Since 2016, as part of our impact fund, we’ve been running our annual grant program for community organisations and social enterprises that bank with us. Each grant is worth up to $20,000, so it’s serious business.
And every year, we include regular Bank Australia customers on the evaluation committee. Why? Because as a customer-owned bank, we want the people who use our services to be involved in strategic decisions about where our money goes, and who it goes to.
This year, we received exactly 100 incredible grant applications. The committee’s (very tough) job was to whittle that list down to 35, then evaluate and score the finalists. 16 organisations ended up receiving a share of $295,282, which brings our total community customer grant funding to $1,893,768 since 2016. You can check out 2023’s worthy recipients over here
2023’s customer representatives
We received over 40 strong expressions of interest to join the grants evaluation committee. After completing a blind scoring, we invited Kate Sunners and Kathryn Tafra to join the group, which comprised four bank staff and a Director of the Board. (Fun fact: this was the first year we invited two customers to join, which is a testament to the strength of the applicants!)
Kate lives in Meanjin (Brisbane) with her rescue greyhound and is deeply concerned about climate change and the structural drivers of inequality. She works as a communications officer and evaluation consultant helping governments and not-for-profit groups design better projects.
“I saw the call out for customer involvement in the grants process, and I thought that was something that I could add some value to,” Kate says. “I’ve worked across pretty much all of the different non-profit sectors and have read hundreds of grant applications, so I have a fairly good understanding of what a well-planned project looks like.”
Kathryn is a queer, single mum living with bipolar disorder in Naarm (Melbourne) who is passionate about climate action, equity and increasing opportunities for all people experiencing disadvantage. Kathryn runs her own editing business, Motif, and she previously spent a good chunk of her working life in the tertiary sector where she experienced many sides of the grant administration process, including implementation, reporting and acquittals.
“Grants are fundamental for so many organisations,” she says. “Awarded grants have a huge impact on the work that people are able to do, and that work often goes on to produce incredible outcomes. So there’s a big responsibility to get it right.”
What was the Bank Australia grant evaluation process like?
“It was very organised,” Kathryn says. “It ran really smoothly. And the projects were all interesting, and so different from each other! So that was a real challenge, to rank them and find the ones I really cared about, then go into a room of people I’d never seen before and put my case forward.”
Kate agrees. “There was a really lively and respectful advocacy of ideas and solutions,” she says. “Lots of minds changing, which you don’t always see in the grants process. It was definitely a conversation, rather than just, ‘Here’s my opinion, I’m sticking to it.’”
Are certain fields more likely to get funding?
“Not really,” Kate says. “There’s a huge range of areas in which people can apply for funds. It meant that the applications were quite diverse. And that’s really fun to read. You know, we see a lot of negative news, but to sit down and read about all these amazing non-profits, it’s quite inspiring.”
“I was blown away by the strength of the applications,” Kathryn says. “There are so many people out there trying all kinds of cool stuff and thinking far and wide outside the box about ways they can make the world a better place. It’s really uplifting.”
Would you encourage Bank Australia customers to apply for the committee next year?
“Absolutely,” Kathryn says. “The whole process kind of restores your faith in humanity. Just being like, ‘Oh, I’m not alone in caring about this stuff.’ It’s also important in terms of engagement and transparency. You know, I’m just a customer of Bank Australia, but I had a place in that boardroom too.”
“It’s about giving customers a stake in sustainable and positive social outcomes,” Kate adds. “Getting to have a say in the direction the bank goes in. I think that’s a really critical thing for an institution, especially one that’s holding and investing your money. You want it to go and do good.”
Bank Australia’s next community grant round will open in March 2024. If you’d like to join the evaluation committee as a Bank Australia customer representative, keep an eye on our social media and newsletters. We’ll be putting the call out in early 2024.