Stories in philanthropy

The Macquarie Group Foundation’s $50 million search for large-scale impact

Since its establishment in 1985, the Macquarie Group Foundation, together with Macquarie staff, has distributed more than $330 million to support social innovation and strengthen the impact of community organisations around the world. As Macquarie Group prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019, a new $50 million, open and contestable award has been announced for non-profits with big ideas across the globe.

Nicole Richards, October 2018


When it comes to the corporate philanthropy of the Macquarie Group, which has 17,000 staff across the globe, it’s impossible to get away from big numbers.

An impressive number of employees are active fundraisers who take advantage of the Macquarie Group Foundation’s generous matching program. Last year the combined donations to community organisations were in the vicinity of $22 million.

But that’s only one part of the Group’s philanthropic equation.

The Foundation funds in two streams: the first is the staff matching program which is entirely ‘bottom-up’ and staff-driven, allowing staff to support the community organisations of their choice. During Macquarie’s ‘Foundation Week’, which is now in its fifth year, funds raised by staff are double-matched.

The second funding stream is a global grantmaking program, for which each of Macquarie’s operational regions recently chose a focus area. In Australia, the focus is on supporting the educational and economic opportunities of young people, aged 15-24.

Beyond funding, Macquarie Group employees contributed more than 60,000 hours of volunteering in 2018.  

Clearly, staff engagement in the Foundation’s philanthropic offering is high.

“I love what I do here because corporate philanthropy has such a unique place in the philanthropic landscape,” says Lisa George, Global Head of Macquarie Group Foundation, who has been with the organisation for eight years.

“We’re fortunate to have more than just funding to give. Our staff have so many skills and different talents to give and we’re finding there’s a real appetite and willingness to volunteer their time.

“For instance, here in Australia we have about 45 staff members who are giving a couple of hours every week to the Raise mentoring program, we have teams running CV workshops for people needing help with employment, and others that are helping with business planning for community organisations like the Wayside Chapel.”

“The foundational principle of our philanthropy is very much about supporting our employees in their community efforts,” George continues. “At the moment, everyone’s been really moved by the drought and what’s happening with our farming communities, so there’s a big fundraising effort underway within Macquarie to raise money.”


Focused impact

George says the decision to focus the Foundation’s grantmaking stream was prompted by a strategic review.

“I read recently about the Myer Foundation’s strategic review with great interest,” she says. “We did our strategic review a couple of years ago and asked some very similar questions, in particular, ‘How do we use our relatively small dollars to achieve big impact?’”

“Historically, we’d funded a lot in health and medical research and the arts, so it was a big decision to narrow the focus, but it’s been really warmly received by the sector, our grantees and, importantly, by our staff. 

“The result has been that we’ve started to see staff giving coalesce and align with this focus – not because we asked them to, but because they were looking to us at the Foundation for guidance.”

In anticipation of its 50th anniversary in 2019, Macquarie Group recently announced a $50 million philanthropic commitment “to initiate or build upon bold ideas to address social need”.

Five non-profits are expected to be awarded $10 million each over a five-year period.

“Supporting the communities in which we live and work has been an important part of Macquarie’s activities since our inception in 1969,” Macquarie Group CEO Nicholas Moore said of the announcement.

Macquarie Group Foundation Chair, Shemara Wikramanayake, who takes up the post of Macquarie Group CEO later this year and was recently named fifth most powerful woman in business outside the US by Forbes, encouraged non-profits “to be imaginative in their thinking about the enduring outcomes they can achieve with this funding.”

“The Macquarie Group Foundation’s activities have always been driven by our people whose involvement in their communities is an important part of the work we have done over the last five decades,” Wikramanayake said in a statement.

The board of the Macquarie Group Foundation, headed up by new Chair, Mary Reemst, CEO of Macquarie Bank, will be part of the assessment, with a short-list and winners announced from May 2019.

“What is different about this is the way we’ve structured it,” says George. “It’s deliberately different to how we normally give because we wanted this to be really focused on large scale impact, bold ideas, outsized impact.

“This is a transformational amount of money and we wanted to use it as a kind of a challenge to the sector about the impact that these funds could help achieve.”



Applications for the Macquarie 50th Anniversary Award close November 16, 2018.

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