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New report sheds light on Australia’s growing philanthropic sector to help guide social change

July 07th, 2021

Australia’s top 50 philanthropic organisations together donated almost $1bn in 2020 – a doubled amount over the past five years.

A new report anchored by Menzies Foundation, created in collaboration with Melbourne Business School, University of Melbourne and a consortium of 10 philanthropic foundations, has revealed that a renewed focus on impact, strategy and evaluation is needed if these additional donations and broader philanthropic supports are to create impactful social change.

The report, Philanthropy: The Continued Journey to Real Impact and Better Practice Report (2020), shares insights into grant-making philosophy, scaling, replication and collaboration, and approaches to evaluation and social impact, to support the development of better philanthropic practice for impact. It builds upon the Philanthropy: Towards Better Practice Report, released in 2018.

Drawing upon a new survey of 84 grant-making philanthropic organisations and 97 grant-seeking groups, the report found the sector has a large opportunity to provide greater support toward evaluation, capacity building and collaboration activities, rather than more conventional program support.

In their survey responses, the word ‘collaboration’ was mentioned by grant-making philanthropic organisations at nearly every opportunity. But only 15 percent said they frequently fund collaboration activities, and 16 percent said it was among their top priorities. The mismatch between the level of importance for collaboration and actual funding of it highlights a great opportunity for the sector.

“There has never before been a more important time for grant-makers and grant-seekers to better understand best practice and reflect on how we might do things differently to maximise impact", Liz Gilles, report co-author and CEO, Menzies Foundation said.

Providing opportunities for not-for-profits to work together – rather than bid against each other in grants rounds – was something grant-seekers said could create meaningful social impact. 

The 2021 report also found:

  • More funders are providing higher levels of non-monetary support – particularly in providing grant-seekers with access to their facilities, or by making introductions to other leaders in their network
  • The nature of relationships between grant-makers and grant-seekers has improved
  • Fewer philanthropists identify as catalytic – or funding highly strategic, systems-change projects, compared to 2018.

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