Stories in philanthropy

The year in stories

A look back at the most-read stories, profiles and case studies we shared with our members and the social change sector in 2018.

Nicole Richards, January 2019


As the peak body for giving, Philanthropy Australia is in the fortunate position of being able to find and share stories that inspire more and better philanthropy. And we're spoiled for choice!

Each year, hundreds of incredible stories describing how private money is being used for public good, land in our inboxes or crop up in conversation, and almost all of them deserve to be shared with a wider audience. The challenge then, is not coming up with stories, but selecting the ones that showcase different aspects of giving, or perhaps add another perspective or a new voice, and then sharing them with integrity and authenticity.

Our readership figures show that there’s always strong interest in what philanthropic and non-profit peers are up to, but it’s not always the stories with the big names that attract the most readers as this year’s most popular story proves.

Philanthropy can be a complex and deeply personal journey. Thank you to everyone who shared their insights, experiences and motivation for giving with me last year – it’s a privilege to share your stories.

Here are the 10 most popular stories of 2018:


  1. ‘As funders I think we can all do a better job of listening’: Fred Blackwell San Francisco Foundation

The San Francisco Foundation is one of the largest community foundations in the US with $1.3 billion in assets and an annual funding distribution of almost $90 million. CEO of The San Francisco Foundation, Fred Blackwell, talks about the organisation’s three pathways to greater philanthropic impact (people, place and power), the pursuit of racial and economic inclusion and knowing when and where funders can use their voice. 


  1. Nation’s most effective givers recognised at 2018 Australian Philanthropy Awards

Bold philanthropic ambitions, the power of advocacy and the impact of family philanthropy were three of the most pronounced themes at the 2018 Australian Philanthropy Awards, presented at the Sydney Opera House on July 26. 


  1. People powered justice: Grata Fund

“The courts are the last line of defence against the abuse of power,” says Grata Fund founder, Isabelle Reinecke. “That’s how our democracy was designed but people have not been able to use the courts because of the prohibitive cost.” That is until the Grata Fund’s game-changing work began to level the playing field.


  1. ‘Helping others is the most satisfying thing you can do in life’: Nicola Forrest

Co-founder of the Minderoo Foundation, Nicola Forrest, talks about the Forrests’ extraordinary philanthropic journey including the Giving Pledge, knowing how much is enough, the importance of challenging the norm, bringing people together, and why she’s excited about the next generation of change-makers. 


  1. 5 ways to sharpen your storytelling

Storytelling is more critical than ever for non-profits and for-purpose enterprises. In a world of information overload, the stories that capture and showcase your organisation’s impact in a compelling way are the key to strengthening connections with your supporters. 


  1. Show me the impact: The new philanthropic imperative

Next-gen donors, armed with more resources than ever before, are determined to revolutionise giving and achieve progress on some of the world’s most intractable issues. Dr Michael Moody, co-author of ‘Generation Impact’ says the biggest consequence of the ‘Impact Revolution’ is that non-profits must adapt the way they engage big donors.


  1. The Macquarie Group Foundation’s $50m search for 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. 


  1. Next-gen donors: What you need to know

The impacts of generational change can be felt in all aspects of our society and philanthropy is no exception. The priorities and preferences of next-generation philanthropists (the term generally refers to givers aged 18-40) can be miles apart from those of their parents and predecessors. Philanthropy Australia CEO, Sarah Davies, unpacks the priorities and preferences of next-generation givers.


  1. The next evolution: The Myer Foundation’s journey to refresh its strategic plan

“I see it as an evolution of the thinking that’s been developing over recent years,” says Leonard Vary, CEO of The Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund, describing the ​recent update of the philanthropic institutions’ shared strategic plan. Anchoring the two entities’ work to four pillars (People, Organisations, Beyond Grantmaking and Family Engagement) the decision was made to wrap up the Education program and narrow the grantmaking focus to three areas: Arts & Humanities, Poverty & Disadvantage, Sustainability & the Environment. Here Leonard Vary shares the challenges and learnings and how the foundation navigated the journey.


  1. ‘You don’t need to be mega-wealthy to make a difference’: John Grenshaw

Retired financial adviser, John Grenshaw, is among a growing number of unassuming philanthropists who are quietly demonstrating that philanthropy doesn’t have to be a complicated exercise requiring a billion-dollar bank account.



More great stories about giving:

Less talking, more listening: Philanthropy and Indigenous peoples

Recognising that philanthropy needs to do more learning (and unlearning) while addressing the inherited power dynamics and prevailing inequity that occurs when funding to Indigenous Peoples were key lessons from the recent Global Indigenous Funders conference. Peter Alenhoven from Aboriginal community-led philanthropic fund Kondee Woonga-gat Toor-rong, Simone Spencer from Woor-Dungin and Gemma Salteri and Rachel Kerry from CAGES Foundation share their insights and personal reflections from the conference.


'Philanthropy, to me, is being part of building a future': Ulrike Klein

South Australian philanthropist and Jurlique co-founder Ulrike Klein AO has taken a hands-on and “responsible” approach to her philanthropy which has culminated in the development of the world-renown UKARIA Cultural Centre and an ambitious public fundraising project to acquire rare 18th century instruments. “Money is just an energy,” Klein insists. “It doesn’t matter how much you have, it’s how you use it and how you give it.”


Racing against the clock: Seri Renkin on the challenges and opportunities of a ‘sunset’ foundation

Describing itself as a ‘catalytic philanthropy organisation’ the ten20 Foundation was established with an intentionally short, 10-year funding horizon. That’s now been whittled down to eight years because the need for investment in its chosen focus area has been so great. Seri Renkin, Managing Director of ten20 Foundation and Chair of the Stella Prize, shares her thoughts on the challenges and opportunities of catalysing impact in a short time frame.


Why foundations can afford to fail often and badly: Diana Leat

World-renowned philanthropy researcher, Dr Diana Leat, says it’s time philanthropy challenged the media narrative of immediacy in response to natural disasters and emergency events. She cautions philanthropic foundations to beware of the danger of being “permanently successful” and ardently believes philanthropy’s greatest asset isn’t the money, but its ability to go faster than public opinion.

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