Melliodora Fund - Australian Communities Foundation Subfund

Speaking up for nature

27 March 2024

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Ann and Bruce McGregor are highly experienced funders whose shared love of nature sustains their award-winning environmental giving. “If we don’t protect nature, who will? Get active, get going — start now.”

Part of the AEGN’s mission is to deepen members’ understanding of the many ways philanthropy can support the environment — ultimately to maximise their impact. To this end, we produce a regular podcast series where members share stories of effective leadership for our planet, climate and future.

Ann and Bruce McGregor generously shared their story with AEGN CEO Amanda Martin in December 2023. Key take-aways from their conversation follow.

To listen to the episode and access a full transcript and show notes, head to our podcast page.


Nature needs a voice

Ann: “Nature needs voices to speak up for it to counter the pressures from private interests that are certainly lobbying governments all the time in their interests … We often have good rules and laws, but we need better implementation, better administration of those laws and much more resourcing to make things happen.”

Funding advocacy

Ann: “Progress in environmental protection is dependent on political priorities, as we all know, and I’ve seen this wax and wane as governments come and go. Having good environmental policy and funded programs is really important … so we support organisations that promote those soundly based and progressive ideas to government and hold governments accountable to their obligations, and that raise community awareness and support for better policies and programs at the local level.”

On strategy

Bruce: “We’re trying to look for big multiplier effects for support. If you’re going to invest, you want to the biggest returns, and often they’re with small organisations.” Ann: “We’re looking for organisations with long-term strategies … they’ve got clear vision and objectives which are practical, we want motivated, efficient, competent and dedicated staff — usually inspiring leaders are very helpful — and in many cases, a record of delivering strategic impacts already …”

Funding conservation councils

Ann: “The various state and regional conservation councils … do really effective work. They’re long established, they have good links with the community and mostly very established channels to the decision-makers. They haven’t been front of mind for many philanthropists recently, but they are very effective. They know how to advocate and campaign. And core funding brings strong results for us … For newer funders, just adding some funding to a conservation council will bring results.”

On collaboration

Ann: “Collaboration is a way of leveraging your investment. For some of our projects, we’ve attracted 10 to 25 times our initial investment once you include the follow-up funding over a number of years. Of course, the most leverage you get is if you can leverage government commitments. Everyone’s a small funder compared with government, so to leverage government, we get back to advocacy.”

On complexity (and solving wicked problems)

Bruce: “Collaborations are really essential for the complex and critical problems that we’re facing today. We know that this is a priority area for the AEGN through the Climate Change Funding Framework and the Nature Funding Framework. These critical complex problems … need quite a lot of money to address them.”

Key lessons

Bruce: “Politics is really at the end of the day about who gets the cake, and how much of the cake, so it’s important to advocate in this space, because if you don’t get involved with that process, then all you’re going to receive are the crumbs.”

We’re worried about nature. It’s under all sorts of threats: habitat loss, fragmentation, water extraction, clearing of all sorts, pollution, and climate change is a massive threat. We’re concerned about all that. And we feel a sense of urgency to do something.

Bruce McGregor, Melliodora Fund

The issues are just so important for the future of the planet that you can’t afford not to make whatever contribution you can at a personal level … Nature needs protection now, so we’ve got to get on with it; there’s no time to waste.

Ann McGregor, Melliodora Fund

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