The economics of environmental giving

October saw the passing of one of the great dates on the philanthropic calendar with the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN) holding its annual conference in Melbourne. What makes the event special is the quality of speakers and the genuine opportunities to network, share and debate practices in grantmaking and environmental support. It is always a great day and one that most people involved in environmental grantmaking look forward to immensely. Interestingly it is also one of the few annual philanthropic events that brings together a good mix of private donors, board members and grantmaking staff.

One of the great challenges in environmental grantmaking is that, more often than not, collaboration among funders is required to get projects moving and sustained. The AEGN has done a wonderful job in fostering a membership that is connected and supportive of each other, making collaboration a much more natural process. One of the other special things about the Network is that there is diversity among the small but growing membership in the approach to grantmaking. This diversity allows for learning and collaboration at all levels of funding.

Despite the energy, expertise and collegiality of the environmental grantmaking sector what’s missing is sheer weight of numbers. We need more funders willing to give to the environment and we need them quickly. Many funders, despite having a genuine interest in protecting our environment, tend to feel overwhelmed about where to start in granting to ‘green’ projects. To that end, the AEGN needs to be congratulated once again on their work on Giving Green: An Introduction for Grantmakers. This step by step guide to environmental grantmaking is an important tool in building a strong green philanthropic sector.

While Giving Green is one tool for assisting environmental grantmakers, I noted with interest another tool spruiked a couple of weeks back via Ellen Fanning’s wonderful two part series in the Global Mail, which examines the cost of saving Australia’s endangered animals. The articles get to the heart of the many challenges environmental grantmakers have when choosing how and where to make their investments.   The ability to make economic arguments about why and how to protect our natural environment is increasingly important. This is a shift we are seeing across the funding space of the ‘public good’.

We are no doubt gathering the data, the skills, the collaborative relationships required in green philanthropy to better affect change in our environment and environmental policy in Australia. The time is right for those funders with interest to move into the green giving space and boy don’t we need you.

You can follow the musings of Caitriona Fay on Twitter via @cat_fay

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