The Role of Philanthropy in Creating Strong Local Economies

Since 2000, the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) has provided more than $75 million in funding to over 8,000 not-for-profit community organisations.

Our research and experience show that, on average, communities leverage our grant investment at least three times. In small communities, the economic multiplier delivers far broader returns, as the supply chain is usually more localised and, because of strong linkages, delivers broader and deeper impact. This means we’ve helped communities deliver at least $300 million worth of projects.

Jacki Ward

And that’s a pretty substantial investment. The funds we provide quite deliberately go to community organisations that are in and of those communities. We do that for four reasons:

  1. It keeps money in towns and creates economic flow-on effects and circular economies;
  2. It builds the capacity and capability of local leaders to drive outcomes and strengthen the local eco-system – simply getting a small grant often gives them the confidence that someone believes in their idea – and that they can do it;
  3. It helps to ensure that the projects and ideas are relevant to the local context and is efficient in terms of resourcing and being able to maintain momentum; and
  4. It is empowering and allows communities to take their futures into their own hands.

Locals know best!

At FRRR, our fundamental belief is that local people are best placed to know what they need and what will make the biggest difference. However, sometimes they need a helping hand to make it happen.

We also have an inherent belief in role of philanthropy as a vehicle for social change.

Resilience and local capacity to respond to challenges and opportunities is fundamental regardless of the size or need. Getting new resources and investment is critical to support local needs and ensure continued viability, resilience, sustainability and access to key services.

With limited access to philanthropy in the regions – it’s vital that philanthropic funds reach rural, regional and remote Australia to support and sustain vibrant communities.

Thallon putting grants into action

In small communities in particular, small grants can have a huge and enduring impact, and be a catalyst for real change. A great example of this is the community of Thallon in south west Queensland. Located almost 600kms from Brisbane, with a population under 300, Thallon has been drought declared since 2013 but the Thallon Progress Association is determined to bring Thallon back from the brink.

Local leaders are focussing on local people, creating a sense of place and enhancing prosperity for all and FRRR is supporting them, as they received seven grants from FRRR between 2003 – 2017. The Progress Association has understood the need to boost morale and look for new ways to stimulate the local economy. In recent years, their projects have been focused on bringing tourists to the area to stimulate the local economy. 

This has included a Country Music Night called ‘Just add water’, which was attended by 120 people; silo art that has received national publicity; and in late 2017 a Giant Northern Hairy Nosed Wombat (3.5m long x 2m high) was unveiled, called William the Wombat.

The Northern Hairy Nosed Wombat is indigenous to this area but is critically endangered. They commissioned the giant statue to bring attention to both the species and the town! And from the early photos we’ve seen, it is a roaring success with families.

With strong local leaders, and the support of philanthropy, there are many more communities poised to go from surviving to thriving.

For more information about FRRR, go to www.frrr.org.au or if you have any questions please email info@frrr.org.au

This article was kindly provided by Jacki Dimond, who attended the 2017 Australian Regional Development Conference.

Jacki Dimond is FRRR’s Program Manager for Queensland and the Northern Territory. FRRR was founded in 2000 and its mission is to champion the economic and social strength of Australia’s regional, rural and remote communities. It focuses on small rural communities, usually fewer than 10,000 people and works in partnership with philanthropic, government and private sectors to bring philanthropy to the bush. Learn more at www.frrr.org.au.

For your chance to speak at the 2018 Australian Regional Development and make a difference to your local community, click here.

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