NFP Transparency Forum
28 August 2013 at 5:25 pm
How much does the push for transparency encourage or discourage giving in the community and does concern for privacy discourage smart strategic philanthropy, a recent Melbourne forum asked.
The questions were addressed at a public forum on transparency in the philanthropic sector convened by the Asia Pacific Centre for Social Investment and Philanthropy (ACSIP) recently.
The former CEO of Philanthropy Australia and Fellow at the Centre for Social Impact (UNSW), Gina Anderson’s recently published report on institutional donors, ‘Where the money goes,’ provided the inspiration for the forum which attracted fifty people to the Telstra conference Centre in Melbourne.
Telstra and the Myer Foundation jointly sponsored Gina Anderson’s report which called for an expert panel to be convened to investigate the establishment of a publicly available database of philanthropic grants in Australia.
The Anderson report said 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 said that the expert panel review could also include an exploration of the successes and failures of philanthropic funding.
“The topic was tackled with flair, passion, information and insight,” Helen Imber from Asia Pacific Centre for Social Investment and Philanthropy (ACSIP) said.
“Five speakers brought different perspectives to bear on the issue and the questions and discussion that followed highlighted further ways of approaching the problem of privacy and transparency in charitable giving.”
Professor John Fitzgerald introduced the event with an overview of the competing perspectives on transparency. Michael Moran, an ACSIP Research Fellow, presented an outline of how the issue has been tackled in England, Wales, the United States and China.
“His analysis showed that governmental transparency requirements are more demanding elsewhere than in Australia, although in every case voluntary initiatives have made information disclosure by private foundations more useable, accessible, and relevant to stakeholders,” Imber said.
“Gina Anderson spoke to the findings from her report ‘as well as outlining the benefits to the broader Not for Profit sector and beyond of transparency – what is increasingly termed ‘Open Philanthropy’.”
Genevieve Timmons, from the Portland House Foundation, reflected on her 30 year experience in the sector. Reviewing how far the sector had come in that time and how important it was to be aware of the power relations that exist between grantor and grantee, she explored why funders should be transparent about their actions, motivations and activities.
Sarah Davies, CEO of The Reach Foundation, finished with an impassioned plea to the sector to be honest about both successes and the failures its work.
“Tensions are inevitable, but being honest and open about our work will deliver dividends,” Davies said.
A video of the forum is to be uploaded to the ASCIP website here.