In 2008, a small group of Australian philanthropists founded the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN) to create a safe, trusted space to share environmental funding opportunities and experiences, and to be informed of emerging issues. They were inspired by a similar philanthropic organisation in the United States.
Today we are Australia’s peak membership organisation for environment and climate philanthropy. Our 180+ members are trusts, foundations and individual donors, including long standing and well-known philanthropic institutions like The Myer Foundation and The Ian Potter Foundation, community foundations and many private philanthropic funds and donors.
Our mission is to grow effective funding to the environment. We do this by:
- Raising the profile of environmental giving to inspire as much impactful environment and climate change funding as possible. Our latest research indicates that while funding to the environment is growing, currently only 2.1 per cent of philanthropy goes to the environment.
- Providing our members with a community of like-minded environment and climate change funders that they can connect with to share ideas and opportunities, co-fund, collaborate, and build momentum to make positive change.
- Supporting members to build their skills and knowledge to help them to fund strategically, confidentially, and in a way that is rewarding . We provide a range of strategic tools and resources, access to experts, tailored advice, project sharing opportunities through the Project Clearinghouse, curated events and access to expert scientists, academics and changemakers, to help our members be as effective as possible in their giving.
Our vision for the future is one where the power of science converges with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s millennia of experience to guide the wellbeing of our land. Wildlife is rich and abundant. We act to protect and restore this land. We are proud of our relationship with our land, air, wildlife and water.
We power our country with clean, renewable energy. We have stopped extracting and burning fossil fuels and supported the transition to meaningful jobs in the clean energy economy. We have sustainable community infrastructure such as public transport, public parks and collective gardens. We have access to nature for our wellbeing.
We have a national strategy to protect our environment and it is well supported by strong institutions, laws and resources.
We all have access to clean air and water. We enjoy good food and land that is well cared for. We support our farmers to grow fresh food in ways that regenerate the soil and promote the health of our land and waterways.
We know that our community will be free to enjoy this beautiful country for generations to come.
We are proud of our Australia and proud of our role as guardians of our environment.
A strong and vibrant network
Philanthropy has a unique role to play in helping to make this vision a reality. The AEGN brings funders together to learn about the issues and solutions and share networks and funding opportunities. We provide a supportive, collective space where members can share openly and explore possibilities to enable the most effective giving.
Since our establishment in 2008, we have seen the powerful impact like-minded environment funders can make by collaborating to ensure projects receive the funding they need to succeed, but also by advocating on behalf of the change agents they support. We have built a trusted place where our members learn and share, are inspired and informed, and come together to fund some of the greatest challenges of our times.
It is with thanks to the passion, determination, and vision of our members that we are well and truly more than the sum of our parts. From a hardy band of committed funders who wanted a forum to share and learn about environmental giving to today’s vibrant network of over 180 donors, large and small, individuals and foundations spread across the country, our network is effective and powerful because of our members. Join us and help protect Australia’s unique natural environment for generations to come.
Our core beliefs
Our work is underpinned by our belief that philanthropy combined with excellent science and powerful changemakers can catalyse real and lasting positive change. We know that lasting change may not happen quickly and that at times we need to stay with this work over many years.
This strategic partnering with other sectors enables us to innovate, scale up our collective impact and find new ways to address increasingly complex environmental challenges.
The powerhouse behind positive action
We work with the country’s 900-strong network of community organisations and changemakers — the powerhouse behind the change we seek. This builds on philanthropy’s long track record of empowering leaders of community organisations and movements for change.
These organisations are the voice of our natural environment. They can show Australians how to personally contribute to sustainability. They can advocate for better policy and legislation to protect our environment. And they can demonstrate how change can happen — fast. With funding behind them, these organisations can achieve a world where people and nature thrive.
Science and experts
We partner with Australia’s scientific and academic experts, many of whom are recognised globally for their contribution to research and practice in conservation and sustainability. And we ensure all of our work is based on latest national and international scientific data, including Australia’s State of the Environment reports.
The fuel for transformative change
Funding is critical — without it, we simply cannot achieve the scale and scope of change needed to reverse global warming and protect nature.
Philanthropy is not beholden to electoral cycles or shareholders, so the sector can take a nimble, long-term view in funding and incubating bold ideas and smart action. While it cannot match government in terms of total resources available, philanthropy can achieve game-changing impact by being strategic, taking risks and piloting and scaling up workable solutions.
Time for strategic, super-charged giving
- Globally, philanthropy dedicated to environment and climate change remains small, just 2.1 per cent in the United States, less than two per cent in the European Union, and 5.8 per cent in the United Kingdom.
- Environmental giving is small for Australian private ancillary funds (PAFs). In 2018/19, PAFs, a common structured giving vehicle for philanthropists, gave 2.1 per cent or $11.6 million of their distributions to the environment, though this is likely to be significantly higher due to the way giving data is categorised by the tax office.
- Environmental charities continue to receive a tiny slice of the revenue received by the wider charitable sector, only 0.5 per cent in the 2019 reporting year.
Considering the scale and complexity of the environmental challenges we face, this is simply not enough. We need a new level of investment in practical environmental projects and in the advocacy that underpins them to accelerate the momentum for change.
Our values guide how we work, partner, hold events and develop our strategy. We are:
- Ethical in all we do
- Respectful of our partners, practitioners, experts and each other
- Collaborative in the way we work and recognise outcomes
- Inspiring in our activities and outreach
- Sustainable in our day-to-day work
- Ambitious in our programming
- Focused in our strategy
- Innovative in our thinking
What we do
To achieve change, we work to grow effective funding to the environment and sustainability in five key ways.
- We work with and inspire philanthropists to build their capacity to give more and give powerfully by providing a safe space to explore their approach to giving and develop potential collaborations.
- We strengthen the philanthropic sector’s skills and knowledge in environmental giving by connecting funders with trusted experts and information, and opportunities to network and learn.
- We build the profile of environmental giving in philanthropic and other sectors.
- We focus on growing philanthropy and investment for a sustainable Australia.
- We showcase innovative approaches to giving, collaborating and addressing environment issues.
Our origin story
The AEGN was an idea whose time had come. Ironically, the initial impetus came from an American and an Englishman.
In the early 2000s visiting American Gary Tabor, then a staffer working for the Wilburforce Foundation, found himself unable to locate any Australian environmental philanthropists. He produced a booklet titled Australia’s Conservation Paradox: A Report for the International Conservation Community outlining opportunities for US funders to consider giving to conservation issues in Australia. This booklet was noticed by Martin Copley, an Englishman-turned-West Australian and a major funder of nature conservation in Australia as founder and chair of Australian Wildlife Conservancy, who contacted Gary to let him know that environmental funders did exist in Australia.
Gary urged Martin to attend the next US Environmental Grantmakers Association annual retreat and in 2003 Martin went along, accompanied by a trustee from each of the Poola and Ian Potter Foundations, the CEO of The Myer Foundation and a staff member from the Pratt Foundation. Enormously impressed by the collaborative spirit and energy of funders in the EGA, this group of five resolved to explore setting up a similar organisation in Australia.
2004 saw Martin back at the US Environment Grantmakers Association retreat, this time in Hawaii and this time accompanied by the Poola Foundation staffer Amanda Martin and Myer Foundation adviser Dr Barry (BJ) Traill. Again they all came back excited by the possibility they could see for a similar coming together of environmental philanthropists in Australia.
The travellers identified several aspects to what made the US Environment Grantmakers Association gatherings so inclusive, vibrant and inspiring:
- It was a funders-only event: there was no hassling from NGOs or businesses and no pitching of projects, creating a safe space for open discussion and dialogue.
- The discussions were informed by presentations from the top experts in the field, generating strategic insights into both environmental problems and solutions.
- There was a long history of cooperation among foundations with shared objectives and approaches, and a spirit of sharing and collaboration.
Convinced of the potential value of an Australian version, Poola trustees Eve Kantor and Mark Wootton asked Amanda Martin to convene a gathering of Australian environmental funders and hold a field trip with funders to Cape York.
Meanwhile, back in Melbourne, two other foundations had already joined forces to bring funders together to fund some big environmental problems that could not be solved by any of them alone. The Reichstein Foundation and the Mullum Trust had formed an informal environmental donors circle, whose biggest success was funding a campaign that stopped the catastrophic land clearing then happening in Queensland back in 2004, with major contributions coming from the Poola and The Myer Foundations and, from Sydney, the Purves Environmental Fund.
In July 2006 Amanda coordinated a symposium at the beautiful Myer family home, Cranlana. It was attended by all the foundations already mentioned plus a whole range of other funders interested in environmental giving – a total of 80 people. They heard from Bruce Lourie from the Canadian Environmental Grantmakers Network, Professors Tim Flannery and Ian Lowe, then President of the Australian Conservation Foundation. They workshopped how an Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network could function, and by the end of the day the AEGN was born, founded on similar principles to its North American colleagues: A safe space for funders, access to expert information, and opportunities to collaborate. These principles, along with the collegial relationship with overseas ‘siblings’, have remained fundamental to our mission and practice.
Two years later the legal and administrative arrangements for the organisation were in place, and in 2018 we celebrated 10 years of operation. As of March 2019 there have been 12 conferences and symposia, 10 field trips and too many brilliant speakers to count talking about the critical environmental issues of our time. Membership has grown from 0 to 165 (in 2020), and research suggests that $120 million of additional funding to the environment has been generated, between June 2017 and October 2020. A considerable portion of those funds have combine from collaborations between members or inspired by the AEGN network.
Sadly, though, the environmental challenges have continued to grow, with climate change, habitat loss and species extinction all increasing at a frightening rate. Our work is far from done, as it ramps up its work with its members to turn these trajectories around.
From a booklet printed in the US in 2002 to raising over $120 million in less then three years!
See how the AEGN was formed and continues to see a rich history of environmental grantmaking. This timeline is in reverse chronological order.
|June 2021||64 projects worth $26 million proceeded as a result of members contributing funding.|
|October 2020||The Environmental Giving Pledge campaign to raise $50 million in five years reaches $120 million.|
|August 2019||Field trip: Central Australia.|
|March 2019||10th Anniversary celebrations. Read our member reflections as we turn 10.|
|May 2018||Field trip: Orpheus Island.|
|March 2018||Conference: Eco Investing with keynote speaker Ellen Dorsey from Wallace Global Fund (USA).|
|May 2017||Conference: A vision for our future.|
|June 2016||Conference: The role of government.|
|April 2016||Field trip: Hunter Valley.|
|September 2015||Conference: Collective impact and communications.|
|August 2014||Field trip: The Kimberley, Western Australia|
|October 2013||Conference: Capacity building with US expert Paul Beaudet.|
|2013||Field trip: Great Barrier Reef, Queensland.|
|2012||Conference: Energy and climate.|
|June 2011||Conference: Indigenous philanthropy.|
|2011||Field trip: Arnhem Land.|
Developed Giving Green Guide and briefing notes on nine issues.
|October 2010||Conference: Here on Earth – an argument for hope with Professor Tim Flannery.|
|August 2009||Conference: Range or issues include Australian climate, biodiversity, energy, food and more.|
|2009||Project Clearinghouse launched.|
Field trip: Habitat 141.
|September 2008||Field trip: Gondwana Link in Western Australia.|
|July 2008||Annual Symposium.|
|April 2008||Climate Change and Philanthropy Seminar.|
|March 2008||Field trip: Coorong and mini field trips on Yarra River.|
|February 2008||Field trip with Patrick Johnson from Walter and Duncan Foundation in Canada.|
|January 2008||Logo and brand designed.|
|2008||Filed Trip – Gondwana Link.|
First trip to US EGA retreat with group of AEGN members.
|October 2007||Annual Symposium including Rose Letwin from the Wilburforce Foundation in the US.|
|June 2007||Office set up at Level 1, 39 Little Collins Street, Melbourne.|
Members begin to join.
|April 2007||Mail out to interested trusts, foundations and individuals to join as members.|
|February 2007||We have our founding members made up of 14 individuals, trusts and foundations.|
|2006||Field trip: Cape York Land Council, Lizard Is research centre.|
|February 2005||Agreement to set up an Australian type Environmental Grantmakers Association (US).|
|October 2004||Amanda Martin, Poola Foundation, Barry Traill, The Myer Foundation and Martin|
Copley, Spinifex Trust attended the annual US Environment Grantmakers Association conference in Kauai, Hawaii.
|February 2003||The Ian Potter Foundation, The Myer Foundation, Poola Foundation and Pratt Foundation began speaking about setting up something similar to the US Environment Grantmakers Association.|
|November 2002||Leslie Biensen and Gary Tabor (formerly Wilburforce Foundation) both from the US print a booklet called Australia’s Conservation Paradox: A report for the International Conservation Community outlining opportunities for US funders to consider giving to conservation issues in Australia.|
Resourcing our work
Donations and grants: Our operation is entirely funded by our members. Thanks to their incredible generosity, over the years, we have had the financial resources and the right people to get the job done.
Support our work
If you would like to ensure that we continue our important catalytic work to grow environmental philanthropy, we encourage you to consider making a three-year pledge to either our ongoing operations or to our Sustaining Fund.
To find out more contact AEGN’s Amanda Martin OAM, CEO at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also contribute directly to our gift fund:
Account details for deposits
AEGN Gift Fund
BSB: 313 140
Account: 1200 6345
We completely rely on our members for funding for our operations. We are deeply grateful to the many donors who have supported us over the years. In 2020, we would like to thank:
Ambassador supporters $49,500 or more
- Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation
- Morris Family Foundation
- Perpetual Foundation
- The Ian Potter Foundation
- The Ross Trust
- 1 other ambassador supporter
Leading supporters $15,000 to $49,499
- Angophora Fund
- Diversicon Environmental Foundation
- FWH Foundation
- Limb Family Foundation
- 10 other leading supporters
Sustaining supporters $4500 to $14,499
- 5point Foundation
- Alexander Gosling
- Grant Mathews
- Isaacson Davis Foundation
- Lenko Family Foundation
- Marg Henderson
- Norman Family
- Rendere Trust
- Rose Gilder
- Ross Knowles Foundation
- Spinifex Trust
- The Duggan Foundation
- The Garry White Foundation
- The Horizon Foundation
- The Mullum Trust
- The Myer Foundation
- Upotipotpon Foundation
- 14 other sustaining supporters
+28 other supporters
Security of income allows organisations to confidently make long term plans. We are supporting the sustaining fund to help give the AEGN this confidence.
Robin Craig and Mick Boyle, The Jaramas Foundation
The sustaining fund
The sustaining fund has been established to help build a stable and predictable income base for the AEGN. Donations to the sustaining fund are invested using ethical and environmental guidelines, and the fund is independently managed with a high level of commercial and financial prudence.
Generally, each year 10 per cent of the fund value will be contributed toward our annual operating budget. If you are thinking about spending down the funds in your foundation or you believe in building the capacity of the organisations you trust, we invite you to donate to the sustaining fund.
Donations of $50,000 or more are most welcome.
If you too have benefited from the AEGN’s hard work and you share their goal of rapidly growing support to the environment from philanthropy, please follow my lead in contributing to the sustaining fund.
The $1 million sustaining fund challenge
In April 2018, a very generous, anonymous Australian philanthropist offered to match contributions to the sustaining fund of $50,000 or more, up to a total of $1 million. These contributions had to be pledged or made before 25 June 2019.
Thanks to 16 generous members we exceeded our $1 million fundraising goal. All 16 contributions of $50,000 or more have been matched by our generous philanthropist and in 2019, the sustaining fund was officially established with a healthy balance of just over $2 million. This is providing an invaluable financial contribution to our operating costs for the next 10 years.
Contributors to the sustaining fund
Our heartfelt thanks to the following generous contributors to our sustaining fund:
- ACME Foundation
- Bindy Gross
- Garry White Foundation
- John Sevior and Rebecca Gorman
- Josette Wunder
- Limb Family Foundation
- Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation through ADP, ME and LA Martin Charitable Fund
- Myer family members – Yulgilbar Foundation, Kate & Stephen Shelmerdine Family Foundation, The Myer Foundation
- The Duggan Foundation
- The Ross Trust
- Rose Gilder
- Sue Mathews and Mark Burford
- The Jaramas Foundation
- Vicki Olsson
- Several anonymous contributors including the instigator of the $1 million sustaining fund challenge.
Governance and accountability
Our Board are members who bring a broad and extensive range of philanthropic, environmental and business knowledge to our governance.
Voted in by membership, the Board steers our course with an understanding of the urgency of our mission, the role of philanthropy, and the requirements for a strong and sustainable network.
Our team are professionals from various backgrounds who support members in all aspects of their environmental giving, including solutions, networking and organisational effectiveness.
As a team, we aim to help you address environmental issues, implement solutions and advocate for positive change.
Become a member
It’s been exciting to see the growth in sophistication of how the AEGN operates. For the benefit of all.
Hayley Morris, Morris Family Foundation