Stories in philanthropy

Reader’s choice: Top 10 stories

2017 was a BIG year for philanthropy in Australia and there was no shortage of inspiring stories to tell. Here are the ten most read stories we shared with the sector in 2017.

10. Give. Stand. Respect. Highlights from Philanthropy Meets Parliament Summit

The 2017 Philanthropy Meets Parliament Summit brought funders, nonprofits and policy makers together for two days of inspiring keynotes, case studies and challenging conversations about philanthropy’s role in advocating for change.

After two thought-provoking days of knowledge sharing and deep conversation, the Summit closed amid a prevailing spirit of not ‘if’ philanthropy in Australia should embrace advocacy, but a realisation that for the sake of social change, it can’t afford not to.

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9. Big bets and spending down: The Poola Foundation

Few Australian funders have made a visionary bet as big and bold as the Poola Foundation which wrapped up its operations in 2016.

“We’d rather be defined by what we achieve in our own lives and what our children achieve rather than what they’ve inherited.”

“We stuck with some important but tough issues which enjoyed little philanthropic or government support. They didn’t all bear fruit, but some came in with heavy crops."

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8. The journey is the learning: Paul Wheelton

Paul Wheelton’s philanthropic journey is a story that’s still unfolding. Like the man himself, his philanthropy is distinguished by high engagement and a tremendous spirit of personal generosity.

“This whole thing is a journey,” says the Melbourne-based business owner.

“I looked around and saw people who’d been on the same entrepreneurial journey as me who just kept building more businesses and I thought, ‘I’ve got enough. Do I spend the rest of my life doing the same thing or should I go down a different path and try to make a difference with what I’ve been fortunate enough to receive?'”

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7. Advocacy fuels the power of justice

“We need to embrace advocacy as a high impact, high leverage strategy,” Lee told delegates at the Philanthropy Meets Parliament Summit. “Advocacy is not a minefield of risk, but a garden of opportunity.”

“Advocacy is the lifeblood of democracy,” he continued. “It’s the participation of all people in the issues facing them.” 

Ninety per cent of the $7.5 million funding the Levi Strauss Foundation distributes each year goes to underserved communities. Roughly 80 per cent of those funds either directly fund or are associated with advocacy.  

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6. Dr Andrew Lu: Art, law and a First Fleet piano

Western Australia’s Andrew Lu is shaping a personal philanthropic path that supports Australia’s contemporary arts while preserving the country’s often forgotten artistic heritage.

Lu’s practice of philanthropy is articulate and considered. Integrity and trust are two core values that guide his giving which focuses on the visual and performing arts, preservation of heritage, social justice and education.

“Trust is an important value and it takes time to build,” Lu says.

“In my own experience, that often begins through engaging initially as an audience member or subscriber which might lead to you becoming a donor at a modest level, then over the years you might make larger donations or become involved with the organisation’s board.”

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5. Lessons from the trenches: Ian Darling

“At the very base level, philanthropy exists because there’s a need in the community for support and in some instances, it’s helping fill the gaps for where governments provide support and in other instances it’s taking up the charge where there’s no support.

“The fact that philanthropy exists means that there’s a need, and if we’re filling those gaps every single year and providing funding to areas in need and if that requirement is an annual one, that means there’s some sort of imbalance in the system and something’s wrong.

“Unless we, as a philanthropic community, are trying to not only support the gaps, but also try and make the community structurally stronger by using advocacy, then I think we’re only doing half the role that we should be doing in a philanthropic sense.

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4. Equity Trustees’ new head of philanthropy

“Philanthropy plays a huge role in driving better social outcomes,” says Jodi Kennedy, the newly appointed General Manager of Charitable Trusts & Philanthropy at Equity Trustees.  

“It’s able to take on board more risk which means more opportunities for innovation with what you fund and how you fund it.”

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3. How to be an effective funder

Tom Keenan knows a thing or two about grant making. After five years at the Origin Foundation, Keenan was hand-picked to scope and lead the Audi Foundation which exists to help strengthen the communities in which it operates. He’s not just a practitioner, but also a student and researcher on the home stretch of his PhD thesis which investigates barriers and possibilities for improving the performance of Australia’s not-for-profit sector.

“The research is clear, if you want to be an effective funder, you have to do the opposite of what is currently happening and go large and long term.” Keenan says simply. “Funding organisations rather than programs would also help.”

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2. 2017 highlights

One of the best things about the philanthropic sector is the calibre of the people who work in it. The diversity of talent, experience and hard-won wisdom is hugely impressive, and the fact that these folk are using their skills to make the world a better place, makes it even more so.

Forty leaders from across the philanthropic spectrum share their thoughts about hits and misses and who impressed them in 2017.

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1. Opening doors: The Snow Foundation

“I think philanthropy is one of those things that can be a bit mysterious,” Georgina Byron, Chief Executive Officer of The Snow Foundation says. “It’s not really in our culture to talk about it.”

“In our experience, being more transparent has led to greater impact because it promotes the issue you are trying to solve as well as the work of the community organisation and can lead to others - they could be funders or other community organisations - coming together to assist.

“If you don’t have the door open, you can’t hear what’s going on.”

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