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Report Delves into Australia’s Philanthropic Grants

29 July 2013 at 12:52 pm
Staff Reporter
A report by the Centre for Social Impact has called for an expert panel be convened to investigate the establishment of a publicly available database of philanthropic grants in Australia.

Staff Reporter | 29 July 2013 at 12:52 pm


Report Delves into Australia’s Philanthropic Grants
29 July 2013 at 12:52 pm

A report by the Centre for Social Impact has called for an expert panel to be convened to investigate the establishment of a publicly available database of philanthropic grants in Australia.

In a joint project, the Centre for Social Impact at the University of New South Wales and the Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Investment and Philanthropy at Swinburne University of Technology analysed the grants of twelve of Australia’s leading philanthropic foundations that have already made public their grants using best practice reporting.

The resulting report ‘Where the Money Goes: Private wealth for public good’, supported by the Myer Foundation and the Telstra Foundation, provides a high level analysis of their 4,119 philanthropic grants totalling $207.3 million made over a three-year period.

The new research examines for the first time how and where these funds were distributed by cause, sector and region.

Lead author, Centre for Social Impact Philanthropy Fellow Gina Anderson said that given the extensive amount of detail collected over time by philanthropic foundations on the projects they fund, there was an opportunity to make much greater use of this data.

The report says that the lack of mandatory reporting for philanthropic foundations in Australia makes it impossible to give accurate data, but Philanthropy Australia (2013) estimates that there are approximately 5,000 foundations in Australia giving between half a billion and one billion dollars per annum.

This includes some 2,000 charitable trusts and foundations administered by trustee companies. It also includes 1,027 Private Ancillary Funds (PAFs) created between 2001 and October 2012, which distribute a combined total of more than $200m annually to charities and other worthy organisations (Philanthropy Australia 2013).

The report says that the expert panel review could also include an exploration of the successes and failures of philanthropic funding.

“It’s time the philanthropic sector started collecting data, measuring its grant making impact and making it readily available,” Anderson said.

“Data collection can inform not only the individual foundation’s grant-making, but also to feed into the wider philanthropic and Not for Profit sector – to help make real, positive, social impact for the community benefit.

“It can potentially enable foundations to avoid duplication in their granting, identify under-served communities and geographic regions, and the hard-to-reach. Additional benefits include the promotion of collaboration among funders and information for inclusion in public policy making,” she said.

Also she says one of the biggest issues for the sector is that it talks about being collaborative but this was not evident in the individual reports she looked at.

“This is the era of big data and foundations are going to be asked to provide much more information about their grantmaking because philanthropy is getting a higher profile.”

Key observations from the report include:

• Since the Global Financial Crisis there has been a reduction in the total monetary value of grants made by foundations down from an average of $6.69m per foundation in 2009 to $5.06m in 2011.

• The majority of grants are small and fragmented, and the overwhelming concentration of grants made (80%) are for less than $50,000 with 36% of grants for less than $10,000. Many of these small grants go to preschools, public primary schools and secondary schools for a range of activities such as sport, music, and learning programs.

• Generally these foundations combine a few very large multi-year philanthropic grants with a relatively extensive small grants program. The breadth and number of organisations funded is much wider than anticipated.

• The major cause areas that received the most funding were: Health Wellbeing & Medical Research 23.6%; Poverty & Disadvantage 16.8%; Indigenous Programs 10.9%; and Arts Culture & Humanities 10.7%. At the other end of the spectrum only 1% of funding was directed to Ageing Futures.

• Over this three-year period 25 grants for $1 million or more were made primarily for capacity building and the establishment of new centres of expertise, although some of these large grants were for capital grants, endowments, research awards and large projects.

• Many organisations are supported by multiple grants from different foundations, however there was little evidence of co-funding or collaboration on projects. Twenty four organisations received more than 11 grants each, totalling 481 grants, over three years with a combined total of $48.32m – a large amount of grants in a relatively short amount of time.

Gina Anderson is the Philanthropy Fellow at Centre for Social Impact at University of New South Wales. She is also an Advisory Board Member of the Australian Charities & Not-For-Profits Commission, Chair of Women’s Community Shelters, and a Director of The George Institute for Global Health. From 2005 – 2010, Gina was Chief Executive of Philanthropy Australia, the national peak body for philanthropy and a Not for Profit membership association.

Read the full report here

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