September is one of our favourite months at the Mirboo North & District Community Foundation. It is the month when our annual Community Grants program opens for applications and we start talking to many local community groups about projects they are planning.
“It is always exciting to hear how these groups are planning to bring benefit to their communities,” explained Executive Officer, Ruth Rogan , “their enthusiasm is inspirational. Without these volunteers working to improve what they do or provide benefits to our community, we would not have impact through our grants.”
Over the last 11 years more than $1.5 million has been granted, supporting projects big and small, bringing cultural and environmental benefits, improving mental health and bringing people together.
One of the grant recipient’s from 2020 is an example of grant funding for capacity building within a local not for profit organisation:
Mirboo North’s U3A
Formed in 2017, the organisation had grown and firmly established itself as a key organisation for some of our older adults. The committee recognised, however, that it was time for a strategic planning process to ensure its on-going viability. U3A applied to the Community Foundation and SG Shire Council for a grant to fund a professional facilitator.
“The Strategic Plan proved to be the key to our future,” noted Val Johnson, President of U3A. “Since completion of the Strategic Plan we have grown our membership by 33%, recruited a new Secretary, new tutors, and expanded our program to include live shows, concerts and networking events. The organisation has new energy.”
We thank them for telling their story in their own words below. It is great to hear how they have gone about tackling challenges which many community organisations experience.
Do you have a community project that needs grant support? Apply now or call 0418 301 092.
SECURING OUR FUTURE
Established in 2017, U3A Mirboo North and District had grown “like Topsy”. When I took over as President in 2019, the organisation was just entering its consolidation phase, following 3 turbulent years, during which great energy had been expended in establishing the organisation and a course offering; as well as basic systems and processes.
As an ordinary committee member, prior to taking on the Presidency, I had recognised a need for better priority setting, a more even distribution of work and a new direction to lead us into the future. Added to this, the unexpected and severe impact of COVID 19 made a plan even more urgent.
Some committee members, myself included, were wondering if the task of running an organisation that needed to offer multiple events each week was too great for a voluntary committee such as ours to achieve, especially in a small town like Mirboo North.
How wrong we were!
I felt an urgent need to establish a Strategic Plan, to give the committee and members a sense of direction and to help us establish priorities. We were trying to do everything at once and thus were not doing anything as well as we would have liked. Committee members were constantly feeling overstretched and confused as to which task to approach first.
For me, the Strategic Planning process was vital to our ongoing viability. We needed to thoroughly review why we existed, what our members wanted from us and the best way to achieve this. We also recognised that we couldn’t do this alone; we need the help of an external consultant.
We applied for funding to both Mirboo North Community Foundation and South Gippsland Shire Council. We were lucky enough to secure a grant from each, which fully funded the project.
The Strategic Plan proved to be the key to our future and, for me personally, helped me feel that the task was achievable and that U3A MND had a great future ahead of it.
What did we achieve through the Strategic Planning process?
For the Committee, we became much clearer as to our role and responsibilities, the skills we needed and we documented these. We also became clearer as to what programs we should offer and which were either too complex for an organisation of our size, or out of scope.
Through the process, our members felt consulted, listened to and involved in the future of U3A MND, the program offering and its priorities. It was agreed to offer a broader range of once-off opportunities that would appeal to a more diverse membership
For me, personally, I have become much clearer as to the priorities for the organisation and for my Presidency; I have gained a new sense of optimism for the future of U3A MND and I feel well supported by a high functioning, skilled and enthusiastic committee with a clear sense of direction.
Since completion of the Strategic Plan we have grown our membership by 33%, recruited a new Secretary, and new tutors, decided not to continue some courses and expanded our program to include live shows, concerts and networking events. The organisation has new energy.
I would like to sincerely thank; Mirboo North Community Foundation, South Gippsland Shire, Jeanette White, who led us through the process, our members, who completed surveys and contributed to consultation sessions and, most of all, the past and current committees, for having confidence in the process and seeing it through to a great outcome. This process has been lifechanging for U3A MND.
Val Johnson, President U3A Mirboo North & District.