Community Foundations – update


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

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.

Sharon

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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 info@innernorthfoundation.org.au 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.

Sharon

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Bermuda Community Foundation


myra

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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A tale of two community foundations


 

new-york

Once upon a time there was a community foundation dedicated to a large vibrant and bustling city (let’s call it Gotham).  Its focus was on supporting the wishes of donors in their philanthropic goals through donor advised funds (donors advise where they would like their gifts to go).  The community foundation was established 90 years ago, and over time had accumulated large assets, all the while supporting the intentions and interests of their many donors.

The city also grew, and in time, one of its boroughs was in itself large enough in population, that in any other situation it could have been considered a city itself (yet it remained a borough, one of five).  brooklyn-bridge

People in the borough felt that they needed more specific support for their community, and that they had a particular identity of their own, their own community spirit, and a desire to focus their work within their own geographic boundaries, and to have more say and direction in where philanthropic funds were being directed.  So, just a few years ago they set up their own community foundation, but instead of just putting funds where the donors told them to, they set up “fields of interest”funds like  Arts for All,Caring NeighborsCommunity DevelopmentEducation & Youth Achievement, and Green Communities after exploring where the needs of the community actually lay, and invited donors to contribute specifically to these areas.

One of the questions which has been the source of recent  impassioned discussion , has been about what the role of philanthropic organisations, particularly community foundations, really is.

Should donors who have money be able to dictate what social needs should be addressed, simply because they have money? Does this give them more authority in determining the future direction of our communities?  As one of my colleagues says, donors are not elected, they do not have a mandate to create policy, so how is it that they can wield such power over our communities? (even if this is for the perceived good of the community).

Or should the community and community need be the driving force for philanthropy – in that the needs and problems should be identified first, and then the means to address and resolve them?

Bernadino Casadei from the Italian Association of Foundations believes that people have a moral imperative to give and that this is what makes one human, and that his role is to facilitate philanthropy, while remaining neutral in the distribution of philanthropic largesse.

Another view is that the needs of the community must be paramount, and the absolute starting point for any discussion about giving and philanthropy.

This is all particularly interesting for me, as the community foundation where I work started with an idea around community need (particularly employment), while our next door neighbour community foundation, has a donor focussed approach, highlighting parallels between the fable this post started out with (albeit on a much smaller scale).

Is one approach better than the other? What is the role of philanthropy?  How can we balance two seemingly diametrically opposed starting points in order to work better, and perhaps more collaboratively?

This is of course, just a simple exploratory exposition of some of the ideas flowing around me at the moment, which will require deeper reading, discussion and thought.

It would be great to hear your thoughts on this, as it seems to speak to a key question of what is the role of philanthropy, particularly in a community foundations setting.

tbc . . . .

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Senior International Fellows in Philanthropy


Image A little quiet lately as about to embark on some professional development at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society.  They run a Senior (as in old(er)) International Fellows Program for people in the community foundations sector and take only 6 or 7 participants each year (all from outside the US), so I will be joined by colleagues with vast and varied experience from Bermuda, Italy, Czech Republic, South Africa, India and New Zealand.

It’s four weeks of seminars, site visits to not for profits and philanthropic leaders here, as well as the development of a paper which will hopefully be relevant and useful to our own organisations.  I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime – there are a couple of things happening you should try to get along to – such as Kevin Murphy (who will be the keynote speaker at the Philanthropy Australia AGM on 16 April) – from the Council on Foundations and president of the Berks County Community Foundation, but will also be speaking at an event hosted by the Australian Communities Foundation at Macquarie 101 Collins Street Melbourne on 16 April at 6pm, on Global Giving and the Australian Leadership Challenge:Global Trends, Local Challenges, Better Giving – together with another international guest speaker Roberta d’Eustachio of Ambassadors for Philanthropy,  Hosted by Simon McKeon AO, Executive Chairman, Macquarie Group, Melbourne.  RSVP to Australian Communities Foundation.

Another event which may be of interest is being hosted by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation in early May and of course, not being at my desk -I don’t have the details on me.  It’s not the Lady Mayoress’ Garden Party – so if you think you want to find out more, give them a hoy to ask about it (even if I suspect it might be invitation only).

That’s all for now,

Let me know if things are coming up which might be of interest to others and I will endeavour to record them.

best

Sharon

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Philanthropy, Old, New and Enduring


Chris Baker

Dr Christopher Baker

Last week I attended a forum entitled Philanthropy, Old, New and Enduring presented by Swinburne University’s Asia Pacific Centre for Social Investment and Philanthropy in conjunction with O’Keefe and Partners. 

Julie Johnson, Managing Director at O’Keefe Partners, presented on giving trends research which they undertake annually, evaluating changes in performance and perceptions from not for profits.  It was apparent from much of the information presented that perceptions are radically different to performance and I don’t know how valuable that is in practical terms when one is trying to implement a fundraising plan. But what was quite interesting was to see that corporate sponsorship had increased in 2011 – 2012, and differences in donor segmentation.  By that we mean – who are the most philanthropic amongst us as ranked by age.  The research presented indicated that people aged 40 – 59 are a new part of the population who are giving now, joining the 60 – 74 year olds, and that their charitable emphasis is on social and family welfare and education (which probably reflects where they are in their lives and their focus on family).

One key change in perceptions which I did find useful, was in the challenges faced by not for profit organisations.  Apparently, for the first time, charitable competition is a key factor, or something that organisations are taking into consideration, joining issues such as the economy, acquisition costs (ie costs of fundraising) and the global financial crisis.

The good news is that the research indicated there will be growth in the philanthropic landscape in the next 3 -5 years with an increase in the giving pool, and that people want to put money where it will make a difference, but also want to see accountability and transparency.  Key motivations seem to be wanting to invest in society and making it a better place.

Dr Christopher Baker from Swinburne then spoke on his research on Inheritance and Charitable Giving, which involved a long search into Victorian probate records from 2006 to see where, if any, charitable bequests were being made.

The data showed that inevitably, immediate family are the main beneficiaries of wills and that 9/10ths goes to children.  Only 1 in 20 wills make a charitable bequest which make up 1% of the total value of the testamentary trusts, and the wealthy do not give more proportionally than the less well off.

The data represents a snapshot of the intentions of people who were mostly born before 1930, giving weight to Dr Baker’s assertion that he has concluded that “it is indeed older people who tend to die” and therefore people who had a particular life experience including living through the depression, World War II and the norm of nuclear families. Dr Baker points out that in 2006 Australia had experienced its 15th consecutive year of growth in net wealth (with 55% of wealth held in houses and 70% home ownership), so that when these over 80 year olds passed away, they were mostly relatively comfortable and their children would arguably be in their 50s and no longer necessarily economically dependent (thus perhaps leaving space for a charitable bequest without this being to the detriment of the family if only one had thought of it at the time of amending/updating one’s will).

Probate is a record of personal assets held at time of death and excludes superannuation.  Apparently there are 35,000 deaths each year in Victoria.  Of the probate records sampled by Dr Baker, out of 1700 final estates (with no surviving spouse) 91 bequests were made to charities and 75% of the records viewed were of estates less than $500,000.  The value of total bequests studied was $11 million, but the typical – ie median bequest was $20,500.  Dr Baker’s studies showed that smaller estates left a larger proportion to charity.  However, he notes that the probate data under-represents the very wealthy who may well have other vehicles for investment (such as trusts etc) outside their personal estate.

What was interesting is that 80% of estates of people with children left nothing to charity, but people without children were 10 times more likely to leave a charitable distribution.

A national study (excluding Queensland*) will be undertaken by Dr Baker next year, and it will be interesting to see if there are state differences.

As an aside, Include a Charity is a new campaign aimed at increasing people’s awareness about making charitable bequests and providing more information to financial and legal advisers.

The session ended with a short panel discussion.

Does your organisation have a bequests strategy?  On the basis of this data, one might be discouraged from even considering chasing bequests – is it too hard? or is it a blue-sky opportunity?

How do you feel about bequests in your own situation?    Is an argument for “giving while living” a contradiction of the benefits of giving through bequests?

Let me know what you think – I look forward to your comments.

* Apparently the Queensland Government has denied a request to waive search fees on probate records for Dr Baker’s research, so they will be excluded from the study.

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