Philanthropy Australia Supplementary Submission: Is there a role for Government in supporting a National Giving Campaign?

Philanthropy Australia’s main submission to the Productivity Commission in May 2023 discussed how a National Giving Campaign could be designed and the benefits that could accrue (pp.41-44).

This submission discusses an earlier threshold question: ‘Is there a role for government in supporting a National Giving Campaign?’

We have recently heard an argument that there is no role for government in seeking to change people’s individual preferences, social behaviour or national culture.

Philanthropy Australia believes this view is wrong in economic theory and practice.

• Government is ubiquitous in its activities to impact our culture and behaviour. The issue is not whether there is a role for government, but where, how and to what extent it intervenes.
• A major branch of economics – institutional economics – recognises the importance of institutions (including norms and culture) and highlights the need for government to act to encourage institutions that foster strong economic and social outcomes.
• Only by influencing our culture can we hope to double giving. Changing tax and regulatory settings alone can’t get it done. Only with a generous and giving national culture – where Australians, particularly those more fortunately placed, believe it is their role and honour to give to people in need – can we hope to double giving.
• National Giving Campaigns can address significant externalities beyond the direct impact of improving the lives of people in need: social capital and community engagement; a more equal society; and happiness, purpose and meaning for givers.
• Government has invested in national social campaigns in ways demonstrated to be cost effective in a suite of fields. For relatively limited investment, the economic and social return – including lives saved, health improved and government social expenditure averted – has been significant.
• We can develop a high value National Giving Campaign, targeting lucrative markets, that would deliver a large increase in national giving for a relatively modest investment.

The detail for these arguments follows below. We believe the material shows there is a strong economic case for a role for government in supporting a National Giving Campaign.