Giving Circles and funding in the LGBTQIA+ sector - The Channel

AIGM sat down with our Founder, asked a couple of Qs and got a couple of As!

Australian Institute of Grants Management interview 19 April 2016 by Chris Riches. See the original article here.

A new giving circle funding in the LGBTIQA+ sector is set to be launched in Melbourne next month.

The Channel is the brainchild of Georgia Mathews, who has worked at the Australian Women Donors Network (AWDN) and is currently part of the Social Ventures Australia Venture Philanthropy team.

Georgia chatted with the AIGM about The Channel and its goals.

AIGM: What has been the motivation behind the creation of The Channel?

Georgia Mathews:

I've been working in philanthropy for around two and a half years now. During that time I have been lucky to be exposed to lots of the fantastic people in the sector. I have heard them all delight in their discovery of philanthropy and I am happy to say that I have grown to share their passion for it.

At the same time, I turn around and there are my 25-year-old peers asking me what the word philanthropy means. It's a really stark contrast, and I lament the lack of philanthropic culture among younger generations in Australia.

Initially I just wanted to join an existing giving circle because, amongst other things, it's a way to be involved in directing amounts of funding that can make a real difference even if you're not a person of great means.

Through AWDN I have had some contact with giving circles such as Melbourne Women's Fund and 100 Women. The founders of those groups have all been very generous with their time and advice throughout this process, but joining one of them wasn't appealing to me because the membership cost was too significant and they aren't really youth-oriented.

I realised that there are probably other people out there wanting to join a giving circle but are looking around and not finding something that suits them either. So starting one was the logical progression.

A point of difference with The Channel is that it is $200 per annum, paid in four quarterly instalments, so it's affordable for more people.

The other motivation is of course the focus area. Apart from it being an area that I am particularly passionate about, it's also an area that mainstream philanthropy under-serves.

I want to, in a small way, try to rectify that.

AIGM: Why a giving circle? Is there an element of awareness-raising as well as funding and grantmaking?

Georgia Mathews:

Definitely. I am still shocked there's so few Giving Circles operating in Australia at the moment. They are on an upswing but there really aren't that many, and as I mentioned there's definitely a gap when it comes to ones targeted at young people.

I want The Channel to be something that my friends and peers can really engage in. There's going to be a big emphasis on events and an incorporation of the arts, music, food… all the things that we do for fun, as well as the educational aspects - grantmaking and awareness-raising.

I'm looking forward to partnering with social enterprises and not for profits to make events happen, which will add layers to our social impact and help to generate that altruistic culture that's currently lacking a bit.

When we recruit members, they'll be encouraged to do research in the focus area - sourcing potential grantees and finding people doing really great work. Members will then submit their suggestions for consideration by a grant committee.

The committee will shortlist those submissions down to three using some universally approved criteria we're developing. Then those three finalists will be pitched by the member that submitted them.

The pitches will happen at a pitch night towards the end of the year and all the members then vote. The money goes to the organisation with the most votes.

On the pitch night we'll be putting out a call for in-kind support as well, whatever the organisations need, design work, legal aid etc. This model is all about engaging at various levels. Anyone can join and members can decide what level of involvement is right for them.

AIGM: Do you feel there is an appetite among philanthropists and funders to give to groups in the LGBTIQA+ "space"? Are there challenges to giving in this space?

Georgia Mathews:

There is definitely a desire, especially with the younger generation of philanthropists.

I just don't think it receives the same legitimacy that is afforded to other areas of giving. And I think that this is partly because of a lack of understanding or exposure.

The Gay and Lesbian Foundation of Australia (GALFA) explains another contributing factor quite well:

"(Philanthropic organisations) have sometimes been too cautious to fund culturally specific gay and lesbian programs for fear that well-organised and well-resourced ideological opponents to gay and lesbian issues might unfairly characterise them as 'promoting a lifestyle'."

Ultimately, in structured giving, the board of trustees are the ones that sign off on funding decisions and often there's no one on it to champion this issue.

I know there are some of the larger foundations and high net worth individuals in Australia who are funding LGBTQIA+ organisations, but I haven't come across any mainstream philanthropic bodies that name it as a primary focus area.

The fact is that this is a demographic of disadvantaged people and philanthropy has a responsibility to play a part in rectifying that just as it does in other areas.

And I certainly don't think the issue is that there is no-one to give to either - there's an abundance of quality organisations that need funding.

AIGM: Linked to this issue, is there data on philanthropy in the gender space to support the need to give?

Georgia Mathews:

I wish there was! We all bemoan the lack of data on giving in Australia, and this is no exception. Making a compelling argument with only anecdotal evidence is a challenge.

My former employer AWDN works on two premises - one is that not enough funding goes to women and girls. The other is that if you don't actively take into account the specific needs and circumstances of women and girls they will often be unintentionally excluded and programs will therefore be less impactful.

But there were times people came back to us saying: "Where are the statistics on how much goes to women and girls?", or wanting really strong quantitative proof that programs are less impactful if you don't apply that 'gender lens'.

At the same time, they weren't disaggregating their own data by gender or sharing that information, so it was kind of a chicken-and-egg scenario.

If we're this under-developed when it comes to measurement of outcomes for those who simply identify as male or female, I think we have a long way to go before we are seeing strong data on specific LGBTQIA+ funding, or how much general funding reaches people from that group.

Of the data we do have, there is some emerging from the US:

  • For every $100 awarded by US foundations only 28 cents goes to LGBTQ issues.

  • 62 of the largest 100 foundations in the United States provided no funding that specifically focused on LGBTQ communities.

  • For the 38 that did provide funding, only five of them awarded 1% or more of their grantmaking to LGBTQ issues (2014)

I know the AIGM is initiating CLASSIE (the social change taxonomy system being developed by Our Community) and I have done some work on that system to ensure that data on diverse gender and sexuality will be captured, so that's really exciting and a step in the right direction.

The crux of it is that if you treat unequal people equally, they will still be unequal.

The Channel's launch is scheduled for Saturday, May 7 2016 from 6pm at Donkey Wheel House - 673 Bourke Street Melbourne.

Memberships to The Channel will also be launched on May 7. If you're interested in joining, please contact The Channel at

For more information on The Channel and its launch, visit: the website. Follow The Channel on Twitter and connect with Georgia Mathews on LinkedIn.