A few years ago, we had an idea. We looked at our customer list, and saw that there was a stack of community organisations doing great things for the people and the planet. We wanted to provide more support to these organisations, so we introduced our Community Customer Grants program, funded by the Bank Australia Impact Fund.
Each year, we invest 4% of our after-tax profits into the Impact Fund, and we use that money to support a range of community organisations and programs that have a positive impact on areas that are priorities for our customers, like the environment and climate change, human rights, and financial and social inclusion.
For us, being able to listen, respond and actively support our customers’ in the work they’re doing is one of the fundamental benefits of us being a customer owned bank. And we feel like it works pretty well for our customers, too.
Along with a small group of Bank Australia staff, we invite one Bank Australia customer to sit on our Community Grants panel. This year, we were joined by long-time Bank Australia customer, Beth Mellick. “I think it’s a great initiative, for the bank to extend a position on the panel to a customer,” says Beth on her involvement. “It gives us all an idea of what they’re investing in, and what they’re supporting in the community. That’s what cements them as a customer owned bank – a bank for the people.”
Beth and her family became Bank Australia customers nine years ago, when they were building a house in Muckleford forest, just outside Castlemaine. “We’re massive Bank Australia advocates,” says Beth. “We joined so our funds were doing good twice – being invested wisely and not being used to fund unsustainable practices like coal mining, and then given away to people who are wanting to protect the environment.”
Beth works for the Wettenhall Environment Trust, awarding small grants to community and environment groups carrying out conservation projects all around Australia. When she received the email from us about applying to sit on the Impact Fund panel, she applied immediately.
Community Customer Grant panellists are sent a list of around 35 shortlisted applications from community groups across a range of different sectors, who must also be Bank Australia customers. Funding categories include conservation, financial inclusion, reconciliation, and human rights. “I spent a couple of days reading through the applications and then scoring them against a set of criteria. I did a little bit of research for each application to make sure I was really familiar with everyone and wasn’t scoring blind.”
After the scores are tallied, the Evaluation Committee – which is made up of a diverse number of staff from a range of areas and seniority levels across Bank Australia – collate and rank them, and the group get together for a half-day meeting. This year, they met via teleconference. The highest-ranking applicants were discussed, and the grants awarded.
“I was probably most passionate about the applicants in the Environment section,” Beth explains. “That was the category I could lend my expertise to. But there were some really good mental health grants that went to organisations who were helping disengaged and vulnerable youth in the community during lockdown; I think that’s incredibly important.”
Read more about this year’s Bank Australia Community Customer Grants recipients.