FIA's Inaugural Philanthropy Award 'Knockback'
18 December 2006 at 9:53 am
When is a philanthropist not a philanthropist? That is the question the Victorian chapter of the Fundraising Institute Australia has been left to ponder after its inaugural prize for Philanthropist of the Year was knocked back at its awards ceremony in Melbourne.
About two hundred fundraisers and corporate sponsors were left dumbstruck when the announced winner, Bill Paine, who was nominated by the Australian Conservation Foundation, took to the stage and announced he would not accept the award.
Paine said he used the Internet to find out the meaning of philanthropist and to see if he was the ‘real deal’.
Based on a Google search which described the Greek meaning of philanthropist as a ‘lover of mankind’, Paine told the audience that he was an impostor because he did not love mankind.
He said he was horrified at what he saw on TV every night and what mankind did to each other and in particular what it did to the environment.
He said he had given away his home and his money to help everything else on this planet but not people.
He suggested that the FIA could find a more worthy recipient.
Paine describes himself as an environmental fundamentalist. He donated his home to the Australian Conservation Foundation and corporate supporters paid to have it transformed into an energy and water efficient showcase.
He later donated $200,000 from his mother’s estate in a matched funding program aimed at encouraging other donors to take up the ACF cause. In all it’s estimated that he donated around $800-thousand. The donation received a lot of media attention at the time.
As he was rushing to leave the awards luncheon, Bill Paine told Pro Bono Australia that he was living in a rented flat in the outer suburb of Epping in Melbourne earning a living in the IT industry.
He said he knew little about the Not for Profit sector generally but he chose the Australian Conservation Foundation because it is the matriarch of conservation and environmental issues.
He hopes to continue working with the ACF as a life governor even though he has now given all his money away.
He says Australia needs a slap in the face to register the issues of climate change and the environment.
He says the NFP sector is like the shining baubles on the Christmas tree but the environment was the rotting base of the tree trunk that nobody takes any notice of.
FIA Chapter One President Leo Orland says Bill Paine had warned him just before the luncheon that he would be declining the award.
However Orland says he is still a worthy winner and has done a phenomenal job for his cause particularly as the award criteria is based on civic and charitable leadership in encouraging other donors.
He says the FIA is looking at another way of recognising his efforts without using the word ‘philanthropist’.
Conservation Foundation Marketing Manager Jock Beveridge says the Foundation was surprised by Paine’s decision not to accept the award but respects his position.
Cambridge says he believes it took a lot of courage for Paine to say he is not the best person for the award.
Earlier, Dame Elizabeth Murdoch was honoured for a lifetime devoted to philanthropy. She was nominated by the Epilepsy Foundation.
Long time FIA executive member and fundraiser John Allen was awarded the prestigious Arthur Venn Prize for Excellence in Fundraising.
Another new award voted on by the award audience for Innovation in Fundraising went to the Whitelion Bailout 2006 campaign.