President’s Strategic Plan Update – Feedback Summary

Background

The Strategic Plan update was distributed via email on Wednesday 17 June 2016 to all 6,989 contacts on the Philanthropy Australia database (included members and non-members). The email was opened by 34% (2,147) of recipients and 16% (346) clicked on a link in the email – 284 of which clicked on the Presidents Update PDF link.

Just under 600 email addresses were not active, while another 350 returned a permanent out of office message. This figure, although high, is not surprising given that the email was sent to the entire database, including contacts that we have not been in touch with for a number of years.

The update was also sent individually to key stakeholders and ex-members for their comments via the Council and senior staff members.

A live-webinar was held on 26 June and whilst 39 registered for the webinar – 19 attended.

At the close of the feedback process – 27 responses had been received – Table 1.

Over half of the responses came from a member – Table 2.
 

Table 1: Feedback Responses – by State
 

State

Survey

Email

Total

NSW

3

4

7

VIC

6

9

15

QLD

1

1

2

SA

1

0

1

N/A

1

2

3

Total

12

16

28

 


Table 2: Feedback Responses - by Membership
 

Membership Type

Survey

Email

Total

Member

6

9

15

Associate

4

2

6

New Gen

0

2

2

Subscribers

0

0

0

Ex-Member

2

0

2

N/A

0

3

3

Total

12

16

28

 

Responses:

Feedback was sought and categorised under nine core questions and responses have been summarised into key comments and themes. A full unedited version of all feedback is also available. The level of feedback has been relatively low, not unexpectedly, and generally very supportive of the opportunity to provide such feedback and a reflection that change needs to occur:

“It¹s good stuff and covers a lot of the issues we have been concerned about.” “Thanks for being so inclusive to date.”

“Thank you again for the opportunity to provide feedback.”

“I like the way you have kicked off consultation & strategy engagement - well done.”

“Let me congratulate you for the work done to date. Your clear and concise update has required an enormous amount of work on your part and on the part of Council Members and PA employees in terms of distilling the varying and often conflicting views of members. I still recall all too well a lunch you hosted at your office at which approximately 20 PA members were present with many of us articulating different priorities and concerns.”
 

1. Are there environmental and contextual changes that we missed in our Strategic Planning Update that need to be considered as part of the strategic planning process for PA?

"PA should consider in its future planning the growing size and significance of Native Title charitable trusts and the role it has to play in supporting those trusts and the communities establishing them and also PA’s role in charitable bequeathing (both from a structuring and direct legacy perspective)."

"The impact on technology has been significantly underplayed in the strategy paper. It provides both challenges and opportunities, and is the most cost effective way for a small organisation to reach people across Australia.

"And note that the role of an association will increasingly shift from a one-size-fits-all approach to something more customized, providing a lightweight structure for fostering a variety of peer-to-peer connections and enabling participatory leadership. (Source “Nine key Trends Affecting the Charitable Sector – USA.”

"The role of intermediaries eg AWDN/JFN/AEGN isn’t apparent in the strategy."

"There needs to me more exploration of collaborative funding globally."
 

2. Are there areas of member feedback that were not outlined in the Strategic Planning Update that you would like to bring to our attention?

"PA needs to work collaboratively with the sub-peaks such as ACP, AEGN, JFN etc and not duplicate some of the work that is best done by peer to peer experts."

"The mixed membership of PA including grant makers and grant seekers is problematic and makes the job of first defining the mission and purpose and then fulfilling them more difficult than necessary"

“I can’t see how members who pay higher fees (based on their distribution) get any better value.  I think fees should be stratified based on how much time/service/value is being delivered and this should be the same for all parties.”

"There should be a much clearer focus on philanthropy and supporting philanthropists.  Currently the engagement with grant seekers/NFPs is limited and not meeting the needs of this sector.  I don't think we should be all things to all people."
 

3. Do you agree with the principles outlined in the Strategic Planning Update to orient the future strategic plan? Why/Why not?

“I particularly like the concept of fee for service or granting for specific special projects.  I'd also like to see PA be a stronger leader in driving research into the Australian Philanthropic sector - increased knowledge can lead to more strategic and professional giving. I'd like to see opportunities for PA members to fund big campaigns/special projects.   Lastly - I'd like to see PA continue its leadership in driving impact investing for philanthropic foundations.”

Support an increased focus on developing the base of people investing in philanthropy to achieve positive social outcomes i.e. democratising philanthropy"

"There are too many activities in Melbourne and Sydney - or not enough in SA/WA/QLD which are states where people traditionally prefer face to face meetings and networking events."
 

4. Do you think that PA needs to change its mission and the way it operates? Why/Why not?

PA has a role to play as honest broker, facilitator and navigator of the many varying concerns of the membership. Where there are clear benefits in policy and advocacy for all members, the role of PA is clear. Where there are sharp differences of views, the role of PA should be to lead in bringing parties together for best resolution

“I’m not sure that the mission needs to be changed, but PA probably does need at least to clarify for members how it operates, what level of service can be provided to members and what its limits are.”

“I think PA needs to both lead (innovations) and serve the philanthropic sector.” “The revised principles are more inclusive and dynamic.”

“The great challenge for PA is not simply to be seen as a peak body...there is no magic pull that sits only with being a peak body....The challenge lies in convincing people/organisations as to why they should desperately need to join and retain their membership. Why do subscribers to the Economist, for example, pay top dollar year after year? What is the real and compelling allure?”

“I note that events tend to be expensive to attend, perhaps to offset the cost of hospitality. While in the past I have attended events that were subsidised by my organisations, I often now find myself balking at outlays of $200+ to attend an event when I consider the alternative of donating to a philanthropic organisations.”
 

5. The Strategic Planning Update re-frames the purpose of PA as 'the peak body that services the philanthropic sector to achieve more and better philanthropy’. Do you agree with this purpose? Why/Why not?

“On the overarching purpose outlined of being ‘the peak body that serves the philanthropic sector to achieve more and better philanthropy’, we are philosophically aligned to the ‘better’ component, and believe it is more important to foster the unique and complementary role that philanthropy plays within the ecosystem - rather than some of the ‘more’ aspects outlined such as growing the number of Foundations, PAF’s etc. We would rather see “more” funnelled through existing Foundations/PAFs etc.”

"Of interest was the interpretation of the word ‘philanthropy’"

“This makes clear PA’s constituency - the philanthropic sector, which says to me ‘grant makers’” “Yes - I think we should emphasise philanthropy.”

“My own view is that membership should be limited to philanthropic grant makers - whether this also includes grant makers that themselves have an imperative to raise funds in order to grant funds is a complicating factor and I think the category should be a broad one (capturing community foundations and FRRR, for example), but should not include foundations whose primary purpose is fundraising for a particular cause or organisation.”

"Remove the Associates- have only Members."

"Yes - I think we should only have philanthropists as members with minimum annual grants as a level (maybe $25k per annum) of entry to membership."

“I note that you continue to maintain a foot in both camps with donors and charities as members.”
 

6. In your view, what would a successful PA look like in five years' time, and how would you measure success?

A number of key aspects were identified and listed below:

  • PA entering into a demonstrable number of collaborations with other key bodies (especially universities) to improve leadership on critical funding issues.
  • Demonstrable increase in establishment of philanthropic structures in Australia.
  • Demonstrable increase in level of charitable giving via estates.
  • Demonstrable increase in Advice sector knowledge on philanthropy.
  • Agreed code of ethics for philanthropy.
  • Increased membership.
  • An engaged membership (measured with targets).
  • Financially viable business model for PA.
  • A growing membership that was deriving value and satisfaction from its membership, was contributing its experience and expertise, and was advocating membership to new players.
  • PA would be the voice of choice of government and policy makers on matters philanthropic and a voice on the social/educational/research/environmental issues for which philanthropy provides so much catalytic and ongoing funding.
  • A large subscription base combined with a smaller number of engaged members
  • Be seen as respected policy advocate and have undertaken a couple of key research projects.
  • Be more accessible to all parties interested in giving; growing philanthropy in a broader section of society; mainstreaming impact investing for foundations corpus'; driving projects that broaden and deepen professional, innovative, strategic philanthropy in Australia
  • Being a major player involved in initiating research and education in the area of philanthropy (and possibly having a role in the rationalisation of the number of organisations who are seeking funding as well as providing information to people who are interested in giving money but not necessarily encouraging them to set up their own fund). Its about quality and effectiveness not quantity and inefficiencies.
  • An emerging sense that PA stands for fairness on the community and has been seen to advocate on national issues that go to the heart of the well-being of ordinary people across the country and those doing it much harder than most. Sadly there is a bit of a sense that philanthropy, no matter how much quiet and unsung work there is, is seen as 'unto those who have it, more is given.'
  • The champion of philanthropy in Australia and it would have elevated the understanding and potency of philanthropy for the general benefit of Australians.
  • More philanthropy, measured by $ and diversity of giving options/structures
  • A truly national organisation with staff located in every state (don't necessarily have to be 'state managers'), get the best people working for you regardless of their home location.
  • Statistics on the amounts of Australians who give and the $ amounts.
  • To set a national giving target for 5 years or 10 years ahead? A bit like we want 'emission reduction % targets' on climate change - do we want to set 'philanthropic giving increase % target' by 2030 - something for the entire population to aspire to?!
  • Set targets to increase philanthropy in the community, achieve some stand-out collaborative funding initiatives, identify and solve some key issues in society and increase activities to build the capacity and skills of philanthropists.
     

7. Having read the Strategic Planning Update, do you think that PA needs to develop a new membership model? If yes, what changes to the membership structure would you like to see?

“I would envisage:

1. First level, low fee, on-line ‘subscription’ based membership for anyone who’s interested, which would provide information on philanthropy, access to specific conferences (PNZ, AVPN etc), events, and online ‘cause/interest’ groups.

2. Second level membership level would be for engaged philanthropists (both foundations and individuals) and would involve engagement with policy issues, include face-to-face ‘cause/interest/affinity’ groups, and networking events for those who are philanthropy practitioners (“philanthrocrats”) for whom a cohort is important to share knowledge, experience etc.

3. Third level would be ad hoc fee based research/policy/advice/assistance for individual members / government etc.”

“Difficult Trusts and Foundations always want to be the central group and important to maintain them. But they are most extremely conservative so I wouldn't hurry to change the present model. But try to make associate membership more accessible. In the short term might help.”

"Membership could be reframed as participation? This is probably harder to sell - membership is passive - pay a membership fee and many people probably don't get a lot of perceived value and may be passive-don't attend events etc just want to be "seen" as a member (easier for the body charging the fee to some degree) in a participation model more work for peak body to actively engage people but outcomes could be more dynamic and effective and people pay a premium for things that are important to them. More difficult to finance operations of peak body as well.”

"Yes, change the model."

"Subscriptions should contribute to support PA with its plans for the advancement of philanthropy in Australia rather than for 'member' satisfaction."

"Community Foundation membership should remain affordable

"Make membership easier, keep it simple, not based on what type of organisation we are but based on the benefits or level of engagement we wish to purchase. Ask for donations to fund certain research or activities at the same time as membership subscription."
 

8. Is there anything else you think we should consider as part of our Strategic Planning process?

"We are interested to understand what opportunities exist for collaboration on research and impact measurement and would like to see PA play an even greater role in encouraging members to use best practice evaluation and measurement tools."

"Would like to see more emphasis on PA’s leadership role in the region ie Asia, NZ and Pacific."

“I am wary of the use of PA’s DGR status to stimulate more and better philanthropy. I see this as a potential competitor to many of us who are both grant makers and philanthropic intermediaries. I am not sure what is intended here, maybe it needs to be more explicit about the areas PA plans to work in.”

“I would like to see very clear collaborative relationships with bodies such as ACOSS, National Disability Services, Our Community ….”

“ At present interest groups/issue areas are poorly organised apart from JFN, AWDN and AEGN but it¹s a delicate role for PA.”

“Further, while there is increased attention on and efforts towards collaboration we need to ensure that we do not assume that this leads to greater effectiveness, as one does not necessarily result from the other.”

"Advocating for philanthropy to be included in MBA courses, AICD, AIM etc courses. Alliances should be forged with more stakeholders."

"A sharper focus to build and share data."
 

9. Other comments:

“We believe in the future potential of the impact investment market in Australia and are therefore very pleased to see it on your agenda. It may be semantics, but we believe that impact investment (including financial instruments such as Social Impact Bonds) should not be labelled as new models of philanthropic giving. We see these as social driven investments with expected social and financial returns, rather than a mode of philanthropic giving.”

“Grant making appears to be regarded as primarily an administrative task rather than an initiative which needs to use the best available knowledge to problem solve. Recently I have looked on with dismay as a large grant that I sourced to deal with complex educational problems in a regional community has been dumbed down by both grant making body and grant recipients to become a second rate community development project which will have no impact on the specified outcomes. There seems to be some objection to the use of expertise in this particular Foundation.”

“In short I think we battle a tradition of acceptance of mediocrity in the sector, because good intentions are seen as the important thing.”

An observation made in that “the mission defines who we serve – those in the philanthropic sector who care about more and better philanthropy. But it does not define who owns us, which is a question we have been grappling with. Currently we are owned by our members. His advice is to seek to answer that question (and all other questions as we put together the Options) by reference to our Purpose. That is, "to achieve our Purpose, what is the best ownership structure?”

“As peak body, where might the tension be in the delivery of member services, compared to wider sector benefits that may, for example, be funded by individual funders. Is there a danger of being driven by those with funds to invest in PA as opposed to members who do great things but may not have funds to grant to PA for projects?”

“As an NFP, it seems to me that we have a stake in ‘more and better philanthropy’ - Therefore, your approach of collaborating with other individuals and organisations are very well framed.”

The philanthropic sector needs to have a more sophisticated conversation about working with government.  The current conversation seldom extends beyond it not being philanthropy's role to 'let government off the hook'.

“I believe PA is rapidly losing market share to other competitor¹ organisations such as the AICD which now runs a significant NFP governance program.  Since December the Australian Institute of Management has gone through a significant strategic planning process and I would commend the way that they engaged members as part of that process. The value proposition was the focus.”

“I was most disappointed that your membership fees are based on distributions. I work (part-time) for a family Foundation with me being the only paid employee. We distribute well over $1M p.a. As someone new to Philanthropy, I could see the benefits of joining PA but my board would not commit the funds. I personally paid to be a New Gen Member (as this was the cheapest option) to see what I would get out of it. Perhaps you could consider getting rid of your tiered membership fees or have an option for Foundations that 'run on the smell of an oily rag' rather than those that are 'top heavy' in administration costs.”