How bequests underpin positive change in our communities

Fri, 8 Sep 2023

As a major sponsor of the Fundraising Institute of Australia’s Include a Charity Week 2023 campaign, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation held an event at the Melbourne Town Hall this week. ‘Will wonders never cease’ was aimed at encouraging more people to consider leaving a legacy gift to create a positive impact in their community after they’ve gone.

Rikki Andrews, the Foundation’s General Manager Fund Development was MC for the event. Alongside Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Sally Capp AO, speakers included former Foundation Board member Tony Scott and Jasper Pittard co-founder of Footy for Climate. The event also featured a special screening of the short film ‘Our Local’.

The Lord Mayor spoke about the importance of bequests to the longevity of Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, which is celebrating its centenary this year. Started by Sir John Swanson to support Melbourne’s metropolitan hospitals and charities when he was Lord Mayor in 1923, he also left the charity its first bequest when he died. The Lord Mayor highlighted that many of Australia’s great philanthropic entities were started with bequests, and that bequests play an ongoing role in supporting the work of the Foundation.

 “It’s very emotional and gratifying to see the work and the impact of Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation in the community,” said the Lord Mayor. Last financial year, she said, the Foundation had distributed almost $13 million in grants.

“Often the Foundation is the first to step in and take the initial risk with funding. Their leadership is relied on to make a positive impact in our local community, not just in Melbourne but across Victoria.” 

Former Foundation Board member and co-founder of Youth in Philanthropy, Tony Scott, shared stories of how the program had provided philanthropic opportunities for young people and created systemic social change since its establishment in 2002. The program has provided more than $4 million in grants with 25 schools and 1500 students participating in the program during the past 20 years.

Former North Melbourne AFL player Jasper Pittard told the story of how he co-founded Footy for Climate with current St Kilda player Tom Campbell following a discussion they had as a result of the 2019 bushfires. Due to the smoke that spread across Melbourne from the east-coast disaster, AFL players were moved indoors to train – or decamped to Queensland. 

He and Tom realised that community footy clubs would not have those options to deal with the impact of climate change. The impact of climate disasters in preventing people from playing sport and the impact of that on people’s mental health – as well as on the green spaces needed for sport – is at the heart of Footy for Climate’s work. With ongoing support from Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, the organisation has helped scores of local football clubs to install solar panels in a bid to promote their sustainability. The group also advocates within the football sector and recently influenced the AFL to appoint its first Head of Sustainability, Jo Gilbert.

“The fires made us realise that footy needs protecting at all levels, not just the elite,” said Jasper. “Footy and sports clubs are the heartbeat of communities across the country and we have to protect them for the future.”

Jasper shared the stage for a Q&A with Gab Pound, who plays for Carlton in the AFL’s Women’s League (AFL-W). She talked about her love of the outdoors, and how important it is to support sport. “Sport brings people together and does a lot for communities so it’s important that we plan for the future and reduce the risk of climate change on our clubs.”

The Lord Mayor concluded by saying that the Foundation simply could not do its work to create generational change without the support of its donors, many of whom have left bequests. 

“We’re deeply grateful and encourage everyone to consider leaving a lasting legacy gift in their will to a charity.”

Making it easier to leave a bequest in from excess superannuation is one of Philanthropy Australia’s key recommendations to the Productivity Commission’s review of philanthropy. Philanthropy Australia’s plan would allow Australians to list a charity as a beneficiary in a binding death benefit nomination, in the same way a dependent can currently be listed.