Stories in philanthropy

Stepping up for diversity and inclusion: The Channel

“There was no major trust or foundation in Australia that named LGBTIQA+ as a focus area, yet the need within this community is very real. That’s why The Channel was born.” - Georgia Mathews, Founding Director

Nicole Richards

 

With 80 members in five states, The Channel is a standout in Australia’s burgeoning collective giving scene. As one of the only philanthropic entities focused exclusively on addressing issues affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, The Channel is not only forging new ground, but also shining a light on a focus area that has lacked philanthropic attention.

Melbourne-based founder and executive director of The Channel, Georgia Mathews, who has worked in philanthropy for several years, says she was surprised to discover there was no significant philanthropic support available for LGBTIQA+ issues. 

“I really was surprised about the lack of recognition of queer philanthropy in the sector and then looking for a champion and there not being one,” Mathews says.

“There’s no data available in Australia, but if we look at the US, only 27 cents in every $100 philanthropic dollars benefits LGBTIQA+ communities – that’s less than any other disadvantaged group funded. I’m almost certain those numbers would be worse here.”

Launched in 2016, The Channel distributed its first round of grants in July of this year under the theme of Brave Representations.

Advocacy group ‘Pride in Care’ received $5,000 to provide education and awareness for workers supporting LGBTQIA+ young people in out of home care. Documentary Australia Foundation received $10,000 for the documentary film, A Clever Label.

Grant themes and grant recipients are decided upon by members, who in The Channel’s case, are aged mostly in their late 20s to early 40s. Designed to be accessible for people at all ages and stages, membership of The Channel requires a monthly donation of as little as $25.

“About three-quarters of our members identify as LGBTQIA+ and that’s important for us,” Mathews explains.

“One of the things I love most about the collective giving model is that it puts the decision-making power back in the hands of the people who share the experiences of our potential beneficiaries and understand the need that exists.”

“That said, anybody can join The Channel – it’s a really easy way for allies to show their support for the LGBTQIA+ people in their lives.”

Accessibility has been a key factor in the structure of The Channel’s membership model, with membership starting from as little as $25 per month.

“There are options to make a monthly donation of $25, $50 or $100 according to each person’s capacity to give,” Mathews says.

 

Defying stereotypes

The intentionally democratic nature of collective giving groups has been viewed by some as both a help and hindrance. Caitriona Fay, a director of The Channel and respected philanthropy advisor through her work at Perpetual Trustees, says The Channel has defied stereotypes.

“One of the criticisms of giving circles is in the past has been the tendency for them to support warm and fuzzy projects that appeal to a broad base,” Fay says.

“With The Channel, our membership might be warm and fun when we’re together but the way we fund is hard hitting - we’re not afraid as a group to talk about and fund what’s needed and that makes me very proud. 

“The Channel is the perfect example of why democratised philanthropy can be so impactful,” she continues.

“It’s not about the quantum of funds distributed, it’s also about empowering communities to talk about what they need and working together towards the solution.”

Fay also sees an opportunity for traditional philanthropic trusts and foundations to step into the space.

“I think traditional trusts and foundations could be playing a role in supporting giving circles like The Channel, perhaps by matching members grants or supporting infrastructure to enable them to engage their communities,” she says.

“There are only a handful of philanthropic foundations in Australia that focus their giving in some way on LGBTI issues and yet we see a significant over-representation of the LGBTI population across our homeless, mental health, and youth suicide statistics. I’m often surprised that more foundations don’t see support for LGBTI communities as the perfect space for philanthropy to have an impact.”

 

Overcoming isolation

The Channel recently opened its second grant round under the theme of ‘Overcoming Isolation’.

“A large portion of LGBTQIA+ Australians live in rural, regional and remote areas,” Mathews says.

“We recognise the additional challenges that this can present, and want to put the funds towards fostering connectivity and increasing opportunities for participation for these members of our community. At the same time, ‘overcoming isolation’ can mean different things to different people. We’re encouraging interpretations of the theme beyond just rural and regional projects.”

 

Learn more about The Channel.

 

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