Listening, learning, evolving

By: Craig Connelly   |   The Ian Potter Foundation

As I approach the first anniversary of my appointment as The Ian Potter Foundation Chief Executive, I have just returned from my first Philanthropy Australia Conference. Attending this conference allowed me to lift my head from my focus on our own grant making processes and Foundation operations, and explore many concepts critical to our quest to be the most effective grant maker we can be.

Dr Squirrel Main (Research & Evaluation Manager) and Dr Alberto Furlan (Senior Program Manager) both represented the Foundation incredibly well at the conference, sharing their insights with many participants. Squirrel held a master class focused on our innovative approach to grant evaluation, and Alberto participated as a key speaker discussing our experience managing and sometimes leading innovative, multi-year, co-funded grants for particular projects.
I was particularly pleased to receive multiple, unsolicited endorsements of the quality of Squirrel’s evaluation master class. Encouraging our experienced team to share our own insights with others in the philanthropic sector is an integral part of our role as a leading Australian foundation. We will continue to explore ways to complement our contribution to the sector beyond grant making.
The conference itself challenged me to think about a range of issues, particularly the concept of funding capacity building for worthwhile organisations. This was a consistent theme from many speakers, and from our own reviews of grants from the past five years of our own grant making, we know that capacity building grants have been some of the most successful across several program areas. With this evidence at hand, I am confident that the Board of Governors will continue to support such programs for outstanding organisations, outstanding projects and outstanding individuals.
Our own focus on larger, multi-year grants with appropriately considered Key Performance indicators, and timely reporting and measurement of these, was endorsed by many of the conference speakers. I was also very happy to hear the characteristics highlighted by many speakers as being best practice for funders, including: (1) understanding what grant seekers need to thrive; (2) narrowing the focus in nominated program areas, and (3) fully funding grant requests for worthy projects. As a Foundation, I believe we are starting to really focus on point 1, we are definitely doing point 2, using evidence of our own grant making in specific program areas to achieve this, and we are improving on point 3.
For me, the Philanthropy Australia conference was time very well spent. The conference theme challenged us all to ensure philanthropy continues to evolve, so that we remain relevant and effective in achieving positive outcomes consistent with our particular missions.


Making connections at the Philanthropy Australia conference: Alberto Furlan, Nicole Bortone, Squirrel Main and Craig Connelly (with cameo by Greening Australia's Jonathan Duddles)

Oct. 04, 2016

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