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Defending our charities – by Amanda Martin

I have often said that people working in environmental NGOs are the powerhouse behind environmental change. They are the ones who coordinate the on-ground, often back breaking work like tree planting, weed pulling, monitoring hatching turtles or gathering plastic pollution off our beaches. They are also the people who give voice to our voiceless plants and animals, our oceans and rivers and air. And eNGOs help us find a way to voice our individual concerns and find solutions to the myriad issues we face.

As the battle escalates between our voices and those of vested interests, our NGOs are increasingly under attack. While AEGN members quite rightly celebrated the federal government’s decision not to proceed with the proposal to oblige environmental DGRs to allocate 25-50% of their donations to environmental remediation, other things were afoot. The day after this decision the new ACNC Commissioner was announced. A number of AEGN members expressed concern about Gary Johns’ appointment to the role, in light of his outspoken criticism of philanthropy and the non- government sector. Philanthropy Australia made a statement responding to this which the AEGN supports. There is also new draft legislation on the table which targets charitable advocacy and bans foreign philanthropic donations for advocacy (see Esther Abram’s article in this newsletter).

So what can you do to keep our NGO sector strong and effective?

The first thing you can do is to use your giving so it supports organisations through this challenging time. A recent paper called What the Green Groups Said: Insights from the UK Environment Sector put out by our sister organisation in the UK, the Environmental Funders Network, has some excellent tips for funders and very closely matches recommendations from surveys of Australian NGOs undertaken by the AEGN.

So, if you are wondering how you can make sure the NGO sector stays strong and effective in 2018 think about these funding options:

  • To support a more strategic, responsive, innovative and collaborative sector, funders need to provide more core support with more unrestricted grants and full-cost recovery awarded to organisations over longer-term periods.
  • Policy and advocacy work are key to the sector’s effectiveness; they are hard to raise money for and need more grant funding.
  • The sector needs investment in communications expertise – in terms of messaging, behaviour change and connecting with people’s values.

The second thing you can do, beyond your giving, is commit to continuing to use your influence to change public policy for the better. Let your family, friends, colleagues and peers know your opinions. The AEGN will be working with all of our members to give you a chance to voice your concerns and articulate your vision and the solutions you know will bring about environmental sustainability. And why not ask your favorite NGO how else you might help them beyond your giving. You never know where this might lead you!