Guide to grantmaking

This step-by-step guide can help you or your foundation focus your intentions and give you the tools to develop a program of environmental giving.

Step 8. Who will you fund?

Now that you are clearer on your mission, focus, issues, and the approaches and types of funding you prefer, you need to decide who to fund.

Non-government organisations are the most common vehicle for distributing philanthropic funds in Australia. NGOs are legally incorporated organisations exempt by law from corporate income tax because of their mission to accomplish defined charitable work.

In Australia there are approximately 56,000 charities, but only about 30,000 qualify as deductible gift recipients (DGRs) able to give tax deductible receipts.

Environmental non-profit organisations are often seen as the engine room of change and activity. They focus on providing a variety of services including private land purchase and management, advocacy for better environmental policy, research, awareness raising and environmental education.

Currently there are around 541 organisations on the Register of Environmental Organisations that have DGR status and 625 Tax Concession Charities with an environmental focus. Many other non-government organisations such as academic institutions, public museums and welfare groups also provide environmental services such as education, research and health programs.

Funding environmental organisations

There is limited research on how the environmental NGO sector is funded, but anecdotal evidence shows that at least 50% of funds come from donations from the public and philanthropic sector. The AEGN has analysed the available data and produced a map of the environmental NGO sector.

It can be difficult to sort through the hundreds of not-for-profit organisations that you can fund. This is a good point at which to get some help again. Below, you’ll find some examples of the type of information you should gather about organisations you are considering funding. Alternatively, you could be a ‘responsive grantmaker’.

This is a good way to get to know a variety of community organisations. Less pre-application research is required and it enables you to be truly responsive to what community organisations needs are.

At the same time, it usually means a large volume of applications and therefore more resources spent on responding to them.

Responsive grantmaker

A foundation choosing the responsive style determines its criteria for funding… and then invites the community to submit applications based on those criteria. The applications are assessed on their own merit and the most appropriate are selected for funding.

Taken from Vanessa Meachan, An Introductory Guide to Grantmaking

Information gathering

Questions you can ask about an environmental charity you are considering funding include:

(Adapted from Tracy Gary, Inspired Philanthropy: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Giving Plan and Leaving a Legacy)

  • What is the leadership or management style of the organisation or its leaders?
  • Do you admire the staff and leadership? Are they working in alignment with your giving goals and objectives in some important ways; are they a ‘mission match’ for you?
  • Do the staff and board leadership work well together?
  • What is the impact or effectiveness of the organisation, or its results?
  • How well does it collaborate and with whom?
  • Are diverse constituents involved and helping to guide outcomes?
  • Is the organisation financially stable?
  • How much income does it bring in from fundraising or earned income? Does it have any cash reserves?
  • What are its strengths and challenges?
  • What is the organisation working on now, and what does it need?

Tips to get you started

Trust yourself

Through all the number crunching and research, certain organisations and leaders may resonate for you…

Does thinking about giving to this organisation evoke a smile? Does your gut feel right about it? Your brain is processing more than the data on the page. Do internal ‘due diligence’ and trust what does or does not feel right to you. It will make a big difference to the energy you are willing to contribute toward an organisation.

Tracy Gary, Inspired Philanthropy

Ask yourself

  1. Which organisations would you like to get to know and how are you going to do this?
  2. Which organisations would you like to fund and how will you approach them?

Record your answers in the worksheet (pdf)

Join a funder group

Connect with the issues, connect with members, and connect with members around the issues. Find a funder group that is right for you.