GRANTS TO BE GIVEN: Ballarat Connected Communities chair Cameron Montgomery believes many benefits come from supporting local not-for-profit groups.
A collection of dedicated Ballarat citizens is continuing to generously give to the community, resulting in positive outcomes for hundreds of people.
Ballarat Connected Communities is an independent, philanthropic body which oversees allocating charitable grants to local groups and organisations across a number of different sectors located in the Ballarat area. Its board involves members with distinct skill sets and people who are dedicated to giving back.
A not-for-profit entity, Ballarat Connected Communities is linked to the two Bendigo Bank branches in town, Ballarat Central and Ballarat West. The funding for the altruistic grants comes from the branches. Specifically, a commission is paid to Ballarat Connected Communities when customers ask the relevant branch to tag their account. The scheme is associated with the bank's community engagement budget and, importantly, there is no cost at all to the bank customer.
Ballarat Connected Communities chair Cameron Montgomery knows the program's effectiveness is reliant on residents' awareness and engagement with the initiative.
"The grants are basically provided by locals for locals," Mr Montgomery said.
"We ask locals within the Ballarat region, if they have any accounts or new accounts (with the Bendigo Bank), they just make a simple request of the bank that they tag their account."
Once an account is nominated, the bank will provide a sum to Ballarat Connected Communities, allowing grants to be made. Interested bodies can apply for the grant through the Ballarat Connected Communities' website, although certain criteria must be met.
The nominating group must also be associated with a particular field, such as youth; arts and culture; community events; health and wellbeing; sport; community service; environment; or disability.
The group also must have an ABN and an appropriate insurance policy.
"We have grants of up to $5000. If there's something in excess of $5000, they can still apply.The key thing is that they are a community group, a not-for-profit group within the municipal boundaries of Ballarat."
Vast amounts have been invested back into Ballarat.
"Just from those two banks, we've actually returned more than $100,000 back into the community, $70,000 of that in the last 18 months," Mr Montgomery said.
In 2020, additional $1000 COVID grants were allocated to assist not-for-profit organisations as they struggled to operate, but still had bills coming in. Multiple ventures have been supported with monetary amounts in recent times.
There was a children's foundation which wanted to increase access to story books during COVID; kitchen equipment for a bowls club was replaced; the Ballarat Foundation was backed to assist with emergency food relief; funding was provided for hives for the Ballarat Apiarist Club, which has focused on assisting returned service people, aiding their mental health.
The new Ballarat cemetery has benefited with the establishment of new tables and seats in its surrounds. Many advantages were gained from this.
"It was not only about providing an opportunity for people to spend some time there, some valuable time there when going to visit an loved one's grave," Mr Montgomery said.
"Seats and tables were manufactured here from recycled plastic. Not only are they supporting sustainable initiatives, but they're also supporting the local economy."
The Ballarat Woodworkers Guild, with close to 100 members, and known for its production of hundreds of toys for charity, has been another recipient.
"(The guild) is a beautiful, fantastic initiative, they've presented at the Begonia Festival and school vacation programs. The thing that's broader than the toys is the sharing of key skills, the passing on of those key skills and knowledge so they are not lost. Not only that, it's creating a place for people to come together and socialise, and to support one another from a mental health perspective which has never been more important."
Mr Montgomery is indebted to the two Bendigo Bank branches in town for their involvement and enthusiasm.
"The staff there are incredibly amazing and friendly. To be honest, we wouldn't be anywhere in the position of supporting this volume of the community without the staff's incredible help. They're the ones who are actually engaged with community members around tagging their accounts to Ballarat Connected Communities."
In challenging times, the work of Mr Montgomery and his fellow board members is proving to be invaluable.
"It's about local projects that truly support the idea of everybody coming together to play a part in building capacity and resilience across the community. Engagement in community participation and kindness is what it's all about. I'm so passionate about this and love all the things we are able to contribute back to the community."