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More Philanthropy Needed to Save the Environment

28 October 2010 at 12:17 pm
Staff Reporter
Australia's current level of philanthropic giving does not match the urgency of Australia’s environmental decline, according to a new report.

Staff Reporter | 28 October 2010 at 12:17 pm


More Philanthropy Needed to Save the Environment
28 October 2010 at 12:17 pm

Australia's current level of philanthropic giving does not match the urgency of Australia’s environmental decline, according to a new report on the philanthropic giving to organisations working to protect and manage the environment in Australia.

The Report by the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN) and Philanthropy Australia says that Australia’s natural assets are in crisis with the highest rate of mammal extinctions in the world, the highest rate of threatened mammals and plants, unprecedented fluctuations in climatic weather events from droughts to floods affecting our country and urban environments.

The Report says that while it is difficult to get a true estimate of how much philanthropic support is going towards the environment, it appears that the current level does not match the urgency of Australia’s environmental decline.

It says that if Australia is to address these urgent issues, environmental philanthropy must grow substantially, get better at the craft of grantmaking and build stronger relationships with the environmental community sector.

As well it says Australia must learn from other international philanthropic networks.

AEGN says those who have led the philanthropic sector in environmental funding are making a vital difference but there is so much more that could be done with additional funding.

In September 2010, the AEGN conducted a survey of AEGN and Philanthropy Australia members on their 2009—10 giving.

The found the following:

  • A total of $260.4M had been distributed.
  • The largest total sum of donations by a single donor was $113M and the smallest was $2,500.
  • Of these 56 funders who responded, 42 (75%) distributed total funding of $18.6 M or 7.1% to environmental issues.
  • A small number of funders dominate the field, with ten of the funders providing 87% of the environmental grants.
  • The largest total sum of donations to the environment by a single donor was $2.8M and the smallest was $1,200.

Of those that did not give funds to the environment, 59% said that they did not fund environment issues because they had other priorities, 12% did not have the time or resources to conduct the necessary research, 12% were restricted by the requirements of their constitution, 6% felt that environmental issues were too big to have impact on and 11% had special circumstances that restricted their giving for that year.

Of those that did give to environment issues, 38% said there were no barriers to their environmental funding, 16% said the environment was not a major funding priority, 9% said that they did not have the time and resources to conduct research into environment issues, 7% felt that they could not find suitable projects, 4% felt that the quality of submissions from environment organisations was poor, 2% felt that the issues were too complex and 2% were restricted by the requirements of their constitution.

Respondents represented a broad cross-section of the philanthropic community:

  • Prescribed Private Fund 18%
  • Trusts & Foundations 35%
  • Private Donors 15%
  • Corporate Fund 4%
  • Subfund with a community foundation 4%
  • Community Foundation 4%
  • Other 20%.

The Report concludes that much needs to be done to grow the environmental philanthropic sector including encouraging philanthropists to give a higher percentage of their funding to the environment and encouraging new donors to fund in the environment sector.

AEGN says the craft of grantmaking must be developed through collaboration, experimental giving and building skills and knowledge and in particular, the AEGN recommends exploring ways of working with funders at different stages in their funding journey, continuing to build skills and opportunities in collaborative funding and working with current funding to build their leadership capacity in environmental funding.

The Report says Australia is blessed with a vast array of Not for Profits working to protect Australia’s natural assets largely relying on small donations from millions of Australians but it would appear that philanthropic support is less prevalent.

AEGN says the research could not have been made possible without the support of and assistance from The Thomas Foundation, Spinifex Trust, Purves Environmental Fund, Melliodora Fund, Philanthropy Australia, Melbourne Community Foundation, Mullum Trust, Sue Mathews and John Chadderton.

The Report can be downloaded here.

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