Nambucca Heads Youth Centre | Photo by Alice Payne
Among the greatest needs today is to foster a stronger spirit of unity and adventure in society: indeed, unity and a sense of common purpose are often achieved by meeting the challenge of adventure.
In strengthening a spirit of unity – in the family, the nation and beyond – young people have an essential part to play, and their enthusiasm needs to be used to the full.
To help them appreciate their responsibilities to society, both in work and in leisure, and to guide their enthusiasm towards improving the quality of life, not only for themselves but also for others and for future generations, will serve well the whole community and the nation.”
Sir Vincent Fairfax, Speech at the 94th Annual Meeting of The Boys’ Brigade, December 1976
The June 2021 launch of VFFF’s new five year strategy Backing Young People was the culmination of a ten month strategic review process. The VFFF team set out with a clear mandate from VFFF Directors to increase the focus of our grant making, to be innovative and to keep playing a leadership role in Australian philanthropy. The team was encouraged to develop a strategy that could be ‘uniquely VFFF’ and relevant to the interests of all generations of the Fairfax family.
Over the ten months, the strategic review was informed by consultation, research and listening to experts. Discussions with diverse stakeholders were invaluable, including grantees, other funders and industry experts. We wanted perspectives from those outside of our usual networks, and were constantly asking ‘Who else should we be talking to?’.
Engaging all generations of the Fairfax family in this process was critical. Sir Vincent and Lady Nancy’s legacy was top of mind throughout this review and the team sought input from across three generations of family members.
Conducting research on the needs and priorities of young people was a precursor to engaging external researchers to do a deep dive into potential focus areas for VFFF to consider. Outsourcing research to the experts was a good idea – it provided us with new insights that challenged and accelerated our thinking. Seeking personal narratives from young people provided stories and insights that resonated.
Focusing on young people is well-aligned to the history, values and grant making experience of VFFF, building upon the 60% of funding distributed to youth-focused initiatives since 2018. Granting in the youth space provides real and compelling opportunities to effect change and back young people to shape better futures.
It is very exciting to have this focus going forward – and what better place to put that energy than into young people. We have straddled the balance of protecting the founders philosophy (Christianity and Rural and Regional) whilst ensuring the work of the Foundation is relevant to today (Youth and the Environment). This will give us all plenty to think about and as a Board we can strengthen and support the team as we move into the next life stage of this family foundation.”
Andrew Fairfax, VFFF Director