Australians Can Be Far More Generous: Costello
27 February 2014 at 11:30 am
Australians have lost their perspective on giving and are confusing the cost of living with the cost of maintaining a lifestyle, according to leading social justice commentator and World Vision CEO,Tim Costello.
“However we want to measure it, Australians are still wealthy – by any measure,” Costello said.
“But if we are wealthy – and healthy – are we wise?” he asked.”Wisdom is having perspective; it’s saying I can give, and I can be generous.”
Delivering the Syd Herron Oration during the opening plenary of the Fundraising Institute Australia’s annual conference, Costello said there appeared to be confusion among Australians about what constitutes being truly financially hard up.
“Now there are some Australians doing it hard, of course,” Costello said. “But when people are talking to you from their ‘McMansions’ as if they are victims and saying that are struggling…it’s clear that the confusion is profound.”
He recalled hearing Labor MP and former Gillard Government Minister Joel Fitzgibbon saying during a discussion about tax increases that he knew “a lot of people struggling on $250,000 a year”.
“When I hear a Labor guy say that, I know we have lost perspective,” Costello said.
“Now, if you are next to Gina Reinhardt, you may feel that on $250,000 a year you are poor, but you are still in the top 1 per cent of people (income earners) in Australia; you didn’t actually get any poorer.”
Costello, who Chairs the Community Council for Australia and is CEO of World Vision, said present day Australians needed to be reminded that the most important values we can pass on to our children are about the importance of making a difference; that each of us can be generous and leave a legacy in our lifetime.
He said people needed to embrace the concept of giving now, of “doing good, feeling great and living right”.
“We brought nothing with us (into the world); we are going to be taking nothing when we leave. Sure we can leave it all to our kids, but we are probably going to ruin them if we do.”
Costello also described what he sees as a paradigm shift in the fundraising sector, with a move from a focus on donors and investment, to one of partnerships, and mutual benefit and learning.
“Generous co-creation and collaboration is the new challenge. Funds will flow if (donors/partners) see we are meeting as equals,” he said.
The days of what they used to refer to in church circles as: “Pay, pray and get out of the way” are gone, he said. “It’s all changed in the 21st century; it’s part of the Gen Y and peer-to-peer generation – they are going to be co-creating and collaborating, and many organisations are just not equipped to manage this…just being donor and supporter-driven is not enough.”
Costello encouraged those in the room to approach their fundraising activities as acts of transformation, rather than just transaction, saying fundraising organisations and donors often had as much to learn from the beneficiaries as the latter had to gain from the donation.
"We are agents of transformation, not just transaction,” he said.