Horsham Rural City Council undertook a gender impact assessment on its Community Grants Program (CGP) in early 2020. The CGP is a large community-facing initiative with more than $200,000 allocated for not-for-profit groups to deliver projects that directly benefit the community.
Council conducted an initial workshop as part of their gender impact assessment, facilitated by staff from Women’s Health Grampians (the local women’s health service) and attended by 8 employees across various council departments (sport and recreation, finance, human resources, grants and infrastructure). The workshop had a component of staff capacity building on key gender equality concepts followed by an exploration of key assumptions around gender and the CGP.
The workshop uncovered potential gender stereotypes associated with the funding streams of the CGP – these included assumptions that applications from the kindergarten sector would be predominantly written by women and that applications from the sports and recreation sector would have been developed by committees or boards who are mostly men. It was also believed that funding for capital projects benefits all community members equally, regardless of gender.
Other issues included promotion, advertising and the online application process of the Community Grants Program potentially excluding certain community groups such as older people, diverse groups, and people with lower literacy. This is despite Council providing a range of ways that an application can be submitted including online, hard copy and face-to-face information sessions. Interestingly, as Horsham City Rural Council is in a rural area, staff assumed there was limited diversity in their community. While this is supported by current demographic data, the diversity of the local community is growing. Staff also identified that Aboriginal people were not applying for funding and assumed it was because they were not familiar with the application process.
Next, Council explored data from previous council grants applications and conducted desktop research on grants funding provided at local, state and federal levels. Good practice grants writing resources that support greater diversity, such as Grant Craft’s resources Grant Making with a Gender Lens and Grant Making with a Racial Equity Lens were also reviewed.
Desktop research indicated that grant making is ‘women’s work’, with women lodging the majority of applications (52.45%) compared to men (34.78%) and people with unknown gender (12.77%). (Gender Bias in Grant Making 2018).
The only gender-disaggregated data that Council collected was the primary contact for the organisation who was applying for funding. Data showed that over recent years there had been similar application rates from both men and women but on average, applications written by men requested more funding. Council found no apparent trend in which genders received more funding or that the assessment panel were favouring applications written by men, women or gender diverse people. Council also found that projects were funded from a broad range of ages between 15-64, but this was the only other demographic variable collected.
Analysis of the data by grant category also revealed gendered findings. For example, within the ‘sports and recreation’ category, applications submitted by men were more successful than applications submitted by women. Council also identified a gap in local data on LGBTIQ+ communities, in addition to a gap in funding to LGBTIQ+ community groups and interaction with the grants program.
Recommendations and options arising from the gender impact assessment included modifying and updating grants categories to overcome gender stereotypes associated with some of the categories, such as ‘kindergartens’, ‘sports and recreations’ and ‘general welfare’. Council also found that the grant application process could be strengthened to consider diversity and intersectionality by requesting information about which diverse groups in the community would benefit from the project, how these groups would be supported to participate in funded programs, and the estimated reach across men, women and gender diverse groups. It was also suggested that the assessment criteria could be improved to support a focus on more diverse groups in the community.
Horsham City Council found the gender impact assessment was valuable in identifying the gendered nature of their Community Grants Program and making necessary improvements to ensure everyone has equal access to the program in the community.Image provided by council: Thea Petress – a representative of the Dog Obedience Club that received a Community Grant