Savvy Giving – a personal reflection – a guest post by anonymous

savvy giving
Savvy Giving by Genevieve Timmons is what could be described as a ‘primer’ or a ‘nuts and bolts’ book that provides an excellent overview of giving for the beginning philanthropist. Timmons discusses that there are many ways to make a difference through giving, noting that giving is not just for millionaires but for anyone who wants to make a difference by creating a positive social benefit through giving. Savvy Giving she notes, ‘offers a pathway through the philosophical, creative and practical challenges of grant-making’. (P.14)

This was the first book I had read on the topic of giving and what it means to be a philanthropist. Whilst for many years we had donated to ‘good causes’ and contributed through volunteering, we had done so in a haphazard manner. Our goal when my family and I ventured into the world of giving through a family foundation was to be both structured and strategic. Our areas of focus differ but we all agreed that we wanted to achieve maximum impact and lasting structural changes that would result in systemic change, thereby improving the well-being of others who through no fault of their own are disadvantaged in our society. Whilst each of us has a passion for areas we wish to support, Timmons’ book has assisted me to start thinking about a framework for how our funding can potentially generate greater outcomes for the projects we are interested in supporting.

My first question would have to be, ‘how does this book help someone who knows very little about philanthropy’? My initial response is that it gives a clearly developed step-by-step process of thinking and actions in the ‘how to’. Whilst this may be seen as simplistic, I found to be extremely helpful, as one could feel overwhelmed when not knowing where to start.

Timmons suggests you start with ‘knowing yourself and what is the catalyst and motivation for giving’. How sensible! For me before jumping into the ‘doing’ it was extremely helpful to be able to explore my values and the foundation of these. This process led to interesting conversations within our family and in particular with our children. Values such as human rights, fairness and equity don’t just emerge from thin air; there is always a narrative behind these ideals and values. For me, I was able to tell some stories of my childhood to our children, how my parents had little money but always had an open house for those in need. How my mother would stand up and alongside those who were discriminated against. For those who came from different cultures than ours, she persistently and intelligently argued for their rights until she won the case. Like Timmons, my parents also had an ‘enduring spirit of generosity’ and this is the legacy they have shared with me and I in turn hopefully have embedded in our children.

Since starting a course on philanthropy, I have begun to read other articles and literature that explore peoples motivation and the ethics for giving.

Many of these such as Peter Grant’s ‘The Business of Giving, the Theory and Practise of Philanthropy, Grantmaking and Social Investment (2012)* and Peter Singer’s ‘The Life you Can Save: Acting now to end world poverty’ (2009)**, explore a deeper level of argument that it is a clear-cut moral imperative for all of us to give more to charitable causes that help reduce poverty and disadvantage. Whilst Singer makes the distinction between the ‘ethics of giving’ and the ‘practicalities of giving’ and how much should one give and where it should go, he agues that these should not get in the way of the fundamental issue that we should give. Whilst researching this area of exploration I was taken off to thinking about what Eva Cox described in her Boyer Lectures “As a Truly Civil Society (1995). Dianna Gribble – the Deputy Chair of the ABC at the time noted Eva Cox, was ‘a forthright commentator on social policy. Her critique has influenced policy debate in the areas of social security, superannuation, economics, child-care, migration, education, family law and women’s affairs’.

Eva Cox took what Gribble described as ‘a radical look at the collection of somewhat forgotten values -such as trust, co-operation and goodwill -that hold society together. She argued that we are losing that important social glue and that current debates about citizenship are narrowly focussed on citizens as competitive individuals rather than as social beings. Whilst this may be seen as a diversion from the central theme of Savvy Giving, it does for me give depth and expand on what I would argue that Timmons opens the reader up to in her discussion on ‘start where you are, know yourself’. (P.17)

After exploring why one gives, Timmons explores the genesis of philanthropic giving. It was interesting to read of the cross- cultural understandings of ‘giving’ and how they have been embedded in historical and spiritual parts of many societies across the centuries. From working in the not for profit sector, or as I now have decided to call it the ‘not for distribution’ sector, I am acutely aware of the difficultly that many in the sector face around securing the sought after ‘DGR’ status. It was pleasing to read that Timmons expands on this area in Appendix 2, giving the reader a clear definition of the status as well as the variations in the types of DGR status. For Indigenous organisations there is an excellent resource that supports the process of applying for DGR; SNAICC’s Guide to Applying for Deductible Gift Recipient Status (and Surviving!), October 2012

Linking to the first chapter, Timmons goes on to discuss which causes to champion. I particularly like how she describes giving as being ‘a powerful expression of the philosophical and politics of the donor’ (p.33). Once again this ethos fits with my understanding of the ‘personal being the political’ as proposed by Michael White who developed a therapy of working with people in counseling that is respectful and builds on a persons sense of self (Narrative therapy). He, like philosophers such as Derrida and Michel Foucault, the French postmodernists, discusses discourses on power and how power underpins the way in which society functions and how relationships operate. As Foucault noted, power is everywhere. Power is what makes us what we are, operating on a quite different level from other theories. This knowledge helps me as the donor, strategise and plan the most effective ways of making a social impact. My belief is that donors need to listen to communities, build on their strengths, essentially empower them to formulate the answers to the perceived problems, whilst supporting this process to occur – ‘allowing them to lead’ as noted by Mary Jane Rivers from Delta Networks, New Zealand (p.37) and taking a ‘whole of community approach’ as another philanthropist from New Zealand Jennifer Gill noted (p.54).

In Timmons’ language she discusses the point of the expression of the philosophical and politics as ‘a theory of change’ – ‘a planning process which involves deliberately unpacking donor intentions, identifying any underpinning assumptions, clarifying who will benefit, confirming how the intended changes will happen, and describing what is required to bring about that change. (P.37)

As we progress through the book one area that particularly captured my attention was the discussion on governance. As noted earlier, as I work for an Indigenous NGO, good governance is crucial (as it should be with any organization). I have found however that Indigenous organisations receive a lot more scrutiny in this area than other organisations. Timmons deals with this section well citing what the legal financial and operational requirements are. I particularly liked her referencing the work of David Ward’s ‘Trustee Handbook: Roles and Duties of Trustees of Charitable Trusts and Foundations in Australia; 2012 as there are lists of functions and responsibilities giving the reader a clear understanding of what is required in the areas of administration, investment and grantmaking (including responsibilities and risks). (Pp. 63-64). I read with interest in this section the discussion on conflict of interest, raising two issues for me. The first, as being both a donor and one who seeks philanthropic funding for an organization. This can at times require clear thinking and transparency and at times negotiating the boundaries whilst sitting at the table. The second issue around ‘conflict of interest’ is that readers need to look at this issue through a cultural lens. What is a conflict for one culture are family obligations for another. Once again through my role working for an Indigenous organization, we have ensured that the board has clear guidelines and policies for dealing with this scenario. A good resource was developed by Reconciliation Australia and has been helpful to non-Indigenous organisations as well as Indigenous.

Whilst some may view this book as being to general, for me it is a clearly written resource that has been helpful in my beginning journey as both a donor and a seeker of philanthropic giving. As someone who enjoys the ‘narrative’ of story telling, I particularly appreciated that Timmons included a significant number of ‘stories from the field’ (pp. 109-138). It included many quotes from those in the field and for me this is a good starting point that the reader is able to connect with and learn from their wisdom.

Sharon’s note: All proceeds from the sale of Savvy Giving go to the Australian Communities Foundation.



ozphilanthropy welcomes guest posts – contact me if you have a topic or area of interest you would like to write about in this forum.

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Funding Advocacy – the legal, conceptual and anecdotal


Dr Charles Lane

Swinburne Philanthropy Alumni presented a lively session last night on “funding advocacy”.  Dr Charles Lane, former CEO of the Myer Foundation and Sydney Myer Fund, spoke first.  Dr Lane’s view is that advocacy is a crucial component of grantmaking and is important in terms of the conceptual overview of making grants because it is the role of philanthropy to promote social wellbeing and environmental care – money is not enough.  He gave the analogy of homelessness – that we all know that when being confronted by a homeless person in the street, while dropping a coin in their hat or coffee cup might provide some immediate form of relief, it changes very little in their lives (this echoes Julia Unwin‘s talk earlier in the day which I will write about later, in which she said philanthropy should not fund soup kitchens, but discover the reason soup kitchens are needed).

Dr Lane said that donations do not always address the causes of circumstances, and that support for charitable organisations is dwarfed by other agendas (such as those of government and business).  So the lesson is that philanthropic bodies must do more than make donations, and must advocate for change even if we feel threatened by this.

It is legal in Australia for charities to advocate (since the Aidwatch decision of 2010).  It is more difficult now in Britain – since a bill to limit the spending of charities in relation to lobbying was passed in January.

What is important is the public benefit test.  Charities and not for profits here can advocate and this can include political agitation as long as their actions meet the “public benefit test“, and are in line with the core objects of the organisation.  In fact Dr Lane argues that it is the obligation of charities to do this – that we expect them to perform in this way because of their tax exempt status.

Advocacy can be used in several ways – to argue a position, enrich a debate and to be part of the education process.  Dr Lane says that it is the moral responsibility of charitable organisations to advance public debate, and that there is a need for new ideas to feed into the practice of law and policy.  Advocacy can thus advance the funding objectives of a philanthropic grantmaker, and amplify the impact of the grant given to a charitable organisation.

He is in no doubt that advocacy will attract attention, and may attract criticism – it may even be contrary to the personal or business interests of the trustees of a funding body. It is difficult to evaluate and elusive, and it is a challenge to get it right.

Dr Lane’s advice to philanthropic organisations who wish to support advocacy is that they need to gather expertise around the issue they want to advocate for, and it is often best to form partnerships with other charities.  Funders should decide if it is consistent with their objectives, be sure that it meets the public benefit test, decide who will lead, be the face of the advocacy program, speak to the press and politicians.  It needs to be someone who can take on the criticism.

He noted that there are several ways to play an advocacy role.  These include: hosting meetings, commissioning research, publishing reports, soliciting support from others, and engaging prominent people to act as patrons.

He also noted that a tactic to fund advocacy used by some funders was to provide “core” non specific, untied grants – which enable the recipient organisation to use the funds in any way that they see fit (and allowing them to engage in advocacy activities).

In summary, Dr Lane advised: be sure of your facts, ensure funding is consistent with objectives, pick the right partners and ensure that the subjects of advocacy are at centre stage – do things with people, not for them.

Genevieve Timmons photographed by Ian McKenzie 2007

Genevieve Timmons photographed by Ian McKenzie 2007

Genevieve Timmons began her segment by reminding us knowledge is power.  She spoke of asking a Gamillaroy elder what we lack in western  culture.  The answer was about the “responsibility of sharing knowledge” and that knowledge can only be shared when it can be passed on to someone who will use it properly.  In a sense, advocacy is about the appropriate and strategic use of knowledge and information.

Genevieve took us back to the days when it was not legal for philanthropic organisations to fund advocacy and the work of the Reichstein Foundation and their support for Broken Rites in the 1980s. The foundation funded research about abuses in the Catholic Church, and then provided support for programs such as counselling and “community voice building”.  This work moved from the establishment of an inquiry in Victoria to the Royal Commission which is taking place now.

Genevieve says the key to supporting advocacy is to have clear principles, to ensure that money is spent well, and to look at the bigger picture.  She also talked about how advocacy is not always about changing things but can also be about holding ground (for example students protesting about changes to the education system).

Genevieve provided a diagram of the “advocacy chain” which is a progression from 1) an experience or situation to 2) information, 3) research and data analysis, 4) services and programs, 5) community voice, 6) public awareness and education, 7) policy to 8) lobbying.  Which leads to “change” or “holding ground”.

Mary Crooks Executive Director of the Victorian Women’s Trust

Mary Crooks AO says that philanthropic organisations should pick the issues where they are well placed to act to undertake advocacy.  She told the story of meeting with a potential donor who wanted to know what the Victorian Womens Trust  was going to do about an issue of concern in relation to state politics in the early 90s (when the auditor-general was being gagged by the Premier).  When told that VWT was not placed to address that issue, but were starting a new kitchen table model of community consultation, the donor was very interested.  Her support led to the Purple Sage project.  Her support then, has led 16 years later to the Voice for Indi campaign.  Moral of the tale: advocacy can have a slow burn, but this philanthropic investment is still yielding a powerful return.

Mary talked extensively and movingly about the “Paradox of Service” unfunded advocacy program the Victorian Womens Trust runs for former nuns who have left their orders.  Eight years on, this started when a woman came into their office asking for help.  While this was not part of the VWT’s core business, their ethos is to leave no left-of-field contact or query unanswered.  So they took it upon themselves to research what was going on.  Their report was published in 2008.  It gained world-wide press coverage (including the Irish Times) and led to a television story on Compass and now significant change in how the Church deals with former nuns and priests.

Their documentation of the distress, poverty, hardships and emotional pain endured by people who had left religious orders enabled them to form their own independent advocacy program, develop a manual on how to be an effective advocate.  Staff from the Victorian Womens Trust have now spoken to several orders on behalf of the women, to ask for apology, statement of service and monetary compensation.  It was satisfying to hear that so far, they have settled every case they have tackled.  This is becoming even broader, in that they are now intending to distill everything they have learned in the last eight years, to share as a guide for all affected.

Mary says that philanthropic organisations have a freedom to go to the leading edge in what they fund, as they are not subject to the same commercial and government restraints as other donors.  It is no good just going along with the same old same old as this is both wasted power and wasted opportunity.  She also feels that advocacy is not just the preserve of the centre left, but noted significant changes in society which have been brought about by conservative womens’ agencies such as the Country Womens Association and the Womens Christian Temperance Movement.  She agrees with Dr Lane that advocacy is a moral imperative, about word and deed if you have the words “justice”, “fairness” or “disadvantage” on your website.  She concedes that funding advocacy and practicing advocacy is tough and there is huge potential for criticism, but that you need to have stickability – one piece of advocacy can take 20 minutes and involve writing a letter, others, like the Paradox of Service, can take eight years or more.

Mary feels that it is imperative for those who fund advocacy to work with others  to give voice to issues of concern, and she says she is heartened by the response to the Federal Budget as being not a hip pocket knee jerk reaction, but criticism based on the idea of what is fair.  She concluded by stating: The robustness of our democratic culture depends on advocacy – we can all work to find channels to give people voice.

What do you think? How does your organisation support or fund advocacy?

In case of queries as to why I have referred to Charles as Dr Lane but to Ms Timmons and Ms Crooks by their first names – this is not sexist deference, but rather a result of my relationship with the two latter mentioned whom I know personally.

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Is Corporate Sponsorship Philanthropy?

ImageReaders, today there is a debate about funding, the arts, ethics and government support.  The discussion around whether an organisation which has a corporate supporter has the “right” to terminate that relationship is becoming politicised, particularly by the Minister for the Arts, Senator Brandis, who has written to the Australia Council asking them to review their policies relating to organisations which “unreasonably refuse corporate support” but continue to seek Government funding.

I find this extremely disturbing.  In a time when ethical investing, impact investing, and the idea of understanding where our dollars are invested in order to further strategic philanthropic goals is growing in importance, it seems a strange disconnect to me that an organisation is being criticised for its decision to take an ethical stance on a particular issue.  See  this from the Sydney Morning Herald and this radio transcript from an interview this morning.

Corporate sponsorship serves a different purpose from philanthropy.  Sponsorship is a commercial transaction whereby both parties gain some form of benefit – usually for the sponsor it is that intangible goodwill, good corporate citizen kudos, as well as the opportunity to get their name in front of an audience, and benefits for staff (free/discounted tickets, opportunities for volunteering, engagement in matched giving etc).

Philanthropy in its truest sense is the giving of a gift for no visible or material return (unencumbered by the desire for publicity, recognition or brownie points – though no doubt all foundations and philanthropists would love this as a side benefit).

For a corporate sponsorship relationship to succeed there needs to be an alignment of values for both organisations – in the end, the relationship is not about the exchange of cash, though that is of course very important – but it should be about providing a resonance between the two organisations.  Most likely in this instance, this was originally the case but circumstances have changed for the sponsoring organisation, and for the issue at the heart of the matter (the treatment, and offshore detention of refugees/asylum seekers).

I do not want to get into the tintacks of the specific case, as it is highly emotive.  But I would hearken back to the days when tobacco companies were gleeful supporters of the Australian Ballet and sporting events.  (I am taking a sentence here from wikipedia, so forgive my laziness:) “In 1992 the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992 expressly prohibited almost all forms of tobacco advertising in Australia, including the sponsorship of sporting or other cultural events by cigarette brands”.  If this Act were not in place, would it now be considered “unreasonable” for cultural organisations to refuse funds from the tobacco industry on grounds of political correctness or health awareness or simply not wanting to be associated with products that are known to have harmful effects? Or under the Minister for the Arts’ proposed code – should they just take the money and shut up?

The topic is complex (or not – depending on where you sit – and depending whether you even care about the arts receiving funding – as so many people who comment on the articles about this appear to be) but I think this is an important debate and I would love to hear your views.


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Community Foundations – update

An article I wrote on community foundations has just been published in the new online philanthropy journal –

Have a look here:

What is a Community Foundation?

Philanthropy-Community-Foundation_1Want to give meaningfully to your local area? Contributing to a community foundation can give you choice, control, and increased impact.

and check out the rest of the magazine for other great information in the philanthropy/donor space.


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Community Foundations Forum Day 2 2013

Maggie BeerThe second day of the Community Foundations forum took place at the beautifully tranquil Maggie Beers’ Farm, and started off with a talk from the lady herself on “why giving?”.  Along with a breakfast of baked tomatoes, great sausages and egg and bacon pie, Maggie spoke about her new mission – to change the culture of food in aged care facilities.

Alex Gartmann from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal followed with a lengthy discussion on the types of donation accounts FRRR can hold on behalf of community foundations and how the processes work.  This is especially useful for community foundations who wish to receive funds from Private Ancillary Funds (who can not give directly to other DGR2 type entities).  FRRR also provides a useful service in also allowing community foundations to give to FRRR to pass on funds to organisations which may not have DGR status at all.

A quick spotlight from Shelley Boyce of the Southern Highlands Community Foundation highlighted a turnaround in that community foundation’s fortunes.  Shelley had felt that they had not been progressing too well, but after last year’s forum was inspired to invite Bill Holland from the Acorn Foundation to give them some coaching on developing a bequests program which has already resulted in three notified bequests. They have also embarked on a program to bring an arts and cultural centre to their area, and will receive 5% percentage of the budget as the management fee for this – which will go to developing their corpus.  Congratulations!

A short advertorial from Conor Hayes from Warrikiri Asset Management preceeded the much awaited follow up session from Alice Macdougall on “the effect of the Charities Act on grantmaking and converting to an ITEF as well as fees, sport, governance and more”.

Alice reminded us that the ACNC has good governance standards on its website which include requirements for all directors and committee members to adhere to.  The ACNC is taking an educative approach initially.  It is important to ensure that in appointing new board members, they are not disqualified from acting in that capacity by both ASIC and the ACNC.  The duties required by the ACNC are based on the Corporations Act, but of course, (Alice sighs here) slightly different.  A key thing to remember is that the board needs to look at all financial documents – AND ASK QUESTIONS!  They can not delegate all responsibility to committees or “experts” and staff.

Alice spoke about the “reasonable costs” that a charitable trust can reimburse for administration, fundraising, grantmaking, promotion, investment and governance, and provided some models for how an administration sub-fund can operate within a Public Ancillary Fund.

She also noted that all Income Tax Exempt Funds (ITEF) will be moving to the ACNC at 1 January 2014 under the new Charities Act  and that it is therefore important for Public Ancillary Funds which wish to convert to ITEF to do that before the end of the year.  Being an ITEF allows a community foundation to grant to organisations which are charitable but do not have DGR – but still give a tax deductible receipt to their donors.  It is also useful in Victoria so that community foundations can give to organisations “which but for their relationship to government would be considered charitable”.  This includes government run hospitals, municipal libraries and art galleries, and government school building and library funds.  In essence, it increases the pool of potential grant recipients – which is very useful particularly in rural and regional areas, where there are not necessarily so many eligible DGR1 entities.

Alice noted that “auspicing” in philanthropy is not on and talked in detail about how to watch out for this.  As she was running out of time she touched only briefly on giving towards community infrastructure, sport and sporting infrastructure, schools, enterprises and community organisations with charitable purpose.

A short word from Leigh Wallace from the Geelong Community Foundation on the importance of maintaining networks with financial advisers and accountants so that advice on bequests for community foundations is disseminated within the community.

Kristi Mansfield from the Sydney Community Foundation shared her experience at the Community Foundations Conference held in Canada in July.  Of particular interest was a joint marketing campaign for all 200 or so community foundations in Canada, under the banner of “Smart and Caring Communities“.  This is a five year campaign with the Governor General of Canada as the ambassador.  It includes national advertising, national media partners and promotes a common language of philanthropy.

Kristi noted that the campaign targeted “untapped” community builders who had certain characteristics – they were from the general public, were community minded, problem solvers and involved connectors who were philanthropically interested, seeking personal impact.  The campaign aimed to build on people’s sense of their Canadian-ness and an insight into what makes them unique.  The challenge for Australian community foundations in seeking to emulate such a model would be to find what is a real insight into harnessing key positive characteristics of the Australian community.

It will be great to see how Australian Community Philanthropy can work with the interest shown in creating some kind of common marketing campaign or national messaging to help promote the community foundations in Australia – as this seemed to be something everyone agreed was desirable.

and after all this information it was only time for lunch . . . . .

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Community Foundations Forum 2013

foundation barossaFoundation Barossa (in South Australia) is hosting this year’s Australian Community Foundations Forum.  Presented in conjunction with Philanthropy Australia and FRRR, this annual event brings together community foundations from around the country to network, share their experiences and benefit from an exchange of ideas.

The first day of this two and a half day event started with the AGM for Australian Community Philanthropy at which your correspondent joined the Board, along with Dylan Smith from the Fremantle Foundation.

The forum proper started with the presentation of new videos which have been commissioned by the Office for the Community Sector in Victoria (under the Department of Human Services, but previously Planning and Community Development), highlighting the role and scope of community foundations.  Twelve community foundations received funding between 2009 and 2012, in the form of a challenge grant of $100,000 which when matched by the local community, then saw an additional $200,000 from the state government.  The videos have been put together with the community foundations who participated in the program, to describe the role of community foundations, how to set them up, fundraising and grantmaking.

It’s a lovely way of showing what community foundations can do and saying in our* own words who we are.  It also provides some ideas as to what works for various community foundations in terms of fundraising.  The eight videos will be coming soon to the Office for the Community Sector website, and will be shared with the foundations which took part (watch this space).

The Tomorrow: Today Foundation provided an update on their ongoing Education Benalla Project.

Forum favourite, Alice Macdougall from Herbert Smith Freehills gave a run down on where the ACNC and the Charities Act 2013 are up to given the recent change in government and the new government’s commitment to dismantle the ACNC (as flagged in my post same time last year).  Alice’s view is that the ACNC is ultimately good for the not for profit sector, will reduce duplication in reporting requirements and provides a good source of information for community groups, and good information and fact sheets.

While the Charities Act 2o13 is yet to come into effect, the key changes it has brought about include the ability for aboriginal groups to obtain charitable status where they had previously been excluded due to requirements they needed to meet for Native Title in terms of familial ties.  The Act also expands disaster relief to cover community assets which may not in of themselves been considered charitable in themselves. (Read the Act for more information and clarification on this).

Alice suggests that actions we can all take to support the ACNC and the Charities Act:

1) Lobby your federal government representatives
2) Lobby to promote the simplification of rules for community foundations – and the idea of them having DGR 1 instead of DGR2 (which would make it possible for Private Ancillary Funds and other larger foundations to donate to community foundations)
3) Lobby for Private Ancillary Funds to wind up and be able to pass their assets onto Public Ancillary Funds and make grants to Public Ancillary Funds.

Key government personnel to pester on these include Kevin Andrews, Minister for Social Services, and Arthur Sinodinis, Assistant Treasurer.

Alice noted that the new government will be reinstating the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership, and that this will be a good thing for the community foundation. sector.  We look forward to Alice’s talk tomorrow on the Effect of the Charities Act on grantmaking and converting to ITEF (fees, sport and governance), for our annual dose of legal compliance related matters.

Some light relief after Alice’s talk followed when I presented on why it was wonderful to do the Senior International Fellowship in Philanthropy, and encouraged all my colleagues to apply.

This was followed by a quick briefing from the new Development Officer for Australian Community Philanthropy, Louise Arkles, who will be undertaking a project to map all of the community foundations in Australia, explore some of the success stories, promote the concept of community foundations, and develop an understanding of the international context for the community foundations movement (a big ask for a two day a week role).

The day concluded with a presentation from Julie Reilly of the Australian Women Donors Network and distribution of their publication, Genderwise Philanthropy: Strengthening Society by Investing in Women and Girls.

All up, a lot of ground covered, and a lot more to come, with an early morning start for a business breakfast so it’s time for me to sign off.

Are you attending the forum in Nuriootpa?  What are your thoughts thus far?

If you haven’t been able to attend, do you have some views on any of these topics – I’d love you to share them with us.

* use of the personal pronoun here as the Inner North Community Foundation participated in both the funding challenge and the videos.

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Catherine Brown – Community Foundations – A journey of discovery

catherine-brownThe Maimonides Society talks presented by the Swinburne Philanthropy Alumni, hosted Catherine Brown, the CEO of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.

Catherine reflected on her career working in and with community foundations since 1999 when the Myer Foundation came up with the idea for a foundation for rural Australia and for philanthropy to engage community in rural development.  Based on some work undertaken by the Ford Foundation and the Aspen Institute, Catherine worked to set up the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (known as FRRR) and to work with rural communities assisting them to set up their own community foundations.

Catherine drew attention to several publications, tools and studies, such as the community foundation kit based on a Canadian model, Diana Leat’s Development of Community Foundations in Australia: Recreating the American Dream, and resources provided by the CS Mott Foundation which has been instrumental in the development of community foundations around the world.

Catherine gave examples of some of the rural community foundations she has worked with and the different models that can be adopted – either with an endowment focus or a community development focus.  She noted that community foundations are not yet well understood in Australia, but that they are part of a global movement which has been developing for a century, since the establishment of the first community foundation in Cleveland in 1914.

Catherine believes that community foundations are more stable where there are denser populations and that they adapt to the culture of their own countries.  Key characteristics of community foundations as defined by WINGS (WorldWide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support) are that they are flexible, engage civil society, use their own money and assets and are values based. (Also see Eleanor Sacks Current Issues for the Global Community Foundation Movement).

According to Catherine, the time for community foundations in Australia is still coming and will strengthen.  (While she mentioned several rural foundations and the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, there was little mention of the other urban community foundations, such as the Australian Communities Foundation, Sydney Community Foundation, Inner North Community Foundation and the Fremantle Community Foundation which are working on building endowment and grantmaking.  I found this interesting as Catherine had consulted with at least one of these assisting in its establishment).

Catherine noted the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation’s support of other organisations promoting philanthropy and grantmaking, such as Australian Community Philanthropy, the Australian Women Donors Network and the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network, and of having the funds available to look at social investment.  She anticipated a new financing model for the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.

She spoke briefly about how the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Fund (which has been going for 90 years and has a corpus of $170 million) is focusing on affordable housing, youth, ageing in a multicultural community and food security, as well as working with Greek, Italian and Chinese communities, refugees, pathways to education and employment and youth philanthropy in schools.

What do you think about the potential for community foundations in Australia? (I have strong views on this as it is my professional area, but I would love to hear your thoughts).

Thanks again to Swinburne Philanthropy Alumni for organising.

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Philanthropy and Ethics Debate: Mind the Gap: Philanthropy, Social Policy and Government

Image The fourth annual Philanthropy and Ethics debate was entitled: Mind the Gap: Philanthropy, Social Policy and Government.  This topic floored me a little and I felt I was playing catch up listening to the four speakers, Mary Crooks from the Victorian Womens’ Trust, Terry Moran, the former Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Miriam Lyons, Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Development, and Sayajit Das, writer and economist.

Mediated by Peter Clarke, the discussion hovered quite a lot around comparing philanthropic giving in Australia with the US, which is always problematic, and whether Australia is moving in the direction of philanthropy dictating social policy.

Sayajit Das quoted Peter Buffet, (son of Warren Buffet) who has labelled philanthropy “a charitable industrial complex” noting that with more than $300 billion USD in charitable giving last year, this does create space for philanthropists to influence policy.

Mary Crooks preferred to speak about “small p philanthropy”, noting it plays a critical role in the formation of civil society, but often flies under the radar and does not get the credit or recognition it deserves.  Mary is in favour of growing the role of philanthropy. She gave examples of foundations which have championed community rather than government policy, such as the Reichstein Foundation, Stegley Foundation (which is now wound down) and Victorian Womens Trust in the 1990s through their work on the Purple Sage Project.

Terry Moran spoke about the differences between the US and us, and how Australians give less as a proportion of gross domestic product, but that Americans use philanthropy to leverage relief from tax much more than here.  He doesn’t believe that philanthropy here “leaks into the political madness of the US”.

Miriam Lyons spoke about how and what philanthropy funds, noting her view that right wing interests fund ideology and left wing interests fund practically.  Her key example was the Koch brothers, who fund research refuting climate change.  While stating that it is philanthropy which allows civil society to exist, but that donations in Australia are only 1% of GDP, she championed the fact that philanthropy can be risk taking, localised, personal and fund advocacy.  However, she questions this structurally, noting that it would be unusual for philanthropists to want to change the system which has brought them their financial success.

Terry Moran disagreed with Miriam’s views, saying that philanthropists do not influence academic research here, and pointing to several think tanks which are not right wing, such as the Grattan Institute, Lowy Institute, the recently established Mitchell Institute for Health and Education Policy at Victoria University, counterbalancing the views of organisations such as the Institute of Public Affairs.

Mention was made of The Patriots by David Frum, a novel which outlines how politics is manipulated by money in the US, but there was general consensus that we are not yet in that space here.

I have to say I felt a bit like a kid having dinner at the adults’ table – so if you were there, or have some comments about this, I would love to have further discussion for clarification.  I partly felt that I hadn’t really got the topic straight in my head, but also that not every one was speaking the same language.  My view of philanthropy is probably similar to Mary’s small p philanthropy, many people in the community supporting issues and causes they feel passionate about.  The idea that there is a conspiracy of ultra-high net worth individuals creating agendas through their giving is anathema to me.  It does remind me though of some of the debates I had with colleagues earlier in the year over the mandate of philanthropy to direct policy and social change through the very act of choosing what to support.  But I feel that the scale considered in this debate was quite different.

to continue: and perhaps to revert to the question of philanthropy and ethics in itself – there was mention of the Oxford Business School turning down a large gift due to the affiliations/behaviour of the donor, and Sajayit Das mentioned his view on the hypocrisy of George Soros in destroying the British pound through short selling in 1992 and then gave away his proceeds through his foundation.

Terry Moran believes that how taxes work is what underpins philanthropy.  There are many views on how tax deductibility is or isn’t a motivator for philanthropic giving.  Again, this discussion was around the larger donors.  Terry also pointed out that our system is very different to the US as we don’t have death duties and wealth taxes.

Miriam Lyons agreed we are not like the US but voiced concern we could be heading in that direction and that we are becoming a more unequal country and that our taxation system is pulling the fabric of society apart (for example schools are financially unequal) and that we are becoming vulnerable to a narrow group having undue influence.  I don’t believe that it is philanthropy which is creating inequality or philanthropists who are unduly influencing policy.

Mary Crooks noted that the UK Commission on Social Justice stated that “communities are not strong because they are rich, but are rich because they are strong” and that she prefers the term “social investment” to philanthropy, and that this is about investment of time, skills, and resources along with money.

Miriam Lyons agreed with Terry Moran in wanting philanthropy to grow but she again stated her concerns about the growth of inequality (I don’t see a direct correlation there myself, but I am happy to hear more arguments for this).

Terry pointed out that one should not confuse the tax system and rebates with philanthropy (thankfully), and Mary Crooks pointed out that tax deductibility is not a key motivator for giving.  Mary noted that philanthropy occupies a unique place in our social work and is not subject to the same constraints as the market place.  Philanthropy can be innovative and can fail.  Mary said that while its uniqueness is its power, perhaps trusts and foundations here do not yet understand this.

The question of distortions was raised and there was some discussion of the struggle for support for the arts.  Mary Crooks suggested that philanthropy could be more targeted, more gender-wise and less homogeneous.

In response to some questions from the audience the following points came up:

Society is more than dollars and cents

Q: Why is philanthropy only interested in medical research – what about social research? A: it exists but is untrumpeted

Q: Risks of being above the radar
A: not enough time or resources for self promotion (I would add that the press is also not that interested in stories of philanthropic achievement – in my experience): and there are risks in not being able to communicate the social impacts brought about by philanthropy in a nuanced enough way.

Q: Difference between Labor and Coalition
A: Coalition’s stated objective to close the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission; Coalition’s interest in UK Big Society terminology.  Mary Crooks noted the 2013 election result for the seat of Indi, currently held by Sophie Mirabella, and the campaign to present an independent opposition candidate has been a kitchen table community consultation process hearkens back to the work of the Purple Sage project mentioned above.  Mary said this was a model which was invigorating democracy (supported by philanthropy).

Were you at the session?  Share your thoughts.  Do you think philanthropists are taking over policy development? Do you think that this debate was about Ethics in Philanthropy – or is it time for a new title to cover the broadening scope of the discussions.  I look forward to hearing  and sharing your views.


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4 events in three weeks

Tom DawkinsIt’s going to be a busy second half of August.

A few events for your consideration:

Next week my workday organisation, the Inner North Community Foundation, hosts Tom Dawkins, social entrepreneur and crowdfunding specialist, co-founder of Start Some Good (Dream Big, Raise Funds, Do Some Good) Director of the Australian Changemakers Festival and before that Social Media Director at Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, the world’s leading organisation supporting social entrepreneurs with a presence in over 50 countries.

Tom has a wealth of experience in identifying, articulating and enacting good ideas for social change, and a great perspective on fundraising and developing support.

Come and hear him at a free impromptu PLuGIN at the Inner North Community Foundation on Thursday 29 August at 10am (Level 2, 192 -198 High Street Northcote).

Please rsvp to as seating is limited.

At the end of this week and early next week, the Australian Women Donors’ Network hosts Colleen Willoughby, often described as is described as the ‘mother of giving circles in America’ in Melbourne and Perth.  If you are quick you can catch her tomorrow 21 August in Brisbane.   Colleen will be giving a fundraising masterclass, philanthropy masterclasses and talks on collective social impact.  It is my understanding she was one of the inspirations behind Impact100 WA and its southeasterly neighbour, Impact100 Melbourne.

The Australian Communities Foundation is gearing up for their annual Philanthropy and Ethics Debate at the Melbourne Writers Festival on Sunday 1 September. Panellists include Mary Crooks from the Victorian Womens Trust, (ozphilanthropy reviewed the 2010 and 2011 events.)

and finally, Monday evening 2 September, the Maimonides Society (Swinburne Philanthropy Alumni) presents Catherine Brown, Chief Executive Officer of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Fund at Westpac’s BT Centre Level 24, 367 Collins Street at 6pm.  Incidentally, Catherine has a wealth of knowledge on community foundations, and developed the community foundations handbook that many of us used as an essential reference in early days of development.

So much to do, so much information so much to learn, . . . .

Hoping to see you at some of these events.


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Bermuda Community Foundation


Dr Myra Virgil (Photo by Akil Simmons)

Just a shout out to my colleague, Myra Virgil, who went through the Senior International Fellows Program with me last month – congratulations on your story highlighting the establishment of the Bermuda Community Foundation in the Royal Gazetteonline.

The article is by blogger and writer Jessie Moniz who has graciously granted me permission to give you a teaser.  Thanks also to editor, Jeremy Deacon.

“Dr Myra Virgil is using lessons learned from a prestigious American grantmaking fellowship to create an organisation that will provide an enduring source of funds for local charities — many of whom are currently locked into a life or death struggle for survival due to the current economic climate.

Read the rest of the article here.

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