Building better foundations

WOULD the Latrobe Valley benefit from having its own community foundation?

Kate Buxton, the executive officer of the peak organisation for community foundations Australian Community Philanthropy, thinks so.

“I actually believe every community needs a community foundation, because I think they’re fantastic vehicles for community empowerment,” Ms Buxton said.

“But I think the Latrobe Valley would certainly benefit from having a community foundation.”

As independent, community-owned and philanthropic vehicles, community foundations exist to create a financial asset and build social capital for public benefit in a specific area.

Voluntary boards of local people usually manage the foundations, which work with donors to build long-term endowment funds, make grants and offer various supports.

Ms Buxton said philanthropy was the key benefit community foundations brought to the table while acting as community strengtheners.

“Because they’re involving, engaging and active in their community, they generate this really deep pool of local knowledge,” Ms Buxton said.

“This enables them to understand the needs of the community and contribute meaningful solutions to them.”

When talking about how the Valley could benefit from a community foundation, Ms Buxton said foundations were “empowering vehicles” that used locals’ “long-term, sustainable involvement”.

She said foundations gave a sense of control back to the people of the area, who along with local donors and the not-for-profit sector, delivered grants and built capacity.

“Community foundations have an enormous role to play in building community resilience,” Ms Buxton said.

“They allow people within communities to have a direct connection to being part of the solutions.

“Often when a community is going through a period of change, there will be a series of programs and funding that come in, but the point about community foundations is they’re a forever organisation.

“They’re intended to be there for the long-term, so they give the community something that is a sustainable, ongoing resource that is actually there to meet the changing needs of communities as they evolve.”

Derrick Emke, currently the Mirboo North and District Community Foundation executive officer, said the idea of such a foundation in the Valley was a “no brainer”.

“There is an enormous need in the Valley,” he said.

“I think a community foundation, local self-help – we do it locally and we do it ourselves and we decide where it’s needed – with the right people deciding that, I think it’ll be a great thing for the Valley.”

He and Ms Buxton suggested ‘a community hub of philanthropy’ could exist in Gippsland if a foundation was to be set up in the Valley.

Ms Buxton has already met with community groups from the area about the prospect and is keen to continue doing so.

A NATIONAL community foundations forum will be held in Inverloch from 11 until 13 October with the focus of Building Resilience Through Innovation and Collaboration.

The Mirboo North and District Community Foundation and the Bass Coast Community Foundation – together with Australian Community Philanthropy – are hosting the forum, which is expected to attract up to 100 delegates.

For more information or to register for the event, visit www.australiancommunityphilanthropy.org.au/projects/2016-national-community-foundations-forum