By: Hannah Foster, Development Executive - Trusts and Foundations, Australian Red Cross
The Collier Charitable Fund and Australian Red Cross share a history spanning 60 years, with Collier Charitable having donated over $2 million to Red Cross to fund a range of projects and services, including a recent training program for Red Cross volunteers working in Immigration Detention facilities.
Such long term meaningful relationships between philanthropists and charities provide the opportunity to tackle issue that aren’t inherently attractive or popular, but which bring about significant positive social change for the future.
Red Cross’ Trusts & Foundations team spoke with Geoff Linton about the relationship and projects funded by Collier Charitable. Geoff has been the Secretary at Collier Charitable for some 10 years, and is the man responsible for overhauling the Fund’s processes and investments.
Collier Charitable is a perpetual charitable trust established in 1954 under the terms of the Wills of three Melbourne sisters (Alice, Edith and Annette Collier) with an original endowment of around 1.25 million pounds. Since then, the investment has grown to allow for the distribution of what will be over $82 million by the end of the year, with grants given to around 150 organisations each year.
Red Cross is named in the founders’ Wills as a beneficiary, making the relationship between Red Cross and the Fund a longstanding one, but as Geoff notes, “we could give you only one dollar and that would satisfy the terms of the Will.”
Geoff Linton sees the devastating 2009 Victorian Bushfires, which killed 173 people, caused over $4 billion in damage and involved a response from approximately 1,600 Red Cross staff and volunteers, as a key turning point in the relationship between Collier Charitable and Red Cross.
“I went to a presentation by the Commission set up to look after the bushfire recovery…one of the things they said was that it’s the long haul that we have to try and think about,” says Geoff. He discussed this observation with representatives of Red Cross. Red Cross advised Geoff they were financially very stressed at the moment but did need to develop a plan for recovery from these sort of incidents.
Collier Charitable donated $100,000 to Red Cross’ Bushfire Recovery Unit to support the development of a long-term recovery strategy plan. “You [Red Cross] were very successful in developing it to the extent that you were able to put it under the nose of the Victorian government, they were impressed and then they funded a full scale development of the plan and…that plan has [since] been adopted nationally as a disaster plan,” says Geoff.
Geoff agrees that one of the greatest opportunities for trusts and foundations is to provide seed funding for new projects before they’re established enough to attract government support. Funds like Collier Charitable can also support those ‘hard-to-fund’ projects which are less popular or may be controversial, but are nevertheless in desperate need of funding.
As Geoff puts it, philanthropy can fill in a hole and fund projects that aren’t attractive to the general public or governments. “Philanthropy has a flexibility about it that is extremely important... We’re not after a photo opportunity, we don’t have three or four year election cycles…it doesn’t require any payback, political or emotional…”
Geoff describes the Collier-funded Immigration Detention Volunteer Capacity Building (IDVC) program as one such project that was “a bit counter cyclical”. Red Cross has been working in immigration detention centres for 20 years, monitoring humanitarian conditions, providing tracing services, as well as conducting confidential advocacy with the Australian Government to ensure that the dignity, health and wellbeing of people in detention is upheld.
Red Cross is the only independent organisation to visit all immigration detention facilities on at least a quarterly basis, including joint visits to Offshore Processing Centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Many of the Humanitarian Observers who undertake this vital work are volunteers.
Collier Charitable’s IDVC funding allowed Red Cross to significantly increase Red Cross’ capacity to assist people in immigration detention by improving and formalising training, management, retention and career progression for our volunteer Humanitarian Observers. Work included the collation of over 120 development resources, development of a volunteer observer induction package (including lesson plans, slide packs and reading guides), a coaching package and interactive capability profiles for staff and volunteer roles.
Programs like this, which offer opportunities for capacity building and long term sustainability, appeal to Collier Charitable. The project was seen as “…a very important initiative to make sure there was somebody monitoring what was going on from a completely independent perspective.”
For Red Cross, the 60-year relationship with Collier Charitable creates an incredibly valuable opportunity to address issues that aren’t ‘sexy’ or easily funded, but which bring about important progress and beneficial change for the long-term.
Image credits: Australian Red Cross/Rodney Dekker, Australian Red Cross/Jack Tran
Apr. 22, 2015
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