Grant Maker of the Year

Give Where You Live staff Lesley Lightfoot and Cynthia Scherer have taken out top honour in a high-quality field of entrants across the country to be named Grantmakers of the Year 2015 by the Australian Institute of Grants Management. Designed to unearth people leading the field of grantmaking in Australia, the announcement was made at the Annual Australian Grant Maker Conference in Melbourne on Monday 23 March 2015.

Ms. Lightfoot and Ms. Scherer who share the position of Community Impact & Grants Manager at Give Where You Live are the first joint winners in the history of the award.
The pair shared their vision of changes that could be made to grantmaking in Australia; of innovative ideas that might help overcome some of the sector’s challenges and some of the innovative practices they believe are already occurring.

As part of their application the pair highlighted Give Where You Live’s innovative approach in concert with G21 to try and tackle joblessness in recognised disadvantaged locations in the Geelong region through the regional Collective Impact initiative GROW (Geelong Region Opportunities for Work). The project was recently short listed for The SEARCH competition, and was the only short listed project that included a philanthropic institution as a partner.

GROW utilises an innovative place based investment approach to addressing disadvantage via a systemic ‘jobs bias’ business model which combines both social and economic impact – rather than a traditional welfare model. GROW is built from a belief that addressing place-based disadvantage is everyone’s business, and cannot be left to community, social services or government. When unemployment levels are consistently high, and when major indicators of disadvantage do not shift over time despite increases and diversification of government and philanthropic funding, it is bad for business, and bad for the region as a whole.

The pair highlighted how through this project Give Where You Live is helping to champion the benefits of place based philanthropy and the willingness of philanthropy to provide value beyond grantmaking that will help build community capacity.

“Give Where You Live welcomes this recognition of Lesley and Cynthia for their innovative thinking. They have driven the evolution of Give Where You Live’s strategic grantmaking approach over the last several years to identify the most effective and innovative organizations in our region that are solving the most challenging problems and strengthening the common good,” said Give Where You Live CEO, Bill Mithen.
Give Where You Live has been providing grants over their 60 year history having raised in excess of $60 million dollars to address symptoms of disadvantage as well as the fundamental causes within the Geelong community. Give Where You Live provides funding through grants and strategic initiatives across three key program areas: Health and Wellbeing, Live and Learn, Survive and Thrive.

“This recognition is also a reflection of the Geelong community. Give Where You Live is only able to be an innovator because of the generosity of the community and our partners and donors. We have worked hard to create a balanced giving program that allows us to challenge the social service sector to think differently and to use our leverage as a grantmaker to facilitate grants and strategic initiatives that are best targeting the resources raised to assist those in need.” Lesley Lightfoot said.

The 2015 Give Where You Live Grant Round is now open to eligible community service organisations. Give Where You Live is also seeking members of the Geelong community to become involved as community grant review panel members. Grant review panel members help assess how funds should be distributed by reading 3-5 applications and provide feedback and recommendations. To learn more about the Grant Round or to become involved in the grant review process please visit or phone 5229 4364.