Canberra is a unique city. It’s full of smart people with big ideas but small enough to function like a country town, where people reach out willingly to help their neighbours. That description also neatly fits a huge innovation in local philanthropy, Hands Across Canberra.
HAC is our independent community foundation, supporting more than 250 local organisations who work with vulnerable people across Canberra. Since 2011, HAC has distributed $2.5 million, supporting 100 community projects and 300 community organisations. The outcomes are as diverse as new kitchens for Canberra Community Cares at Charnwood and domestic violence prevention programs run by Everyman Australia.
Region Media is pleased and proud to announce our partnership with HAC. Our own deep local roots and commitment to Canberra make this a perfect fit between two organisations dedicated to knitting our community together.
Canberra's strength as a community is our willingness to help each other, according to Hands Across Canberra. The peak organisation coordinates fundraising, support and awareness that lets hundreds of Canberra charities get on with their jobs. Now, Region Media is announcing a community partnership to build our strength together.
Posted by The RiotACT on Monday, September 9, 2019
HAC has its roots in discussions held with assistance from the Snow Foundation in 2010. Government, business and individuals were asked what philanthropy could look like in the ACT.
“We discovered that most people associated philanthropy with giving money to charity,” explains HAC chair and former Canberra Citizen of the Year Di Kargas Bray.
“But true philanthropy is so much bigger than donating money. Time, talent and treasure build a sense of belonging in a community.”
Multiple Canberra charities were asked how an overarching organisation could best help them.
“The results were surprising,” CEO Peter Gordon says. “Money was never at the top of the pile. They wanted to be more visible. They needed volunteers and board members. They wanted to improve and be skilled up as organisations.”
International models of reference included Canadian cities like Winnipeg. The Melbourne Lord Mayor’s Fund was also a close match, albeit with a 100-year headstart. HAC was born, with a mission to create a completely local, cost-effective way to contribute to and support local charities in their work.
“We make giving easy,” Di says. “If you are a member of HAC then we help you look after the human side of need. People can donate directly through our portal to any one of more than 250 charities, or set up regular workplace giving.
“It means that the organisations who get that money are not sitting around doing admin and sending receipts, but focusing on the work they were set up to do.”
Organisations need only to prove that they work in or near Canberra with vulnerable people. Once registered with HAC, charities then receive information about events and grants rounds, and how to participate.
“We ask them, if you got a grant what would you do? What would be the impact and how do we know that people’s lives would be touched for the better?”, Di says.
HAC’s last grant round dispensed $400,000, funds that were boosted with a further $200,000 from partners and an additional $400,000 sourced by the charities themselves, contributing to a total $1 million spend.
“We strongly encourage collaboration,” Peter Gordon says. “When a grant round is coming up, we get people together and get them talking about how they can help each other. It creates an engaged, ongoing process that’s often very fruitful because people often do much more together than they can on their own.”
HAC aspires towards several grant rounds each year, focusing on how well-directed support can remediate major issues like homelessness, disability and mental health.
A key ingredient in the funding mix is the Chief Minister’s Charitable Fund, established in 2018 and managed by HAC. Di says that HAC had conversations with a number of chief ministers about establishing a major legacy of the office.
“Andrew Barr was brave enough to see how powerful this could be,” Di says, explaining that HAC gives organisations far more latitude with funding than a government grant because there’s so much less red tape.
“The funds we give out can go to any organisation that meets needs in Canberra, so that allows you to do bigger and bolder things than you’d ever manage within government constraints.”
But more than anything, HAC wants to get all Canberrans on board, helping us to help ourselves wherever there is need. “It’s about collaboration, raising awareness, getting everyone work together and to give not just money but their time and talents,” Di says.