Philanthropy has been put firmly on the election campaign agenda with the past two weeks revealing how important growing the nation’s giving is for both major parties.
It started on Budget night when the Assistant Treasurer, the Hon Michael Sukkar MP, announced historic reforms to help unlock the full potential of community foundations across Australia.
This week, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities, the Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP, announced that, if elected, Labor would direct Treasury to collaborate with the philanthropic, for-purpose and business sectors to develop a strategy for philanthropy, identifying a suite of initiatives to double giving in Australia by 2030.
Labor’s media statement states: “This boost to our national culture of giving back would bring charitable donations as a share of GDP into line with countries like New Zealand.’’
The full statement is available here.
In combination, these announcements pick up the key components of Philanthropy Australia’s Election Statement, A National Action Plan to Double Philanthropic Giving to Australian Charities by 2030, available here.
The promise of Labor’s double giving commitment
The collaborative approach to developing a strategy for philanthropy set out by Dr Leigh could turbo-change the culture and practice of giving in Australia in a range of ways.
- Setting a clear national strategy for philanthropy should lead to a more coherent and powerful policy environment to grow giving.
- A national conversation on the future of philanthropy involving the philanthropic, for-purpose and business sectors will put philanthropy more strongly on the map, building a stronger understanding across the Parliament and the Australian community about why philanthropy matters and how it can lead to a stronger society. This is an essential threshold condition for driving changes in the policy environment and Australia’s culture of giving.
- The collaborative approach is well-designed to bring together a powerful agenda for change. Setting a goal to double giving – which would be transformative for our nation – should galvanise the philanthropic, for-purpose and business sectors to bring forth their best ideas, time and treasure to creating a more generous and giving Australia.
- Philanthropy Australia will be able to make the case for the powerful policy reforms we propose in our Election Statement. For instance, giving Australians the choice through their superannuation arrangements to leave some money to charity upon their passing would be particularly impactful. With super balances at death set to reach at least $130 billion by 2059, this reform alone would unleash billions for Australian charities. Reform could also ensure that Australians can donate and get a tax deduction to many more of Australia’s 58,000 charities, rather than restricting Deductible-Gift-Recipient (DGR) status to around 30,000 charities.
- It could lead to initiatives to create a stronger philanthropic culture. For instance, a national multi-channel campaign could inspire Australians and provide them with simple, practical ways to give. This could help reverse the decline in the proportion of Australians giving to charity and unleash the generosity and ‘fair-go’ ethos that is an essential part of the Australian identity.
- Ultimately, the commitment has the potential to be transformative for Australia. It could mean tens of billions over time in additional funding for Australia’s great charities, like headspace supporting young people’s mental health, the Royal Flying Doctor Service helping people in desperate need in the outback, or The Salvation Army supporting people in poverty to get their lives back on track. It would mean more support for people in greatest need, and more funding for our greatest challenges, like children and families living in poverty, climate change, health, education and justice for Australia’s First Peoples.
Philanthropy Australia’s media statement on Dr Leigh’s announcement is available here.
The Towards a More Generous and Giving Australia event, 7 April 2022
Labor’s announcement was made at an event hosted by Maree Sidey, the CEO of Australian Communities Foundation (ACF), at the Community of Giving Hub in East Melbourne.
Dr Leigh was joined by Labor colleagues Mark Dreyfus, Bill Shorten, Kate Thwaites, Ged Kearney, Josh Burns and Linda White. As part of announcing his double giving plan, Dr Leigh also highlighted:
- His determination to fix fundraising.
- The potential of A National Giving Campaign to improve our culture of giving, just as campaigns such as The Grim Reaper, Slip, Slop, Slap and the My Giving Campaign in Canada have driven cultural and behavioural change.
- The need to ensure the tax deductibility framework works well. In particular, Dr Leigh committed a Labor Government to ensuring community foundations gained Item 1 DGR status, backing the reforms announced by the Coalition Government on Budget night.
- The importance of encouraging advocacy by charities, who make the democratic conversation stronger. Those who work closely at the coalface are often well placed to inform national policymaking. Gag clauses in contracts would be removed. Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus spoke passionately about the benefits of advocacy during the event’s Q & A session.
- Supporting philanthropy was not about government doing less. It was about all of us doing more to address our major challenges, including poverty, inequality and social disconnection.
- Philanthropy not only leaves a great legacy for those it helps. Research shows that giving makes people happier and healthier.
In Q&A, Genevieve Timmons highlighted the importance of ensuring quality giving, not just increasing the quantum of giving. Dr Leigh strongly agreed, highlighting:
- The importance of longer-term contracts for charities.
- The need for government to support improved evidence around impact. The more charity can demonstrate impact, the more people are inclined to give. Dr Leigh is a strong supporter of givewell.org and Effective Altruism Australia, which he uses to guide his giving.
The event proved to be a great celebration of the power of philanthropy to create positive impact, with a suite of great contributions.
Jack Heath, CEO of Philanthropy Australia, joined Maree and Dr Leigh for the Q&A and was able to speak with enthusiasm and appreciation about Dr Leigh’s commitment, the potential of Labor’s plan to create billions for Australian charities and transform the landscape for giving in Australia on a scale not seen before. Jack also noted Dr Leigh’s depth of knowledge and commitment to philanthropy, demonstrated through his scholarship and work engaging the sector during his six-year tenure in the Shadow Charity portfolio.
Maree Sidey made a number of telling points while hosting the event, including:
- The tremendous contribution of Australia’s 41 community foundations and collective giving.
- The importance of encouraging giving by all Australians in a position to give – including the general public, workplace and corporate giving – not just Ultra-High-Net-Worth individuals.
- The contribution of ACF, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary and the 5th year anniversary of the Impact Fund, which has supported a suite of powerful advocacy campaigns.
Ione McLean, Membership and Outreach Manager, Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN), gave an excellent speech. She spoke about the history and contribution of AEGN, the peak body for environmental philanthropy, with 180 members, now 12 years old.
- With less than 2 per cent of philanthropic funding going to the environment, AEGN plays an important role in seeking to increase philanthropic funding for the environment.
- AEGN helps their members to engage on environmental philanthropy, such as via:
- The Climate Change Funding Framework, which identifies 25 areas of action philanthropists may wish to support.
- Their Project Clearing House, which last year made possible 64 projects with a combined budget of $25 million.
- Their conference and webinars.
- Ione noted we have just a decade to avoid climate catastrophe and highlighted the role philanthropy can play as an engine room of social and environmental change.
- Beyond Zero Emissions developed a report showing a shift to renewable energy could create 1.8 million jobs.
- Greenpeace’s Re-energise Campaign is signing on major companies like Bunnings, Coles and Aldi to switch to 100% clean energy by 2025.
- Water Trust Australia is working with stakeholders to develop solutions in the Murray Darling Basin.
Julie Reilly OAM, CEO, Australians Investing in Women (AIIW), addressed the gathering, highlighting:
- AIIW’s important role in advocating for philanthropy that applies a gender lens.
- Despite being 50 per cent of the population, only 12 per cent of philanthropy targets women and girls.
- Men have traditionally dominated wealth accumulation and philanthropic giving.
- Across all areas of philanthropy, a stronger gender lens is needed, and we need to continue to bring more women into philanthropy.
- Two great examples of gender-wise philanthropy:
- Katharine Dexter McCormick in the 1950s funded the entire cost of developing the oral contraceptive pill (though her role was little acknowledged at the time).
- Carol Schwartz recognised need for Pathways to Politics – 350 women have now gone through the program, 50 of which already holding office in Federal, State or Local Government.
- A video of the event is available here