Building collective power: reflections on our annual muster

It’s been several weeks since Mannifera’s muster in May 2024, our annual gathering as a funding collective, and I continue to feel immensely grateful for all the time, energy, and thought that Mannifera’s partners and members contributed to this year's event. 

This year’s muster was a significant milestone. For the first time, we had the opportunity to convene our civil society partners and members in person for several days of meaningful discussion and connection building activities. Expanding the Mannifera muster to bring together civil society leaders and funders in person has been a personal ambition for some time, and seeing it come to fruition was incredibly gratifying.

Held at WildBark, on the edge of the Mulligan Flat Woodland Sanctuary and on beautiful Ngunnawal Land in Canberra, this event was a testament to Mannifera’s commitment to fostering a different kind of philanthropy.

The event kicked off with a full-day civil society workshop, expertly coordinated by Mannifera partners, the Australian Democracy Network and Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, and attended by our civil society partners and a broader network of civil society leaders. The day focused on mapping the state of Australian democracy, understanding each other's approaches to change, identifying emergent threats, and prioritizing strategic opportunities for collaboration. This foundational day set a collaborative tone for the rest of the event.

The following day brought Mannifera’s members and our civil society partners together, with an emphasis on relationship-building, fostering shared learning and identifying next steps in our collective effort. Discussions centered around understanding the key threats to Australia’s democracy and the different approaches civil society organisations are using to address these challenges. We also flexed our creative muscles and developed collective visions for a strong democracy and conceptualised ways for civil society and philanthropy to collaborate more effectively moving forward.

After bidding farewell to our civil society partners, the third day of our muster focused on Mannifera members examining our philanthropic practice and approach. We drew on the expertise and wisdom of our members to learn about good practices they have observed or implemented over the last year, while also examining trends and emerging practices in the wider philanthropic community. Through these discussions, we began to prioritize Mannifera’s ambitions for the year ahead, aligning with our 2023-26 strategic plan.

On our final day, Mannifera members heard from our First Nations advisors about the advancements made in our First Nations-led practice over the past year, which saw 20% of our grant-making budget allocated to First Nations-led organisations fostering economic inclusion in their communities.  We also worked together to allocate the remainder of Mannifera’s 2023-24 grantmaking budget and placed great emphasis on providing renewed and multi-year grants, in line with our commitment to supporting the growth and sustainability of our existing partners. We look forward to sharing a full list of Mannifera’s 2023-24 grants in the coming weeks. 

The insights and connections gained from this muster will shape our future directions. And we remain committed to continuing to strengthen the relationships built during the event, and to enhancing opportunities for civil society and philanthropy to connect, share learning and build their collective power.