By Alexandra Williamson and Sharon Nathani
Ozphilanthropy and I recently attended the ANZTSR Conference in Sydney. What the blazes is that? we hear you asking – it’s the Australia New Zealand Third Sector Research conference (as no one has yet decided on a definitive name for civil society, the voluntary sector, the nonprofit sector or the third sector).
We note that there is often a shared frustration at the lack of bridges between academia and practitioners, so we thought we would present what we saw in an attempt to address this.
Of course, there is much more depth and diversity to third sector research than is hinted at here. The benefits of conferences such as ANZTSR are that they can lead to better research, through critique, sharing of expertise, and building relationships and collaborations.
For example, a small-scale pilot study by researchers at Murdoch University in WA around whether charity board members are paid was prompted by an ACNC guide released in July 2017. Following discussions at the ANZTSR conference, the researcher is considering an expanded multi-state study for 2019, with the possibility of including philanthropic foundations in the data collection which would provide baseline data for the philanthropic sector for the first time on charitable and philanthropic board remuneration.
Local conferences give PhD students and early-career philanthropy researchers a chance to meet and have informal conversations with mentors and senior academics in their fields. This is important given as so much philanthropy research comes from the U.S. where the culture, regulation and structures around giving are significantly different, and findings may not be relevant or need translation.
Here is a brief overview of each of the papers presented that were specific to philanthropy/foundations:
Elizabeth Cham University of Technology Sydney
What contemporary philanthropists think about public accountability for their philanthropy?
Elizabeth is known to many of us for her former role with Philanthropy Australia. Elizabeth analysed the 114 submissions to Treasury in 2008-2009 responding to the Discussion Paper on Private Ancillary Funds (PAFs) and examined the Commonwealth Budget Papers for 2001-2009 as a case study of public accountability. Elizabeth writes about how powerful groups circulate and promote their own values and norms so that they become the “common sense” values of a society. This is based on an academic theory by Gramsci who was an Italian philosopher and communist, imprisoned for many years under Mussolini.
Matthew Hall, Monash University
Donors’ views on charities and role of accounting information in donation decisions
Matt’s research examines the importance of accounting information about charitable organisations when people make decisions about donations. He conducted 20 interviews with small donors, using vignettes about a fictional charity to see how their donation decisions changed when the amount and content of the information available to them changed. His research found that donors do not act like investors but prefer to give to charities that they are familiar with and that they trust. There was a reinforcement of the importance of narrative and story-telling in influencing and connecting with donors.
From Ms Ozphilanthropy herself, currently at Swinburne University of Technology
Private Ancillary Funds supporting arts: networks, decision-making and discretion
Sharon’s PhD research aims to look into the grantmaking decisions of PAFs (and the broader philanthropy network), in particular in relation to supporting arts and culture. She will use a social network analysis approach drawing on interviews and data available in public reports and documents to explore whether PAFs use advice and recommendations from networks of peers, mentors, professional advisers, and regulators.
Hopefully mapping the networks of PAFs will demystify their role in arts and cultural funding in Australia.
Krystian Seibert, Swinburne University of Technology
Regulation of community foundations in Australia: change is needed, but there are challenges on the road to reform
Community foundations are restricted in their work by complex tax and regulatory structures. Krystian’s research examines the idea a separate, dedicated deductible gift recipient (DGR) category for Australia’s 38 community foundations, and the tax integrity issues this might raise. At the moment PAFs can not give to PubAFs and grantmaking of community foundations is limited to certain organisation types. This can create problems in regional areas where there are not enough currently eligible recipient organisations.
Alexandra Williamson, Queensland University of Technology
Accountability and identity in dyadic Public Ancillary Funds
Alexandra’s PhD research on accountability in Public Ancillary Funds (PubAFs) such as community and corporate foundations led to the unexpected finding that 19 in a small sample of 28 existed in dyadic or two-way relationships, or strong, long-term, near-exclusive partnerships with another organisation.
In interviews, managers and trustees of PubAFs characterised these dyadic relationships both negatively (as restrictive) and positively (as supportive). In both cases, dyadic partnerships dominate the accountability and identity of the PubAFs that work within them.
How do you connect with research? Does it make a difference for your organisation?
The conference also included a lively panel on the Impact and Engagement of Family Foundations featuring Sarah Benjamin from the Keir Foundation with a focus on the arts, John McKinnon from the McKinnon Family Foundation supporting climate change, and Mary Crooks from the Victorian Womens Trust.
Sarah’s key message was that funds go further when leveraged with other organisations or presented as matched funding. Her foundation was keen to invest in underfunded areas such as dance, and to collaborate with other organisations to extend the life of the works created, so they have created the Keir Choreographic Awards in partnership with Dancehouse in Melbourne and Carriageworks in Sydney. The funds they contribute are matched by the Australia Council and the program enables choreographers from overseas to come to Australia as jurors which in turn introduces Australian dancers and choreographers to overseas audiences.
Sarah talked about the benefits of having a small family foundation as being that they are not risk averse, have zero overhead costs and can partner with other organisations and cover administration costs if necessary. They can be quick to act, flexible and enjoy providing multi-year funding.
John agreed with her that you can create big impact with small budgets if you choose wisely. His foundation has no website and doesn’t take unsolicited grants, and intends to spend down within one generation. He sees their role as being an agent of change and the role of philanthropy as being uniquely placed to challenge power. Gifts with no strings attached are rare and he prefers to preserve their grant capital by providing loans where feasible and to grant where others can’t (or won’t) – often in relation to advocacy. He says “charity can move millions, advocacy can move billions”
Like the Keir Foundation the McKinnon Foundation doesn’t just give and forget but likes to be involved with the boards of some of the organisations they grant to and facilitate introductions and bringing the right parties together.
Mary Crooks spoke about the formation of the Victorian Womens’ Trust (VWT) with a $1 million investment from the government and how they became an independent entity in 1992. Her organisation is enmeshed within the not-for-profit sector as advocates, researchers and participants as well as grant-makers. They run a sub-fund model for a variety of purposes and are working to make their grant-making for women sustainable. Mary talked about several VWT projects such as Koorie Women Mean Business, Club Respect, Credit Where Credit is Due, Who Gets the Farm?as well as the “gift that keeps on giving” – the Purple Sage project which developed their Kitchen Table Conversations which were utilised in the Voices4Indi campaign.
Academia and practice can come together for dynamic and strong conversations. What do you think about how we can work to improve the flow of information between them?