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Philanthropy Needs More Care - Gonski

26 March 2015 at 11:24 am
Xavier Smerdon
Businessman David Gonski has warned that Australian philanthropists need to inject greater precision and diligence into their giving - and that Not for Profits may need to “work harder” to leverage that.

Xavier Smerdon | 26 March 2015 at 11:24 am


Philanthropy Needs More Care - Gonski
26 March 2015 at 11:24 am

Businessman David Gonski has warned that Australian philanthropists need to inject greater precision and diligence into their giving – and that Not for Profits may need to “work harder” to leverage that.

In a keynote address to The New Philanthropy Breakfast in Sydney, hosted by the Royal Flying Doctor Service South Eastern Section (RFDS SE), Gonski said he observed that many wealthy people “often give [money] away without any thought whatsoever. Without KPIs, without expectation of great changes”.

“Many of us raise monies, not so many actually sit and cogitate about giving money,” he said.

“I think that what we have to do, and what is starting to happen, is that the giving is as important as the getting of the money. This means that often the Not for Profit has to work harder, but it also means the person giving has to be much more precise as to what they want to achieve, much more caring, much more involved, and much more diligent.”

Gonski recounted one situation where he was a donor for an overseas project to give disadvantaged people educational benefits. Four years later, he found out it hadn’t happened.

“”It wasn’t so bad that it hadn’t happened, what was terrible was that it took me four years to realise it hadn’t happened. That won’t happen with my giving again,” he said.  

Gonski, who has held senior management, board and advisory positions in a number of “blue chip” global companies, used the event to share his thoughts on the importance of philanthropy, why he has chosen to support various charitable causes including the RFDS and what those experiences have taught him.

“The wonderful thing about about giving and being involved with Not for Profits is that your life can be broadened. If you’re intelligent and hard-working, you tend to get narrower and narrower,” he said.  

“Many, particularly in the world in which I live, have troubles limiting their egos. And I have to tell you, some have failed in that capacity. My ego has definitely been limited by working in the Not for Profit space.

“I’ve stood there and thought, what have I achieved, compared to what they have? It is a very real experience and one I think is a wonderful, wonderful advantage to philanthropy. I believe philanthropic thinking can break down the barriers.”

The RFDS said many worthy causes have received support through Gonski’s private family foundation and praised him for not being afraid “to put his money where his mouth is”.

The organisation said his support was instrumental in the launch of The Outback Oral Treatment and Health (TOOTH) program in early 2012.

“Most people talk about philanthropy as if giving is the same for all people…philanthropy is an enormously personal thing and should indeed continue to be,” Gonski said.

“I’m very amused when I read that there’s a criticism, of someone, usually a wealthy person, for giving money because they say he, usually a he, wants to improve his name or wishes to buy favour.

“Me…as someone involved in philanthropy, I never criticise the reason for why people give, because that’s a matter for them.”

The breakfast was the first in a series of briefings with prominent philanthropic Australians to be hosted by the Not for Profit.

According to the RFDS, despite around 200 Australians having amassed $200-million-plus fortunes in recent times, Australia has had few charity champions like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett pledging to give away their excess wealth.

The organisation cites tax statistics that show most of the approximately $2.2 billion donated by Australians each year comes from ordinary wage earners and more than a third of the some 8,000 Australians earning over $1 million made no gift to charity.

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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