RACV Community Foundation’s art of giving

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KIDS Foundation managing director Susie O'Neill (centre) and the SeeMore mascot with children who have been helped by the foundation.
KIDS Foundation managing director Susie O'Neill (centre) and the SeeMore mascot with children who have been helped by the foundation.

For 20 years the RACV Community Foundation has supported local organisations and communities across Victoria. Now a $290,000 grant to the children’s accident prevention and recovery charity KIDS Foundation marks a major new milestone for RACV philanthropy.

RACV Community Foundation grants have gone to support or enable specific programs. In 2015-16, for example, the RACV Community Foundation made 42 program grants totalling more than $590,000 and the RACV Community Foundation has supported more than 300 organisations since its inception.

Now, as the new $290,000 grant indicates, the RACV Community Foundation is also helping build increased capacity for organisations that have already proven their effectiveness.

Program funding can be about backing “ideas that are shiny and new”, says Shane Austin, the manager of the RACV Community Foundation. “But there’s only a limited number of things that people can invent that are shiny and new. For the new larger grant, we asked ‘what organisations are doing good work? What organisations, with an injection of grant funding, could do what they do better, and have identified other areas of need they don’t have the capacity to address?’”

A shiny new idea

KIDS Foundation was a shiny new idea in 1993, when its founder, former primary school teacher Susie O’Neill, discovered the lack of adequate facilities for children recovering from major accidents. It has evolved into an internationally recognised safety education program for young children. It provides recovery camps, with physiotherapy and psychological counselling for young people who have suffered life-changing accidents, such as serious burns survivors and their families. KIDS Foundation provides peer-to-peer and family support. An annual personal development camp for survivors of traumatic injuries and burns pairs children aged six to 16, and young adults up to age 23, with mentors for a mix of recreational, social and leadership activities.

“A majority of burns survivors are usually disfigured from the injury – their whole life changes,” says Susie. “There are some injuries you can recover from, but there’s trauma associated with it. The people we work with have life-long injuries, that means they have challenges they have to overcome.”

Tragically, some of those helped by the KIDS Foundation are injured not in accidents but in episodes of family abuse.

“We also see survivors of violence (such as) acts of revenge against the other parent, or where a mother’s parenting skills have been inappropriate. It’s unbelievable to think of it but we tend not to dwell on what’s happened in the past,” says Susie.

‘Our role is to give them hope’

“Our role is to give them hope and some quality of life and opportunities that they may not have had if they had not been associated with us.”

RACV has previously supported KIDS Foundation with a grant enabling it to run a car and road safety education program in 42 Victorian kindergartens. That program reached 2000 children and their parents. Testing, along with parent and teacher interviews, showed that the program resulted in a marked increase in safety knowledge and understanding.

RACV’s new, $290,000 grant will enable the KIDS Foundation to extend its safety intervention program for preschool children, “SeeMore Safety”. “This program is not about not doing things,” says Susie. “It is about the fact that everybody’s different and what’s safe for one may be totally unsafe, given their experiences, for another. We want children to understand that in different environments different implications apply in setting risk.

“With the RACV grant we can now reach about 100,000 Victorian pre-school children which is more than a ten-fold increase. We knew our programs worked, but because of the human resources problem and the intensity of the program, we were never able to reach the number of pre-schools and schools that wanted us. So now we have the capacity to do that.”

From Shane’s perspective the reward of the RACV Community Foundation’s new approach is in scaling up an already successful program. “That additional impact with the support of the RACV Community Foundation gives us a great outcome in terms of the community,” Shane says.

Mission to improve quality of life

The RACV Community Foundation was formed in 1997. Its mission is to improve quality of life in the community, especially for those experiencing disadvantage. Past support, for example, has gone to provide transport for Indigenous students living away from home to appointments and outings to enhance their social inclusion; to a pop-up library for children living in poverty in regional Victoria; to training for people with intellectual disabilities in the use of different modes of public transport; and to field trips and workshops for young artists living with a disability.

Another example of capacity building, similar to the KIDS Foundation grant, was to a regional hospice to supply its outreach workers with computers so that they could report back while on the road rather than returning to base. As a result, outreach workers could spend more time attending to people.

Shane anticipates that traditional program funding will continue to be supported by the RACV Community Foundation disbursements with an increase in larger, high-impact grants going to expand the reach of existing, proven effective programs such as SeeMore Safety.

Shane says: “It’s a move towards a more long-term and sustainable model. Traditionally it’s a case of here’s a new program, funders stick their badge on the program and feel good about themselves for a year until the funding dries up and the program may or may not continue.

‘We can see what is being done’

“If the RACV Foundation supports a program we can see what is being done. If we support capacity building it is not so easy for it to be visible … it’s harder to badge it, but in fact, it can be a more effective use of resources.

“What I really do like about the RACV Community Foundation is that we do not forget about rural and regional Victoria. Around 50 per cent of our funding has been to regional Victoria.”

As a grant-making trust the RACV Community Foundation is overseen by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. The Foundation is required to promote itself, raise funds from the public and redistribute funds back to the community. It has 1100 donors at present, 800 of whom are RACV members, while 300 RACV staff also donate to the foundation.

“We are a bridge between the donor and the beneficiary,” says Shane. “The difference between you giving a donation and us giving a donation is that it’s our job to do the governance, to look at the community need, to look at the response of the organisations and to give that funding appropriately.

Perpetuity the goal

“The Trust has a goal of going on into perpetuity. We make a distribution every year of at least 4 per cent of our value which now equates to $645,000 annually. It is possible to measure the growth of the Fund by the disbursements it makes. In its first years the maximum grants were for $5000, then $10,000, then $20,000.

“I would like to think we could grow to grant $1 million a year. That would be fantastic.”

Read more about Susie O’Neill in our story Making sure the kids are all right.

SeeMore has inspired thousands of children to be safety aware.
SeeMore has inspired thousands of children to be safety aware.

How you can help

The RACV Community Foundation supports scores of organisations across the whole of Victoria.

  • Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.
  • Make a one-off donation.
  • Your donations are managed by experienced staff with expertise in philanthropy.
  • Register on our web page racv.com.au/foundation to make a monthly donation.

VISIT racv.com.au/foundation for more information.

Contact RACV Community Foundation on 9790 2919 or email foundation@racv.com.au


RACV Community sub funds can be started with donations from $5000.

The sub fund can be named for you or a loved one and goes towards a need you and the Foundation have identified.

There is no need for you to set up your own foundation. A percentage of a sub fund is distributed each year, while the capital and some of the growth is retained to help communities in perpetuity.

Written by Ian Munro
July 17, 2017