Australian philanthropy is going global

By: Birger Stamperdahl   |   CEO of Give2Asia & Board Member of Give2Asia Australia

Thirty years ago, American philanthropy looked very different than it does today – especially when it comes to overseas giving.  At that time, most U.S. donors looked to international NGOs or donated to their local church for an overseas mission. 

Since then, overseas giving from the United States has changed significantly. Of course, the US continues to support INGOs and religious charities. Yet millions of donors have diversified where and how they give overseas. These represent giving to different and more diverse causes and overseas projects.

This opening up of new overseas philanthropy is now also happening in Australia. Thanks to new regulations, Australians can now make tax-deductible gifts to support poverty alleviation projects abroad through Public Benevolent Institutions (PBIs).

What will this mean for the Australian philanthropy sector? Will it unlock a wave of new giving and international engagement from Australian donors? Perhaps the recent evolution of philanthropy in the USA will provide clues.

Over the past two decades, Give2Asia has facilitated nearly US$500 million in grants from US-based funders to charities in 25 markets across the Asia-Pacific region … including Australia. Donors range from Fortune 500 corporations to small families. Project partners include locally focused organisations working in rural and urban communities to address pressing needs with practical solutions. 

Like in Australia, most donors in the US support overseas causes by donating to a domestic nonprofit. Many of the newer organisations that have sprung up in the United States during the past 20 years enable more personal and creative partnerships between funders and overseas recipient organisations.

This growth in US charitable giving overseas has been part of the overall growth in charitable giving for both domestic and overseas causes. Of the US$427 billion donated to charity by Americans last year, only 5% went to international causes, according to Giving USA. 

More importantly, the overall pie is growing. Since 1980, charitable giving from the US has increased by 1,000%, even after adjusting for inflation. Increasing the giving options in the US has resulted in more overall giving. Enabling overseas gifts also may engage new donors who otherwise may not give at all. 

Giving is driven by relationships. For local charities, that often involves a face-to-face relationship. But it also includes a Vietnamese Students Association in Sydney organizing a bake-off to raise money for COVID relief in Vietnam, or Australian cricket stars supporting economic relief for Sri Lanka because they share a connection through the game.

Now that Australia has opened the doors for overseas giving, it is up to the sector to take advantage of this opportunity. Will we seek high-impact opportunities to alleviate poverty around the world, like our friends at The Life You Can Save? Will we identify and engage the next generation of donors with causes close to their hearts, even if they aren’t close to home? 

Together, we get to write the next chapter of Australian philanthropy. Let’s make it global.

Birger Stamperdahl is a Keynote Speaker at next month’s Philanthropy Australia Conference.

Aug. 19, 2022

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