The re-establishment of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership program could be the ideal chance to initiate a cultural change in attitudes to giving, writes Philanthropy Australia Policy and Research Manager Krystian Seibert.
In last month’s Budget, the Australian Government announced $6 million over four years to support the re-establishment of the Community Business Partnership.
One of the roles of the Partnership will be to bring together Government, Business and Community representatives to provide advice on growing philanthropy in Australia.
This welcome announcement will mean that we are likely to see some interesting discussions about what we need to do to ‘supercharge’ philanthropy in Australia, including examination of policy initiatives that could encourage more giving.
When looking at policy initiatives that can do this, there can sometimes tend to be a focus on incentives for giving, and tax incentives in particular. Tax incentives are indeed a very important way that government encourages giving, and whilst there’s certainly room for improvement we’re fortunate in Australia to have a pretty good framework of tax incentives already in place.
But when it comes to the question of how governments can help create an environment that encourages more giving, tax incentives are only one part of the equation. Another important part of the equation is helping drive awareness of giving and its benefits.
It might be best to illustrate why this makes sense using a somewhat crude analogy – by comparing smoking and philanthropy. Smoking is something that is almost universally regarded in our society as a ‘bad’, whilst philanthropy is something almost universally regarded as a ‘good’.
Governments use a combination of policies to reduce smoking but most obviously they impose tax penalties on those who smoke, through tobacco excise. However they also fund awareness campaigns to help educate the public about the negative effects of smoking – we’ve all seen the TV advertisements hundreds if not thousands of times.
On the flipside, how do governments try to increase giving? As mentioned earlier, in Australia we have a pretty good set of tax incentives for giving. But what we lack is a focus on driving awareness – there is little or no emphasis from governments on educating the public about the positive effects of giving.
People give for a variety of reasons, and whilst tax incentives are important, they are only one factor that people consider when making decisions about their giving. To put it another way, tax incentives form only one part of the ‘business case’ for giving.
Perhaps more importantly, people can be motivated by altruism and knowing that their giving will ‘make a difference’, even if only in general terms. There are other factors too, such as the so called ‘warm glow’ effect – the positive feeling we get when we give.
Giving has many benefits for our community as a whole, and for the groups and individuals within it. What is needed is a focus on driving awareness of these benefits so we can start a national conversation about why giving is important and help initiate a cultural change in our attitudes to giving.
Such a focus on driving awareness needs to tell the stories of those who give and the reasons why, and tell the stories of the people, organisations and causes that giving benefits.
It should highlight the different ways people can give – such as through workplace giving, through a community foundation or by establishing a Private Ancillary Fund just to name a few examples. It also needs to target different audiences – the broader public but also individuals who can influence giving choices such as employers and financial advisers.
The question may be asked as to why government should provide funds for such a purpose.
You could ask the same question regarding why government should provide tax incentives for giving and the answer is no different.
There are a variety of rationales including that the benefits of giving to our community as a whole are larger than the benefits to individuals who themselves give and hence there is a role for some form of ‘taxpayer subsidy’, both through tax incentives and supporting efforts to drive awareness.
Ireland is one country which has recently launched a national giving campaign, called the ‘1% Difference’. It is funded jointly by the Irish Government and Atlantic Philanthropies, a foundation established by businessman Chuck Feeney which has granted more than $US6billion in Australia, Bermuda, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the United States and Vietnam.
The campaign is managed by Philanthropy Ireland, with the objective to start a national conversation and encourage a gradual cultural shift from giving ‘on demand’ towards planned and sustained giving by all members of the public.
The 1% Difference campaign was launched in June 2013, and included a series of major events culminating in a National Giving Week. National Giving Week was supported by an extensive advertising campaign.
In an unfortunate coincidence, the campaign only commenced a few months before the ‘Central Remedial Clinic’ scandal came to the surface, a case where the actions of a major charity have impacted upon public trust and confidence in charities and resulted in donations dropping considerably.
Given this, some clear air is needed to be able to properly evaluate the 1% Difference campaign’s effectiveness, and as the campaign is yet to move to its next stage there should be an opportunity to do this.
The 1% Difference campaign provides one example of how to drive awareness of the benefits of giving – something that needs more of a focus when we consider strategies for growing philanthropy in Australia. The re-established Community Business Partnership will provide an opportunity to put such ideas on the table, to consider and examine them in more detail.
This opinion piece originally appeared on Pro Bono Australia, Tuesday 17 June 2014.
Jun. 30, 2014
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