Case File: Illawarra Coal's local giving

Turnstone Projects was commissioned by Illawarra Coal for its Grantlines service to assist in planning for a future five year term for its community grant making program, the Community Partnerships Program (CPP).

Illawarra Coal sought the assistance of Turnstone Projects to help both the company and its community advisory panel review, discuss and decide on an agreed way forward to take its community giving program successfully into its next decade.

Illawarra Coal established its Community Partnerships Program 10 years ago. The company provides financial and other support to the volunteer Board made up of local residents who see their role “to care for the community in which we live”. The Board does this by giving to locally initiated projects or to meet local demand from within the communities in and around Illawarra Coal’s operations in the Wollondilly and Macarthur region. In this way, the CPP, is a ‘place-based’ giving program. The company’s gift to the CPP is a significant contribution to local community projects each year.

Turnstone Projects identified, designed and developed a series of four workshops to refine the processes and practices for a potential CPP beyond 2014. To address the range of issues and opportunities that emerged during research, key elements for discussion were divided into themes. The themes – drawn from the research findings, member contributions and good practice – were: Impact; Governance; Funding; Applications (and approvals and acquittals); and Collaboration.

For each theme, broad questions were developed as a basis for members to consider elements, processes and practices for a future CPP during the workshops. The workshops progressively addressed each of the themes.

The results from the workshop series have been significant. This has been possible because of the diligence and commitment of current Board members to detail processes, practices and opportunities during the intensive workshops and because of the participatory and guided model of Grantlines.

  • Redefined the giving area of a future program with two distinct zones, each with a determined upper limit as to the size of the grant for each zone;
  • Developed new Project Assessment Criteria and created new Regional Area Projects Criteria;
  • Raised and detailed proposals as to how to address schools funding to enable further development of guidelines;
  • Redefined the Project Assessment Categories for funding into four comprehensive and inclusive groupings;
  • Redefined the application process to accommodate the new Project Assessment Criteria;
  • Restructured the grant making process to three rounds per year; reduced time spent at meetings each year; increased the available time members could undertake site visit / due diligence on projects seeking support; and members agreed to self nominate for a project category of interest to assist the grant making process;
  • Confirmed funding levels for a future five year term; and
  • Redefined and extended options for reporting / acquittal practices.

  • I found Rebecca to be a critical aspect in the reshaping of the CPP Terms of Reference and Application Process. She valued and explored the opinions and points of view of all board members and at the same time was able to find common ground through her use of highly developed and perceptive discernment skills. Rebecca arranged conflicting arguments and points of view into an organised process to the satisfaction of all board members. This was largely carried out between workshops so that each meeting we began with a positive outlook and feeling of accomplishment. I particularly admired the way in which, when required, she firmly yet respectfully challenged us to support our positions with examples or reasons. I am confident in recommending Rebecca to anyone looking for a facilitator with excellent mediation skills and the ability to accomplish the task.
    Michelle RolfeCommunity Partnerships Program board member since 2003 and primary school principal, Rosemeadow, NSW