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Australians need more open approach to philanthropy

April 04th, 2016

Australians need to have a more open and collaborative approach to philanthropy rather than the current largely siloed and silent culture that prevents co-operation between local philanthropists, according to a new report.

The US Foundation Funding for Australia report, part of a larger project involving the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, Philanthropy Australia, and the US-based Foundation Centre, found there was a dearth of information about philanthropy in Australia that limited collaboration and co-ordination.

The Foundation Centre maintains the most comprehensive database in the world on US and, increasingly, global grantmakers.

“There is an intrinsic value to being more transparent about how private wealth is being used for the public good. The sharing of information and taking advantage of modern technology does facilitate collaboration and leveraging each other’s resources — and that is really important for effectiveness and scale,” said Foundation Centre president Bradford K. Smith during a visit to Australia hosted by the United States Studies Centre and Philanthropy Australia.

“And transparency is really inevitable in today’s world. Regardless of how you feel about it, it is inevitable. You are better served by getting out in front of it. People can see a benefit of it — it is not just about being private or public.”

The new chief executive of Philanthropy Australia, Sarah Davies, said the Foundation Centre report exposed the “data deficit” we have when it comes to Australian philanthropy.

“We have nothing like Foundation Centre’s database, which maps grants by US foundations,” she wrote. “The fact is we know more about the granting practices of US foundations and their Australian grant recipients than we do about Australian foundations.

“As funders strive to become more effective and increase their impact, many agree that greater transparency and sharing of information are important.”

The report found that between 2011 and 2013, 71 US foundations awarded 393 total grants to 208 recipients worth $US95.1 million to Australians with the largest grants focused on the health ­sector.

It found the largest funder was the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, followed by Atlantic Philanthropies and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The top recipient of US foundation funding was the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

The report found US and Australian funders focused on a broad spectrum of key social issues including income inequality, climate change, education, and the challenges facing rural and indigenous populations.

It found the key challenges faced by Australian NGOs included building greater capacity to measure outcomes and ensuring long-term social sustainability, which was similar to those in the US.

The chief executive of the billion-dollar American philanthropic foundation created and run by members of the Rockefeller family, who is visiting Australia with Mr Smith, said he was a big supporter of the need for accountability and transparency in the philanthropy sector.

“At the Brothers fund we are trying to be transparent about all of our activities. We try to operate in a way that is as easy to access,” said Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund which manages an endowment of more than $800 million.

The fund’s associated Rockefeller family Fund said a fortnight ago that it would quit its holdings in ExxonMobil and investments in coal and Canadian oil sands, which triggered a backlash from the oil giant.

Sandy Clarke, the chairman of the William Buckland Foundation — the legacy charity of William Buckland, a successful businessman and pastoralist in the middle years of the 20th century — last year called for the abolition of the silos that currently exist between local philanthropic foundations. In 50 years of being managed first by ANZ Trustees and now Equity Trustees, William Buckland has distributed almost $90m.

By Damon Kitney | The Australian
Article originally published here.

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