Creating change through community connectedness: Foundation SA’s new CEO Sophie Doyle


As Sophie Doyle steps into the role of Chief Executive Officer, she reflects on Foundation SA’s extraordinary first three years of growth, the power that comes from the connectedness of its giving community, and her ambitions for what comes next.


Since 2018, Sophie Doyle has focused her career on helping South Australians give effectively and achieve their charitable giving goals.


She has worked alongside philanthropists at all levels, first in her role as State Manager SA/WA at peak body Philanthropy Australia, then as Philanthropy & Engagement Manager at Foundation SA.


Sophie is also aware of the challenges not-for-profits face, having been a founding Director of MumKIND, a charitable network that provides support to mothers facing extreme adversity across SA.


One of Sophie’s biggest passions is making philanthropy accessible to all and that is exactly what she plans to do as she takes up the leadership of SA’s, state-wide community foundation.


As you step into the CEO role, what are your priorities for Foundation SA?


After our first three years, we can see that the creation of an Adelaide based, state-wide community foundation for South Australia has well and truly paid-off.


We’ve had three years of consistent growth, building a corpus of over $3 million and distributing $800,000 in grants to SA communities. These are incredible results in such a short space of time.


As we move forward, my priority is to continue to build awareness of Foundation SA so that we can grow giving in South Australia and make philanthropy accessible to all.


As a community foundation, we’re here to offer South Australians the opportunity to join a local community of changemakers and elevate their awareness of grass-roots organisations.


We also provide the governance, due diligence and support required to manage tax-effective philanthropic structures, making it easier for anyone to get involved.


What do you hope Foundation SA achieves in the next three years?


I have three big goals:


1. Growing our community of donors — We currently have 33 families, individuals non-profits and businesses who have joined our donor community. I’d love to triple that over the next few years.


2. Achieving independence — The next two years will see Foundation SA mature into its own independent entity and keep growing its corpus to a level that gets us closer to long-term sustainability as a standalone organisation.


3. Building even greater connectedness to community — I will also be focusing on deepening Foundation SA’s community connectedness by creating opportunities to listen to community aspirations and find ways we can support this.


For example, connecting our donor community to values-aligned social purpose organisations and continuing to listen to community and responding with our Foundation SA Neighbourhood Grants and disaster recovery as required.


I recently joined the Community Centres SA Board as a way of deepening my personal knowledge of our local communities and look forward to sharing this learning with our Foundation SA donor community so that we can be even more effective.


These are big goals, I know, and I’m thrilled that we’ve just welcomed Chelsea Gillies to the Foundation SA team in the role of Grants & Engagement Coordinator.


Chelsea’s recently returned home to Adelaide after spending 10 years in Sydney where she worked with the Sydney Festival, City of Sydney and the Women in Focus project at the Commonwealth Bank, including a partnership with Sydney Community Foundation.


She’s also worked at Adelaide Fringe and Pulteney Grammar School, so she brings terrific experience in building relationships with donors and creating successful project partnerships. Chelsea’s focus will be to support our current donors with their granting as well as running the Foundation SA grant rounds.


Why do you think giving through community foundations like Foundation SA is becoming increasingly popular?


I believe it comes down to simplicity and impact.


In terms of simplicity, so many people, especially in the Baby Boomer generation, are currently trying to simplify their lives. They’re looking to reduce risk and uncertainty, leave their affairs in order, find more time for the activities they enjoy and provide certainty for the next generation — we can support them with all of this.


The second reason is the collective impact that’s possible when you give through a community foundation. I speak to so many people who want to make a difference in the world, but they question their ability to have impact alone. Our Foundation SA community has shown how much they value the opportunity to come together and give collectively.


For example, last year we opened our Disaster Recovery Fund and raised $87,000 for flood relief after the 100-year River Murray flood. By pooling their funds, our community created huge impact for flood-impacted communities. For many of our donors, this was just part of their granting last year and the rest of their grants were directed to organisations of their choice.


Which of Foundation SA’s achievements to date are you most proud of?


The impact of our disaster recovery grants — I visited our grant partners in the Murraylands and Riverland in August last year and I was so humbled by the experience of seeing their resilience and ability to draw strength from their community. I’m proud that we could listen to their need at that time and respond.


The community we’ve built. At the end of each year, we bring our donor community together and hold an event at a different local non-profit organisation. Last year we held the event at YouthInc on Hindley St. The energy in the room was electric — so many like-minded people sharing their hopes and dreams for South Australia and beyond. It made me feel so proud to think we’d created this together.


The solutions we’ve been able to provide for people with complex philanthropic circumstances. For example, we helped the Gilberton Amateur Swimming Club Trust, who after the closure of the swimming club, pledged all funds to four local primary schools for swimming education.


Using the Foundation SA structure, we were able to establish four separate Future Funds and provide a more effective way to distribute the funds while still giving effect to the wishes of the original Trust.


The schools now draw down on their fund each year to pay for swimming lessons for their students as initially intended. We were able to provide a practical, efficient alternative to the trust structure while still fulfilling the objects of the Trust.


Read more: Foundation SA welcomes new Chief Executive Officer



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