Capacity building at the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network

By: Debra Morgan   |   Philanthropy Manager at the Australian Environmental Grantmakers   |

The Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network’s (AEGN) interest in capacity building has two points of focus.  The primary focus is the development of capacity of its members.  Through conferences, workshops, presentations from experts, and sharing amongst the membership, members develop their knowledge and capability in environmental grantmaking.

Our secondary focus is developing the capacity of the non-profit organisations that our members fund.  It is often stated that we are in a critical decade for the health and future or our environment and the systems it supports, so it is important to the AEGN and its members that our non-profit partners have the skills, capacity and leadership to face these enormous challenges.
Feedback at the AEGN indicates that professional grantmakers and philanthropists have sought a comprehensive listing of the environment organisations in Australia.  Understanding the organisations working in the issue area you’re addressing is often the first step in understanding the possible solutions to the problem.  And, being able to understand the ‘map’ of organisations is critical to understanding the sector’s capacity in that issue area.  Until now, there hasn’t been a directory of environmental organisations.  Recently, the AEGN has launched a comprehensive, map of environmental organisations, the first of its kind in the world. 

The directory includes a listing of organisations from around Australia, working across all parts of the environment movement.  Available on the AEGN’s website ( anybody with access to the internet is able to search the list by issue area, approach, geographic region and key words.  Including approximately 2,000 organisations, we see this as the first stage in an iterative development process.  In 2014, we aim to include an additional set of organisations’ information, including Landcare groups and Indigenous Land and Sea Management groups.

The development of the directory has been a long and thoughtful process, involving representatives from philanthropy and from environmental non-government organisations.  We have captured information about where the organisations are located, the geographic reach of their work, the issues they are working on, and the approaches they take to achieve change.  Over time, this information will be completed for all entries in the directory, but in this first stage, we have focused on those organisations with DGR.

Alongside the development of the directory we’ve undertaken a survey of eNGO sector health.  Again, this is the first work of its kind in the country, and we hope it will be the start of a longer term look at trends in environmental sector health.

The sector health survey provided us some invaluable insights into the needs of the sector and areas in which philanthropy may be able to provide support.  We believe there are over 6,000 environmental non-government organisations in Australia, and almost 600 of these have deductible gift recipient status.  About 80% of DGR organisations have a turnover of $1 million or less.  We know that these small organisations make up the engine room of the sector, and that they often have a strong volunteer base and community support.

Despite evidence of the development of the growth and professionalism of the sector, 45% of environmental organisations still report that remaining viable is an extreme issue.  In the survey, funding uncertainty was deemed an extreme issue by 63% of environmental organisations, and a lack of funding opportunities was seen as an extreme issue by 46%.  Related to this, 90% of environmental organisations felt that, in order to increase their skills, they needed to invest at least some additional resources in fundraising.  82% felt they needed outside advice and/or services in fundraising.

The State of the Environment Movement Report, which will provide more information from the sector health survey, will be released in early 2014.

The AEGN sees the directory and sector health work as the beginning of a range of initiatives to help philanthropy to support capacity building of environmental non-government organisations.  Conversations at the recent AEGN conference, Capacity in this Critical Decade, have been a catalyst for some work that could potentially be undertaken as a joint funding initiative amongst a number of funders.  AEGN will support these funders to pursue the conversation, and offer guidance where necessary. 

The Directory of Environmental Organisations and related capacity building work has been made possible through a generous grant from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.

Dec. 04, 2013

 Tags: environment, capacity building

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