Investing in Rural Community Futures gives NFPs the chance to help their community thrive

Bendigo, 11 December 2019: Community organisations in three New South Wales communities will receive long-term support through the Investing in Rural Community Futures (IRCF) program, which focuses on strengthening local not-for-profits, and in turn, rural communities.

Leeton is one of the IRCF locations

Junee, Leeton and Nambucca Valley will each receive support for the next four years as part of the IRCF program, a joint initiative of the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) and the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation.

The three communities were chosen for their concentration of great local organisations, evident insight into what they need to address local issues and seize opportunities, and commitment to creating sustainable, vibrant futures.

IRCF takes a place-based approach and encourages the not-for-profit sector to work collaboratively within the community for impact. In addition to being able to access a range of support to increase the capacity of local not-for-profits, community groups in Junee, Leeton and Nambucca Valley will each have access to up to $950,000 in grants over the next four years. This funding will support whatever the community groups collectively identify they need most to build their organisational capacity, capability, and resilience.

IRCF Program Manager, Alli Mudford said that the initiative aligns with FRRR’s belief that local leaders are best placed to know what is going to make the biggest difference in their community.

"IRCF is a different way of thinking, a different way of granting and, at its core, it is very much about building capacity and capability so communities can determine and shape their future. The results in each location will be formally evaluated, and lessons shared with philanthropic, government and not-for-profit audiences to support leading practice and thought leadership.

"Each community we're working with is very different: from their challenges, unique personalities and the depth and breadth of not-for-profits that work within its boundaries. But at the end of the day, it’s about communities making a shift from surviving to thriving and reimagining their future.”

In Junee, the lead organisation, Junee Business and Trades is working with 25 community groups to develop a range of initiatives that could help the community become more sustainable.

"It was clear that Junee had engaged in whole-of-community discussions; they have embraced the pace and have collaborated quickly,” explains Mudford. “Junee is action-oriented and has big-ticket project ideas.”

The team in Nambucca Valley, led by Lifetime Connect, has started the conversation with a focus on inclusivity and creating working relationships across the Valley.

“The not-for-profit groups in the Nambucca Valley have momentum and want to see a change. IRCF is a catalyst for this to happen,” says Mudford. “The capacity needs are diverse. It is a different dynamic to rural inland communities. Still, with strong community leaders and builders and with support via IRCF, Lifetime Connect has the potential to create real impact and strengthen their local not-for-profit sector.

“The recent bushfires have brought to light the vital role that not-for-profit community groups can play in pulling everyone together. The local rural fire brigade is a key service provider in the area, alongside surf lifesavers, aged care and youth services.”

The Leeton project is the result of the collaborative efforts of 161 local not-for-profit groups maximising what’s possible in an already well-organised community.

"Leeton Connect is poised to effect change and builds off a very organised and well-equipped base,” says Ms Mudford. “While the community is no doubt very active and supportive, Leeton Connect is really about bringing all of the not-for-profit groups together to make the best use of community resources, skills, knowledge and equipment.

"IRCF is a new approach, a different way of doing things and one that other communities I think will watch with great interest."

Over the coming six months, FRRR will work closely with the three communities to support them to develop capacity plans unique to their situation, to allocate resources, and to learn and share what makes communities and not-for-profits thrive and how locally-led solutions are applied.

For more information about the IRCF program, visit the FRRR website - frrr.org.au/grants/IRCF

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