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Major Giving In Australia - New Research Points to Untapped Opportunity

11 March 2010 at 1:50 pm
Staff Reporter
Landmark philanthropy research finds major giving in Australia is untapped, unidentified and uninformed.

Staff Reporter | 11 March 2010 at 1:50 pm


Major Giving In Australia - New Research Points to Untapped Opportunity
11 March 2010 at 1:50 pm

Landmark philanthropy research by the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (CPNS) finds major giving in Australia is untapped, unidentified and uniformed.

It’s the first academic study in Australia to investigate major gifts (donations of $10,000 and significantly above) and the implications for Not for Profit organisations.

Senior research fellow at CPNS, Dr Wendy Scaife has previewed the results of the research project in a CPNS podcast.

She says there’s a strong message for charities from major givers that the potential for more giving is untapped, unidentified and major donors feel a tad uninformed at times.

Dr. Scaife emphasises that there is an Australian culture of giving, particularly major giving but it’s different from other parts of the world.

According to donors and also to seasoned major gift fundraisers, this giving culture exists but it could be strengthened and much better articulated and it differs from the US approach.

Dr Scaife says major giving in Australia is substantial and important but not necessarily visible. In some places it is long-established while in others it is just emerging and ‘under-potentialised’.

She says if US philanthropy is hardy, showy and open like a field of sunflowers, then Australian giving is more fernlike preferring the shadows, blending into the landscape and needing a particular environment to thrive.

The report found that sometimes major donors found the shadows offer a hiding space for high capacity but low actual giving.

As one major donor said: ‘They’re on a couple of hundred million dollars but what they give is minimal’.

The report says veteran donors, and increasing numbers of them, recognise that exposing their giving can lead to others giving, and fundraisers urge this role modelling because they see it works.

However, Dr Scaife says better answers need to be considered because as the report found other forces move donors to keep their giving closeted and private.

What can charities and others do about what Dr Scaife describes as a stifled, unawakened but opportunity-rich giving environment?

The report found that givers see value in more tax incentives to get people at least thinking about philanthropy. And they expect their accountants to know the options here.

Another message from givers and fundraisers is that major giving differs from smaller giving, being more about investment than support. Dr Scaife says givers therefore are on quest for a guarantee that their money will yield returns.

The research found that donors wanted three outcomes from charity boards: great management of their gift/investment, the sort of membership or reputation that would reassure them about giving their money and then a further layer of reassurance of links to people that they know who are also somehow connected to the cause, such as volunteers, donors or board members.

The report says one big donor gripe, that charities can do something about, is communication.

Dr Scaife says charities should make no mistake: major donors are testing their organisation and its communication very often with a lesser donation. If convinced of worthiness they move forward. Many then report disappointment with levels of feedback, or basic courtesies like being called by their name at functions or spouses being included in invitations.

The report will be available online later in March at

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