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Major Giving Report in Australia - Donor & Fundraiser Perspectives

10 March 2011 at 2:22 pm
Staff Reporter
Australia needs donor ‘champions’ to encourage more people to make major gifts according to new research by the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at QUT.

Staff Reporter | 10 March 2011 at 2:22 pm


Major Giving Report in Australia - Donor & Fundraiser Perspectives
10 March 2011 at 2:22 pm

Australia needs donor ‘champions’ to encourage more people to make major gifts according to new research by the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at QUT.

The study also found that that more could be given and more could be done in the area of major gifts where large support also transforms projects, organisations and communities and major gifts are agents of major change.

The study found that major gifts (described as donations of $10,000 or more) are the most ‘under-potentialised’ and underutilised area of community support in Australia.

The report – Donor and charity perspectives on major giving in Australia – is by Dr Wendy Scaife, Katie McDonald and Sue Smyllie at the ACPNS QUT.

The study says participants in the research felt potential donors need ‘role models’ or examples of others who have and are giving at a high level.

It says fundraisers were especially keen to encourage donors to become more open about their giving, explaining that donors can play a large role in raising the profile of philanthropy and building that culture, by acting as role models or campaign leaders, providing testimonials, or conversing with their peers about their philanthropy.

As one fundraiser put it, ‘you need a champion’.

However, the report says recruiting ‘giving champions’ was not an easy task.

The report voices the perceptions, attitudes, concerns and stories of Australians who have chosen to act philanthropically in a sizeable and ongoing way. In counterpoint, the views, experiences and frustrations of seasoned fundraising professionals who work to generate major giving across a range of causes form the other voices in the study.

The report highlights that major gifts impact on organisations in major ways that spell major community improvement. Arguments exist that more of Australia’s affluent population should give major gifts and that even amongst the generous spirited existing givers, the Australian perception of what is a major gift may warrant more thought.

From the Not for Profit angle, the report makes a call for action in greater resourcing and transparency that leaders – chairs, boards, CEOs and fundraising leaders – will benefit from hearing.

The researchers say the responsibility for major giving in this country is shared between the philanthropy and Not for Profit sectors and more can – and should – be done.

In an interesting observation, many donors say they seldom seem conscious of the fundraiser role unless their experience had been especially good or the opposite.

Some donors are dismissive of people in NFP organisations who are not volunteers or directly carrying out the mission at the client coalface.

It says the fundraiser role seems to have a mystique or be underrated as ‘the people who spruik about the organisation’.

The researchers say that given the highly personalised and relationship based nature of major giving described by both donors and fundraisers, the role and its complexities is perhaps much misunderstood.

They say the very strong pattern from experienced fundraisers in highlighting passion and integrity as the heart of the role suggests an attitude more akin to philanthropy and philanthropists than many major givers perhaps realise.

Some of the key factors behind perceived lower giving levels amongst Australia’s wealthy are seen to be similar to many forces noted in other countries:

  •  a genuine lack of feeling financially secure (despite what many would see as a durable financial base);
  •  poor awareness of or exposure to community need (a privileged life far removed from need);
  •  an attitude that filling this role is entirely a government responsibility (unlike the antithetical view in for instance, the US);
  •  a sense that all community obligations are met by paying tax;
  •  a single minded focus on the amassing of money, not so much on giving it away;
  •  a lack of role models or belief that such major giving does occur; and
  •  a poorly articulated Australian culture of philanthropy.

Study respondents also recognise that true dimensions of major giving in Australia are hard to measure because of the amount of unpublicised giving that occurs and the individuals and foundations who choose to give as they describe it, ‘under the radar’.

The study says a code of quiet giving guides a proportion of big givers, through humility or a wish not to stand out from friends who may not know of their wealth or be wealthy themselves.

This feeling is particularly evident in people who have made considerable money through business from originally humble beginnings.

Participants in the study agree that much more could be done via the major gift funding model in this country, particularly if,

  •  the culture of philanthropy were more apparent and embedded;
  •  people felt more comfortable speaking about their giving and more role models stepped up;
  •  affluent Australians had greater comfort in the calibre of Not for Profit organisations;
  •  Not for Profit leaders understood and resourced major gift fundraising more fully; and
  •  communication experiences with Not for Profit organisations were more universally satisfactory.

The report is available for download here:

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