From the Chairman & Chief Executive

From the Chairman & Chief Executive

FY18 has been a year of great significance for the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust. We mourned the loss of a dear colleague, welcomed two new Trustees, implemented our revised grants strategy, and commenced transitioning the Macpherson Smith Rural Foundation towards their independence.

Our people

Peter Wetherall, our Investment Executive since 2013, sadly retired in February 2018 due to his declining health, and finally succumbed to cancer in September. Peter maintained HMSTrust’s unique tradition of managing our investments in-house and was an integral part of the management team and a greatly respected and loved colleague, whose contributions extended way beyond his astute stewardship of the Trust’s investments. He was instrumental in aligning the Trust’s investment policy with our vision, and successfully advocated for the Trust’s first impact investment in 2017. We all miss his intellect, talent, courage, compassion and humour, and have reluctantly arrived at the conclusion that the days of actively managing our investments in-house are over.

In April 2018, we welcomed two new Trustees, Alexandra Gartmann and Bruce Parncutt AO. Both Alex and Bruce bring a wealth of experience, skills and importantly a deep understanding of, and commitment to, HMSTrust’s vision and mission. Alex is well known to the philanthropic sector, and has been a vocal advocate and supporter of rural and regional Victoria for much of her career, and Bruce has over 40 years’ experience in financial services. In addition to their Trustee duties, Alex has joined the Grants Advisory Committee and Bruce has joined the Investment Committee.

The number of our Trustees temporarily swelled to eight and reduced to seven in November, with the retirement of Winsome McCaughey AO after eight years of dedicated service. Winsome’s contribution to shaping the funder we are today is profound and her passionate advocacy for rural and regional Victoria, the environment, community, equity and collaboration are embedded in our culture.

Throughout this year, our committed staff have delivered exemplary outcomes. All are active participants in the philanthropic sector and in the sectors we support. Our grants team, Lea-Anne Bradley, Sarah Bartak and Michelle Springall embrace our open door policy, and every telephone and email inquiry, meeting, application and grantee relationship is managed with a caring professionalism.  Glen Thomson has maintained the management of our investment portfolio in addition to his impeccable management of the Trust’s finances.

Our grants

The three-year review of our grants policy resulted in a number of significant changes to our areas of interest. Armed with learnings from the previous three years, we further sharpened our focus areas which enabled us to dive deeper into the social and environmental issues that challenge our vision for a strong, just and sustainable Victoria.

54 grants for a total of $3,744,114 were approved across three grant levels. Our increased capacity to capture data further informs and tests our assumptions. It’s important that we can measure the impact of our objectives and to see that 36% of our grants this year were for capacity building initiatives and that 61% benefit rural and regional Victoria. Collaboration and partnership is another key objective, and it has been fascinating to analyse the leverage that our funding delivers across grant levels.

However, the data is always considered alongside the context behind the data, and we remain committed to our open door policy for grantseekers and grantees alike, which stands us in good stead. All 54 grants are listed in this Annual Report, and we again feature eleven FY18 grants case studies from across programs and grant levels. These case studies highlight the impact of our grants matrix in delivering on our grantmaking strategy. The transparency of the matrix is appreciated by grantseekers, and the discipline of the matrix helps guide our robust assessment and decision-making processes.

Our finances

We’re pleased to report that the value of our Capital Account is at an all-time year-end high of $116.5m, having increased by 6% from $109.6m in FY17, and the total return on the corpus for FY18 was 10.8%. Our operating expense ratio sits at 18% with $1.3m expended on the cost of delivering on the Trust’s objectives.

Our culture

We take great pride in our organisational culture, which drives the way we engage with the communities we support. We are committed to transparency across all of our operations, we encourage respectful debate, we challenge our assumptions, review the way we work, and continuously try to improve.

It’s a privilege to share our mission to help build fair, creative and resilient Victorian communities through initiatives that promote positive change, with such a committed, talented and supportive team of Trustees and staff.

Dr Philip Moors AO Chairman Lin Bender AM Chief Executive