Executor and trustee companies, or dead people like to donate too

When people think about bequests, often it is in relation to people who leave money for a specific purpose, with a whole infrastructure around how the money is to be administered through setting up their own foundation with particular application criteria, or the idea of people who leave money to one specific thing (such as the Lost Dog’s Home or a particular cancer research organisation).

Some people leave money behind in their wills for a trustee company to look after without creating a foundation structure – and the trustee companies don’t necessarily have the same personal connection to recipients as very clearly directed personal foundations and trusts.

There are several key main trustee companies in Australia (ten according to the government in 2009) – and they administer several hundred bequests of varying sizes between them.

Trustee companies are sometimes mysterious to navigate and understand, because you don’t necessarily apply for the funds from the particular bequest which might support your cause, organisation or topic of interest, but put in a general application, which the trustee company can decide to allocate to the most appropriate bequest (if they choose). Some of them are also quite cagey about how to find the right information to help you make a decision about how to proceed.

The main trustee companies are:

State Trustees which has a grants program which distributes $40,000 per year to eligibile Victorian community organisations. Grant applications will open again on 1 July 2011.
They also administer some private charitable trusts for specific purposes but none of these seem to be for the arts or higher education at the moment.

Perpetual Trustees administer philanthropic grants which will be closing on 12 January 2011 – so if you are interested in these you need to get your skates on. You have to apply online and I understand that the form is a little bit difficult to navigate and save halfway through – so you need to be very well prepared. Read all the questions before you start and have your support material handy. Their site states that the application form is NOT mac compatible (so that makes it annoying for many arts organisations to begin with).

Applicants must be either endorsed by the Australian Tax Office as a deductible gift recipient, or have tax charity concession status (TCC). You can also only make one application per year (even though they administer several trusts and bequests) – so you need to be clear about which you want to apply for. You need to be clear about how your organisation performs, and why it works better than others in the same field – they ask about your social impact and niche as well as strategies and priorities, risk management strategies and a percentage breakdown of your revenue streams.

Gifts range between $10,000 and $100,000 with an average grant of $40,000. Successful applicants will be notifed by 30 June.

It’s a tricky form – and Perpetual says that once submitted it will be treated as final – no amendments or additions (in case you forgot something or left something out). Probably best to read their frequently asked questions before you begin.

I couldn’t really work out from their website which trusts they are administering and their goals, but the Philanthropy Australia directory says they manage more than 400 charitable trusts, but you need to know the name of the trust to begin with. (Clue: One of them is the Margaret Lawrence Bequest – or you can go about it from the other direction and read the Philanthropy Australia Directory of Philanthropy from cover to cover to see which trusts they manage – you can find this in the reference section of most public libraries – or subscribe online to it for $85 per year).

I know that some of you have experience with Perpetual so you might be able to provide a bit more enlightenment.

Equity Trustees looks after more than 200 trusts and you can see some of these on their website (but you can only scroll through a certain number of pages before coming to a stop and not seeing everything). Applicants must mostly be in Victoria. They do have a pull down menu which allows you to choose an area of interest – there are only five trusts listed for arts and culture and only seven under education. Deadlines for 2011 are not yet up on the site – it is probably worth making a telephone call to clarify, though in the past the deadline has been 30 June. Individuals may apply for some scholarships through Equity Trustees.

ANZ Trustees manages 230 charitable foundations and 40 grant programs with the size of grants ranging from $1,000 to $5.7 million. At first glance their site has much friendlier wording than Perpetual and the grants and programs seem more easily navigable.

Interestingly, one of the trusts they manage is the Alfred Felton Bequest – which is the main source of income for new acquisitions at the National Gallery of Victoria. However, on reading the guidelines – the funds administered here are not specifically for arts or education – you might be able to work your application to meet their needs particularly if it is in a rural or regional area.

Closing dates for ANZ trustees appear to be 1 March.

The Trust Company of Australia which I admit I was not familiar with before researching this post supports The Miles Franklin Literary Award, The Michael Kieran Harvey Scholarship and awards supporting ballet, fine art, costume design and opera. The next funding round is expected to open in April (and will presumably close 30 June – check the dates, don’t rely on me).

There are also Public Trustee Companies in every state and territory, ie Public Trustee SA, Public Trustee WA, Public Trustee NT which probably work in the same way.

If your organisation does have DGR and/or TCC these are very worth looking into.

What is your experience with executor/trustee companies? Is it worth the effort of their quite cumbersome application forms? How do you develop relationships with these organisations?

I hope this gives you something to think about over the break.



About ozphilanthropy

#Philanthropy. #arts Posts by Sharon Nathani, PhD candidate at the Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne focussing on philanthropic funders of the arts. Sharon's study is supported through an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.
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