SmartyGrants chief urges big shift in federal grants management

Posted on 10 Nov 2023

By Matthew Schulz, journalist, SmartyGrants

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The federal government spends more than $26 billion each year on grants to the community sector.

SmartyGrants has urged the federal government to make a major “technological and cultural shift” in how it manages community sector grants, in a detailed submission just lodged with a federal inquiry.

The submission is in response to the federal government’s call for sector responses to improve the current system, which distributed $26.1 billion in grants in the past year

The government’s 39-page issues paper, A stronger, more diverse and independent community sector, set a five-part agenda:

  • giving the sector the voice and respect it deserves through a meaningful working partnership
  • providing grants that reflect the real cost of delivering quality services
  • providing longer grant agreement terms
  • ensuring grant funding flows to a greater diversity of “community service organisations”
  • partnering with trusted community organisations with strong local links.

SmartyGrants group managing director Denis Moriarty said the social enterprise’s submission reflected the organisation’s insights developed during more than 20 years of working with the community sector, and from its close involvement with the 570 government and philanthropic users of the country’s leading grants management software platform.

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Our Community group managing director Denis Moriarty.

He said the SmartyGrants submission aligned closely with the government’s own objectives to better track government programs, as outlined by charities minister Andrew Leigh.

DSS issues paper
Tap on the cover to download the issues paper.

Mr Moriarty said the submission took advantage of SmartyGrants’ position “at the forefront of Australian grantmaking reform for more than a decade” and the organisation’s “unique bird’s eye view over the grants landscape”.

He said the government could achieve more of its goals if it was prepared to make a “technological and cultural shift to put learning and outcomes at the centre of its policy reform agenda”.

“It is our belief that such a shift will lead to the realisation of the government’s central aims,” he said.

Among the many recommendations in its submission, SmartyGrants proposed:

  • that the government adopt clear definitions of terms such as “output” and “outcomes”
  • investing 10% of grant funds in the evaluation of results
  • that grant acquittals be “treated like gold” for the power of their insights
  • greater funding for grantmaking and evaluation education and training for both bureaucrats and community leaders, and trusting those groups to source their own capability support
  • more effective use of the kinds of technology employed by SmartyGrants, such as the Outcomes Engine, the CLASSIE taxonomy, grants mapping, and better file management to streamline the work of grantmakers
  • focussing more on outcomes-based funding to “organically” generate increased support for grassroots and diverse community organisations
  • dismantling the struggling Grants Hubs model and devolving grantmaking back into the hands of agencies able to achieve the government’s goals
  • that the Department of Social Security ­– which is leading the review – examine the many past investigations and recommendations into the sector.

Mr Moriarty believed Australia’s grantmakers would welcome the forthright recommendations in the submission and urged them to read it in full.

More information

Tap here to download a PDF version of the SmartyGrants submission

Read more about the consultation

Our submission to the Productivity Commission review into philanthropy (PDF)

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