INVEST WITH US
The George Hicks Foundation plays a catalytic role in community development. We see some gaps in the community sector that include well-articulated understandings of what works in program delivery, due to lack of resources for evaluation; the willingness to try new ideas, due to risk aversion; and honest and accountable relationships between funders and recipients of funds, due to complicated funding structures.
In our own small way we seek to do things differently; essentially we seek to fully understand the issues and base all our work on this premise. If you’re interested in this sort of investment, please read on.
We think of our grant making as investing rather than donating. The return we aim to achieve is a good social outcome for each project, as well as a more strategic or holistic outcome which progressively builds in a longer lasting change for the better. In order to manage this we spend a lot of time in three phases – preparation, monitoring and evaluating.
We are pro-active grant-makers, which means we go out seeking investment opportunities. Within our issues and place based parameters, ie disadvantage on the Mornington Peninsula, we go looking for people who are working at the coal face and who have ideas about how to change the current situation. This is done in the context of an understanding of the bigger picture in terms of need, trends and the socio-economic environment.
When we find these progressive people, (and we’re amazed at the people we have found), we get to know them, their work and how we might get involved. This means communication is a two-way interaction. This takes time and many visits. We like to know what they do day to day, not what might be put in a more bureaucratic grant application process. We like to speak with the people doing the work – rather than the fund raiser, the development worker or the CEO. This means we generally, though not always, work with small organisations, some just forming, because it is often in these responsive, nimble, dynamic structures that innovation happens – in fact the reason for their existence more often than not is in response to practices that are not working. The role we play is the ‘venture capitalist’, the risk taker, the funder and networker that complements the grass roots innovator.
We start with small investments. Generally they are up to $5,000 and we’re pretty amazed at what thrifty people working on low budgets can do with this amount of money. We’re sometimes also amazed at what large organisations can do, but this is always dependent upon finding that inspirational, integral person who still maintains the vision of the organisation which sadly so often has been lost when such an organsiation has become a quasi government service provider.
Once the ground work is prepared, the soil tilled and the seedlings are sprouting, we look at how this initiative can grow and become what was envisaged. This is our monitoring and evaluation phase. We find a really useful tool is Program Logic. We work together with our partners to build this into the program at the outset. It clearly shows the status at the beginning – ie the conditions within which the initiative sits including the baseline data – the activities that are planned, ie what they are going to do, the outputs or what is intended to happen as a result of the activities and the outcomes or the change that is predicted within the system. Program Logic is linked to a timeline and budget and reporting is requested against these items.
Each project has its clear objectives. What we are finding as our work in this area develops is that the relationships we are building are enabling us to dig deeper into the heart of the issues in question and in turn, investigate more intensely the options for change. Essentially we are in this way looking at systemic change, ie initiatives that change the system and therefore outcomes for lots of people, rather than initiatives that change outcomes for one person at a time. We start with the latter, but aim for more concentrated work in the former. This is one of the benefits of place based funding – we get to know the system and the people well enough to embark on more profound reform.
GHF invests in its staff who provide the preparation, monitoring and evaluation of projects, who find the unfound local change agents and who sift through layers of sector speak and bureaucracy to get to the heart of the issues. We are happy for others to use this information and work with us so funds from other donors can get to where they make the most impact – every cent from any co-investor goes directly to the project; there is no management fee.
You can co-invest with any of the projects listed on our site but it’s best to discuss your ideas with our staff. Contributions from appropriate entities are tax deductible.