Five questions on philanthropy with The Jaramas Foundation

We recently caught up with Robin Craig and Mick Boyle of The Jaramas Foundation, a private ancillary fund (PAF) administered by APS. Robin and Mick established their PAF in 2008 and give to a range of organisations focused on environmental issues.

We chatted about how their giving has evolved over the years, the benefits they’ve seen from connecting with like-minded environmental philanthropists, and what their philanthropy might look like in the future. 

1. You’ve had your PAF for over a decade now. How has your experience of giving changed over that time? 

Robin: Some of the organisations we supported in the past were wholly focused on water and sanitation because we are an engineering firm involved in the water and infrastructure space. We supported Oxfam and UNHCR wash programs building water pipes and toilets, for example.

We have four children, and when the kids were younger, it was easy to say to them ‘we’re building this toilet block or this training centre in Uganda’. You get an end of year report, some photographs and can create a great conversation with the kids about what we’ve been able to do.

We thought it was important initially to provide funding to get jobs done, but we have changed our mind over the years on whether or not to fund capacity building. And now we’re leaning more towards advocacy.

2. You’ve mentioned how important building trusting relationships has been to your philanthropy. Tell us a little more about that.

Mick: When we were busy and bringing up our family, finding an organisation like APS took the administrative burden off our philanthropy. 

We didn’t want to set up our own charity, so we looked for reputable charities that worked in our areas of interest. We built relationships with them, trusted them, but monitored performance. There aren’t many charities that we’ve supported where we haven’t spoken to the CEO. 

And as we’ve built these trusted relationships, we can have a conversation with them about what they need to make the world a better place. We trust that the charity is more informed than us.

Robin: We can also see the value of having long-term relationships with a charity. If the charity knows that they’re getting $100,000 a year from you over a number of years, for example, then they can plan for that and put it in their budget.

3. Why did you decide to start supporting more environmentally-focused charities?

Robin: We believe stopping damage to the environment is the most pressing issue of our time.  Initially we began funding research into renewable energy and supporting tree planting and sustainable farming practices.  Four years ago, we wanted to support a sway in government policy around the environment and added a donation to the Australian Conservation Foundation. We like their philosophy, and they are good at advocacy. They have been around for many years and are trusted by the community.  They’re not radical and go about what they do in a considered, intellectual way. They also have good government contacts.

4. What has been helpful to you as you moved towards supporting environmental causes?

Robin: One of the best things we did was to join the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN). 

Mick: AEGN was a great way to become informed about what was possible in this space and what other people were doing.

Robin: They were able to link us up with like-minded philanthropists and give us guidance about where to direct our funding. Their Clearing House brings people together to do joint funding. We’ve seen some amazing things happen through that clearinghouse; requests for $50,000 in funding to be fully funded by 4 pm that afternoon. When we’re feeling despondent about environmental policy in Australia, we can talk to others in the AEGN and commiserate!

We also donate to the AEGN Sustaining Fund – it’s a corpus within the organisation to help guarantee its existence, and we liked that it was going to be leveraged with matched funding.

5. Where to from here with your philanthropy? 

Robin: We’ve had our PAF for 11 years, so we’re experienced givers, and yet quite hands-off in terms of our involvement. We’re still running our business, so we’re busy, but over the next few years that might change, and we could look to some Board or governance roles in the future. We have lots of experience in building civil infrastructure, so something in that area might be interesting.

Related links:

APS private ancillary fund services
AEGN
Australian Conservation Foundation

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