.
We know these are significant changes in our granting for the next 12 months, but we believe they are needed. We will review the changes for the following year and will continue to align our granting program with the area of urgent need.
I am convinced many funding bodies will be facing the same challenges either now or into the future. I would appreciate hearing from others about how they are tackling post COVID issues that their grant partners might be sharing with them.