Step 8. Who will you 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.
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
- Start by getting to know several organisations really well. You might already have a relationship with a few. It’s important to really understand who they are, how they operate and if they suit your interests and approaches.
- Use our directory of Australian environmental organisations.
- You can search the legal status of an NGO by searching an organisation’s Australian Business Number (ABN). This site will tell you a number of things including whether an organisation has deductible gift recipient status.
- The Federal Government has a Register of Environmental Organisations (all of which have DGR status).
- The following state conservation councils (or equivalent) are umbrella organisations for environment groups in that state. Go to the member, affiliates or partner page of their website to find a full listing of their member groups in that state:
- Search the National Landcare directory. The groups that fall under the Landcare umbrella are varied and don’t necessarily include Landcare in their names, including productive farming groups, ‘Friends of ’, Bushcare, Coastcare, Rivercare and Dunecare. Landcare also include farmers embracing sustainable farm management, Indigenous traditional land managers sharing their knowledge with the wider community and any community group that participates in voluntary environmental activities.
- The Climate Action Network Australia (CANA) has a list of organisations that work on climate change issues.
- Most academic institutions conduct excellent scientific research. You can easily find out more about this research by going to their websites. Here is a list of all Australian universities.
- Talk to people who have already funded the organisations you are interested in. Members can be a great source of information here.
- Remember that many organisations do not have experience in building relationships with philanthropists. You will need to let them know what you need and what sort of relationship you would like to have with them.
- Which organisations would you like to get to know and how are you going to do this?
- Which organisations would you like to fund and how will you approach them?
Record your answers in the worksheet (pdf)