Groundswell Giving

Groundswell Giving: A Collective Effort to Combat Climate Change

Clare Ainsworth Herschell is the co-founder of Groundswell Giving, a giving platform for climate action that has raised and distributed over $1.7 million in just three short years.

What does it mean to be a philanthropist?

The word philanthropy means “love of humankind” in its Greek origins. Most people are practising philanthropy in some way, whether they’re giving time, talent or treasure to causes that matter to them. Too often people imagine a “philanthropist” to be the stereotypical old rich white guy, but there are so many people giving in a multitude of ways in their everyday lives, and there are so many ways to give. A $20 donation, volunteering your time at a nursing home or helping out by using a skill like photography to support a non-profit makes you just as much a philanthropist as those giving $10,000 or more. It’s a collective effort, which is the beauty of being part of a giving circle like Groundswell.

How do you start your day?

In total chaos! I’m not a morning person but I have school-aged kids and their bus leaves at 7am, so that first hour of the day begins reluctantly with an affront from my alarm clock and a flurry of school preparations.

What does ambition look like for you?

A sleep in! Other than that, my ambition is to play a role in getting Australia to do its part in limiting global warming to 1.5°C. It’s hugely ambitious, and we’re running out of time, but the goal is driven out of necessity for the future of my children and all the things we know and love in this world that will be impacted by the climate crisis. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but taking action is the antidote to despair. And there’s now huge momentum in Australia in politics, business and the community — most Australians share this ambition.

Ambition for me is a collective thing. It’s about what we can achieve together, not the fairy tale that anyone can solve the climate crisis on their own, no matter how hard they work. I’m fortunate that my two Groundswell co-founders Anna Rose and Arielle Gamble are total visionaries and we’re all close friends, so everything feels more achievable with them alongside.

How do you create work–life balance?

My kids are what drives me in committing my energies to climate action, but it’s a constant juggle between spending time with family and time on climate advocacy. Some days, I must remind myself to slow down and spend precious time with the kids while they’re still young. Unfortunately, we’re living through the critical decade for climate action and scientists have given us a 2030 deadline to turn things around before the Earth risks hitting critical “tipping points” — thresholds in the Earth’s system after which the damage is irreversible. Twenty thirty is also the year that my youngest will graduate from high school. I’m doing what I can to make sure my son and other young people can leave school and enter the world with the hope for the future they all deserve.

Please talk to us about your giving platform Groundswell Giving.

Groundswell is a giving platform for climate action that I set up with two friends during the Black Summer fires. Millions of dollars were going to (much-needed) relief efforts for the Rural Fire Service and wildlife carers, but so little funding was going into advocacy to turn around Australia’s shocking track record on climate change, which fuels extreme weather events like the bushfires.

Groundswell is open to everyone. Anyone can become a Groundswell member online by pitching in $20 a week or $1000 per year. The more members who join, the more grants are made, and we all get to vote on a shortlist of amazing climate non-profits every grant round, so it’s also a fantastic way to learn about what’s going on. To date, we have raised and distributed over $1.7 million directly, and acted as a clearinghouse for larger donors who use our vetting processes as a shortcut in their own philanthropy.

Groundswell also offers gratis memberships to First Nations change-makers as recognition that First Nations people are on the front lines of climate change and have traditionally been excluded from decision-making processes about the distribution of philanthropic funding.

What does a world in balance look like for you?

All our actions have a ripple effect beyond our line of sight. We need to take a more holistic view in all the ecosystems we’re part of, whether it’s our family, workplace, government or the natural world. Think about long-term, not just short-term consequences. Think about the whole system, not just the parts.

In terms of a practical vision of what a world in balance could look like, I recommend the film 2040 which paints a positive vision of what the world could look like if we scaled up the best of the solutions we have available today. The good news is that all the solutions we need to turn things around for our climate and environment already exist — we just have to scale them up all over the world, and fast.

How can people harness their own unique power to give?

No one can give everything, but everyone can give something — and we give collectively, it makes a big impact. This is exactly why we set up Groundswell: to make it easy to start funding effective climate advocacy, together. It’s the easiest place to start, at $20 a week, and you learn so much about the fantastic work happening in the climate movement that is so critical to fund in the time we have left to turn things around on climate. If $20 a week is too much right now, consider a group or family membership: find three others so you can each chip in $5 a week. Or take a look at the list of previous Groundswell grantees — fantastic organisations like Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, Farmers for Climate Action, Frontrunners, Our Islands Our Home, Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action — and give directly to them.

What are three non-negotiables we should be doing for our planet right now?

  1. Climate scientist and author Dr Katharine Hayhoe says the most important thing you can do to tackle climate change is talk about it! So share why climate change matters to you with your family, friends, colleagues, Uber drivers, people you sit next to on the bus … We simply can’t solve a problem that isn’t talked about.
  2. Write an email to your local council, state and federal politicians and let them know climate change matters to you and helps determine who you vote for. Politics can seem overwhelming at times, but if we don’t make our voices heard to decision-makers, they’ll hear more from the coal and gas lobbyists who want to expand fossil fuels than they will from the vast majority of people who want climate action.
  3. At home — get off the gas! Gas is a polluting fossil fuel, and dangerous for your family’s health. Switch to induction, and make sure you have green electricity or solar to ensure the electricity powering it is clean too.

What’s next for you personally?

A glorious nap, I hope!

For more, visit

Article Featured in WellBeing 203

Kate Duncan

Kate Duncan

Kate Duncan is the Editor of WellBeing and WILD. She loves surfing, creating raw desserts, flowing through nourishing yoga sequences and spending time with her new pooch, Maribou.

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