Family Foundations


Welcome to the new year.

Family foundations are a good source of support for the arts in Australia. When I refer to family foundations I mean to differentiate them from community foundations and prescribed ancillary funds. I am specifically writing about foundations set up by a family, and often with members of the family (even several generations down the track) still highly involved in decision making about grants and gifts.

The best known and easily accessed are:

The Sidney Myer Fund and the Myer Foundation. Don’t forget to look at their annual report which I linked to some time ago. The Myer Foundation now has its fourth generation of family making decisions and allocating grants (ie the great grandchildren of the founder) – known in today’s shorthand as G4.

The Besen Family Foundation has a strong interest in the arts, and can support individuals if they partner with a not for profit organisation such as AbaF’s Australia Cultural Fund. (my former colleague at AbaF, Damien Hodgkinson, has promised to guest post on this excellent facility very soon).

The Ian Potter Foundation and the Ian Potter Cultural Trust. The Ian Potter Cultural Trust is in a unique position in that it IS able to give directly to individual artists and supports postgraduate arts education overseas.

These have very clear guidelines, deadlines and application processes and should be on every arts organisation and artist’s list for potential support every year.

A few perhaps more difficult family foundations but also worth considering are:

The Pratt Foundation not currently taking unsolicited applications – but from my understanding very open to meetings and proposals (if properly introduced)

The Reichstein Foundation – unfortunately not taking new applications at this time due to the global downturn and pre-existing commitments

The Vizard Foundation – also not currently taking applications.

The Smorgan Family philanthropic arm – this doesn’t have a formal application process, but that is not to say that they can not be approached and wooed as they say that they “prefers to identify under resourced areas of the community and work in partnership with Government and other foundations and trusts to provide solutions.” – If you are ready to seriously build a relationship and take the time this may be a good one to target.

The Gandel Charitable Trust – very elusive – no web contact details. Here is the listing for the Gandel Group of Companies in the White Pages – again a long developed relationship probably facilitated by a good introduction will be the best bet.

What these foundations have in common is that they were set up long before the tax changes in 2001 which saw the setting up of more than 800 prescribed private funds (primarily by families), and which are now known as PAFs or prescribed ancillary funds.

They are philanthropic in the true sense of having their own strategic giving goals and not only being driven by the advantages of the tax deductibility of their structure.

It is important to understand the background of the foundations you might be approaching, because identifying their goals and priorities will assist you in how you approach them and create synergies between your work and their areas of interest.

While some of these foundations are not taking applications – remember that they are still constitutionally bound to pay out a certain percentage of their income or capital each year – so they do have to find appropriate recipients. If you can take the time to develop a good approach and have a long term strategy of say at least three to five years, then even though you might not see a return immediately, you might be in a good position to benefit later on (after the foundation has been able to see your work over a longer period of time and understand what you do and how you demonstrate your good practice and good governance).

What do you think of family foundations and what is your experience with them? Do you think that having family members as trustees or decision makers is a good thing? Does the structure of the foundation you receive from affect how you approach them?

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About ozphilanthropy

#Philanthropy. Posts by Sharon Nathani. Consultant, blogger, speaker & committee member/grantmaker @Impact100Melb and Melbourne Womens Fund. Board member at Outer Urban Projects. Learning more to share with you through Grad Dip in Philanthropy and Nonprofit studies at QUT and Masters in Social Investment & Philanthropy at Swinburne. Former Executive Officer Inner North Community Foundation.
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3 Responses to Family Foundations

  1. Sue says:

    Good post. There is now only one family member involved in decision making for the Potter Foundation (and the only female trustee as well). I’ve had good dealings with the Gandel Trust – they do prefer hard copy applications, but you don’t need to send them 20 pages – a one page summary outlining what you are looking for will do it – they’ll let you know if they need anything else. I applaud their lack of process having just finished the latest Perpetual Trustees application!

    Myer really have it nailed in terms of engaging with their younger generation.

    • Hi Sue,

      thanks for your feedback on this one. As you can see I had a bit of trouble coming up with a good list of family foundations – I don’t know if there are many others out there who are keeping even lower profiles – and would love to hear of them if they exist (and support arts and higher education).

      It is interesting to see the range of requirements for various foundations and trusts in terms of what they require to make an ask or an approach. I am sure many not for profits sometimes wonder whether the pain of some of the more stringent application forms such as Perpetual’s is worth it, but I also think that the level of self examination required can be a good exercise if there is the time to do it occasionally and if you can use it for your own strategic and internal growth.

  2. Pingback: the first rule of screenwriting | ozphilanthropy

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