“From very early days, I’ve had both a curiosity and a realisation that I can’t do anything alone. I’ve always had a desire to engage others, and I really enjoy that.” As a result of this, Jim plays an important role within the AEGN and within the wider eNGO sector — as a connector, a collaborator, and an enabling funder. “I’m a specialist player with high sector expertise. I work across agencies, not-for-profits and philanthropy to create links and add value.”
A stronger vehicle to drive conservation outcomes
Jim developed extensive knowledge of organisational structure and management over his 40 years building businesses, while also supporting a wide range of conservation organisations. In 2018 all accumulated business profits were donated to establish Rendere Trust, a stronger vehicle to drive conservation outcomes. “My last three years have been fully committed to supporting eNGOs, and it has been the most fulfilling time of my life.”
Rendere Trust is 100 per cent committed to the environment and will strategically spend down by 2030 because, Jim asks, “Why would you invest in anything else? We’ve only got one Earth. Our most critical investment is the planet that we depend on.”
At home with the AEGN
Jim immediately felt at home upon joining the AEGN in 2018. “There is 100 per cent alignment. Anything that I fund is already within the AEGN network, or I am working to bring it into the network.” Having built a profile within the AEGN, Jim is regularly in touch with other members directly or through AEGN events and the Project Clearinghouse to discuss projects and ideas.
Jim takes pride in Rendere Trust’s work with Landcare Victoria Incorporated (Landcare Victoria) – a project that he presented at the 2021 MEGA PROJECT SHOWCASE, and a demonstration of how supporting organisational capacity can produce big results.
Landcare Victoria plays a crucial role in Victorian conservation, linking and leading government and Community Landcare groups. Yet with funding cuts being exacerbated by the bushfires and COVID-19, their capacity to represent and resource these groups was under threat.
With an organisational strategy hat on, I spoke to government and community players in Victoria and nationally.
It was clear that the best model [to elevate Landcare Victoria] was to have an experienced CEO with solid executive support, to put them in a stronger position to partner with government upstream and Community Landcare downstream.
However, underfunding led to a chicken and egg situation: Landcare Victoria couldn’t employ a CEO due to budgetary constraints, yet because they lacked a CEO, they weren’t able to secure funding in the first place.
Jim Phillipson, Rendere Trust
This is where philanthropy helped — Rendere Trust was able to partner with like minded philanthropists to underwrite the CEO position for three years.
“A proven CEO and a great Executive Manager were recruited to help build up those resources. Following this, the most recent Victoria State Budget secured the funding for those 80 facilitators, while federal bushfire funding to Victoria will now be channelled through Landcare Victoria — a massive outcome of around $20 million of funding from the investment of a CEO and an executive.”
Jim Phillipson and family at Margaret River.
Jim’s willingness to apply his business experience alongside his strong commitment to collaboration and philanthropy have played a vital role in this success. “There’s basic principles of organisational structure that relates back to the core purpose of organisations. You need to look at an organisation and ask: Does this structure enable its team to focus on the organisation’s core strategy?”
If there is a better solution, I will support that. But it’s important to be able to put the shoulder to the wheel and resource solutions with funding.
Jim Phillipson, Rendere Trust
Developing young professionals
Jim also recognises how important the development of young professionals is for the eNGO sector — a key reason behind Rendere Trust’s funding for several internship programs, including those at Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Conservation Ecology Centre Cape Otway, Arid Recovery and the Australian Land Conservation Alliance Future Leaders program.
The difficulty of gaining experience for graduate scientists is a key blocker to a career in the environment sector. “Environmental science graduates face a dilemma of how to get a job that satisfies the heart as well as the head — and a lot of the time they end up being pretty good baristas! Rendere Trust funds organisations to enable them to host volunteer interns for anywhere between three weeks to three months. That’s the stepping-stone into employment for post-graduates — an intern program is core to most other professions, and supporting our next generation is the best investment a sector can make.”
Building on this, Jim has been actively collaborating with Equity Trustees to fund Australian Land Conservation Alliance’s Future Leaders program, a national hub for conservation internships that, given Australian Land Conservation Alliance’s national leadership position, would provide interns with the broadest scope of opportunities possible. To support this, Rendere Trust has provided untied funding to Australian Land Conservation Alliance, while The Albert George and Nancy Caroline Youngman Trust, managed by Equity Trustees has been supporting the Future Leaders project directly — a co-operative approach that ensures Future Leaders and Australian Land Conservation Alliance can have the greatest impact.
As a philanthropist Jim has found his niche — connecting people, providing organisational support and providing funding to make the environment sector more effective. And with such great recent results over the last three years, it is working. “Rendere Trust’s spend down strategy optimises my commitments, focusing energy to leverage maximum results by 2030,” Jim says.
“My wife Heather and I work hard and diligently every day to have the most impact — and that impact will be our legacy.”
Meet more members
The Graeme Wood Foundation
Paddy Pallin Foundation Trust