The Channel puts gender and sexuality on the collective giving agenda

Generosity Magazine, Nicole Richards, 27 April 2016

Georgia Mathews, founder of new collective giving group The Channel, wants to change the way Australians experience gender and sexuality for the better. Want to join the quest? 50 bucks will get you started.

What’s the story behind The Channel? What prompted you to start it and why did you choose gender and sexuality as focus areas?

GM: The idea for The Channel was conceived during my time working as a philanthrocrat of sorts.

I love philanthropy because it doesn’t have to be curtailed by anyone’s agenda.

Money can be socially invested without the consideration of a looming election or the pull of maximising financial return to shareholders. Considering the integral role money plays in our society, that freedom is pretty powerful.

With this sort of freedom, you would hope to see philanthropic funds being used progressively and philanthropists taking, at times unpopular, risks.

I chose gender and sexuality as the focus area for The Channel because I don’t think philanthropy is being progressive enough, or funding enough in this space considering the significant need and potential that it presents. I have witnessed trustees of some of the large trusts and foundations in Australia reveal their ignorance to LGBTQIA+ issues and their reluctance to fund them. This position is based on personal preference and experience rather than optimising the social return on your investment. I think this pattern perpetuates inequality.

There’s no measurement of how much philanthropic funding reaches LGBTQIA+ communities in Australia, but in the USA, for every $100 awarded by foundations only 28 cents goes to LGBTQIA+ issues. That’s less than any other disadvantaged group.

Also, my 25-year-old peers were not as involved as they could be in giving and I wanted to show them how rewarding philanthropy can be.

Why did you opt for a giving circle model?

Giving circles are a great model because members don’t need to contribute too much financially, but collectively they have a say in where a significant grant is donated.

They also engage people in giving who might otherwise feel that they can’t achieve an impact with their modest means. The Channel’s annual membership is $200, paid in $50 instalments, so it’s very affordable.

Finally, giving circles are a great way to have fun! People coming together around a common cause is incredibly satisfying. Our members will become well informed about issues relating to our focus area while enjoying food, drink, live music and art with a diverse range of people at our events.

There are only a few giving circles operating in Australia and none of the ones that have a similar model to The Channel are geared towards young people.

How will it work?

It’s all about education and involvement. We will have a grant committee that contributes more time to the process than the overall membership. The committee will research and identify two funding themes that look like they’ll be front and centre for the LGBTQIA+ community in the coming year.

The committee will then find several organisations doing great work within these areas. The rest of the members will also have the opportunity to put forward organisations that they think are particularly impactful in the LGBTQIA+ space in general.

We’ll host three events for members throughout the year. One for each identified funding theme, and one for the member-elected organisations. At these events, the work of the relevant organisations will be showcased and discussed in various capacities. The venues, formats and content will always vary, but the main aim is for them to be fun and informative. The brokering of in-kind support for the organisations will also be a feature.

After the themed events, the members will vote on which organisation the pooled funds go to. We’ll stay involved with the grantees once they have received the funds to track their impact without imposing a laborious reporting process.

What kind of groups/issues will The Channel support?

We will certainly apply a universally accepted criteria to the organisations that are ultimately showcased, assessing them for mission alignment and effectiveness.

Other than that, there is potential for any nonprofit or social enterprise working to change the way Australians experience gender and sexuality for the better to be funded. The chosen themes will also dictate the sorts of organsations we fund year to year.

When are you launching?

We’re holding our launch event on 7 May at Donkey Wheel House, 673 Bourke Street, Melbourne, 6-9pm. Everyone is welcome. Places are limited so register now!

How can people get involved?

You can get involved by coming along to the launch, having a drink and learning more.

Membership will be open from the 7 May on our website. You can sign up online any time and we will be in touch to get you along to the next event. Anyone can become a member.

It’s early days, but what do you hope The Channel will go on to achieve in the short and long term?  

We hope to get 100 members in the first 12 months, which will mean we can give a $20,000 grant.

In the longer term, we aim to build The Channel into a social movement. We want to build a culture of giving among the younger generation, raise awareness of LGBTQIA+ issues within the philanthropic sector and beyond, and significantly change the way Australians experience gender and sexuality for the better with our grants.