Six insights surfaced through our organisational evaluation

Mannifera was created to fill a gap in Australian philanthropy by bringing funders across the country together to support advocates strengthening our democracy and building an economy that works for everyone. It also created space for funders and advocates to learn, collaborate and build their collective power.

Since 2019 Mannifera has grown to 24 members who have provided over $3.5 million in grants to 45 organisations, many of whom have achieved systems change reforms. We’ve also held over 70 learning and connection building events that have helped build a more connected and informed civil society and funder movement.

In early 2023, we took stock of what we've achieved and learned by carrying out a comprehensive evaluation of our first three years of collective practice. The insights derived from this evaluation process not only shaped our new strategic plan, but they also provide valuable lessons for other funders seeking to enhance their approaches to better meet the needs of civil society and address the challenges of our time.

We welcome you to explore the insights surfaced in our new learning and strategy report, as well as get a sneak peak into a few of our key take-aways below.

1. When partnership and power-sharing approaches were used, better outcomes were achieved

Since our inception there has been an ambition to ensure that the expertise of our civil society and First Nations partners is informing and leading our work. Where we have progressed this work the furthest is in our First Nations-led practice. Since 2021 a team of First Nations advisors have overseen the distribution of at least 20% of our grantmaking budget to First Nations-led initiatives.

Not only were more informed and strategic funding decisions made as a result of this participatory practice, we also discovered through our evaluation process, that when this approach was used it helped to create stronger partnerships and trust with our First Nations grant partners.

2. Collective giving alleviates the burden on grant partners to fundraise

As surfaced through our evaluation, collective giving opens a door for grant partners to a full network of funders, and their philanthropic peers, in the same time it takes to secure a single grant.

Through having the backing of a broader philanthropic network, our grant partners were able to increase their revenue, gain a deeper understanding of how philanthropy operates, and ultimately spend more time bringing about democratic and economic systems-change.

3. More streamlined processes free partners up to pursue their core missions

Beyond alleviating the burden of constant fundraising, we also learned that creating more streamlined grants processes, using a highly relational approach, helped to minimise workload for our partners which again, resulted in increased focus on their core missions.

By trusting our partners to tell us where funding is most needed and adapting our grant processes to meet their needs, we have also built genuine partnerships and relationships.

4. Funding systems-change is a cost-effective grantmaking approach

We’ve been humbled by what our civil society advocacy and First Nations partners have achieved with the resources we’ve been able to provide. From successfully defeating reforms seeking to silence charitable sector advocacy, to preventing laws giving the green light to discriminate on religious grounds, to abolishing an exploitative work program in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The efficiency with which our grant partners have achieved these reforms is commendable. By focusing on changing systems that drive injustice and inequity rather than treating their symptoms, the results achieved have positively impacted millions of lives.

Funding advocacy may not always result in immediate impact, and it often takes years of sustained efforts to generate a tangible result, but when those victories do happen they create widespread and lasting change.

5. Funders must go beyond grantmaking to foster collective action and shared learning

Funders not only get a privileged birds eye view of the sectors and ecosystems we exist to resource, but we get deep insights into the work of individual organisations and change-agents. It’s our vantage point and extensive relationships across both philanthropy and civil society that help us see the potential for coordination and collaboration.

As feedback in our evaluation process demonstrated, the learning and connection building events Mannifera convenes have become trusted spaces to discuss policy reform, systems change, and paradigm shifts and to increase cooperation. These opportunities to come together are the building blocks needed to create more informed and connected movements with the ability to drive real change.

6. Long-term funding is crucial

While this should come as no surprise to those working in philanthropy or civil society, when we provided core, longer-term funding to civil society groups it helped to create more sustainable organisations capable of achieving greater outcomes.

Our grantmaking impact was also greatest when we provided longer-term funding to smaller, newer organisations and initiatives, and when we were the first to support overlooked advocacy initiatives. As we grow and scale our work we are committed to providing more multi-year funding.