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Report Reveals Data Deficit in Australian Philanthropy

5 April 2016 at 8:40 pm
Lina Caneva
A new US-Australia collaborative study has exposed a “data deficit” when it comes to information about Australian philanthropy and what it is funding.

Lina Caneva | 5 April 2016 at 8:40 pm


Report Reveals Data Deficit in Australian Philanthropy
5 April 2016 at 8:40 pm

A new US-Australia collaborative study has exposed a “data deficit” when it comes to information about Australian philanthropy and what it is funding.

The report, US Foundation Funding for Australia, highlighted what it said was much better data on the grant making of US foundations in Australia than there was for Australian foundations.

Philanthropy Australia partnered with the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and the Foundation Center to publish the report which detailed the grant making priorities of US foundations in Australia.

“With this initiative, we’re aiming to start a discussion about the benefits of transparency and openness and how it supports collaboration, increases impact, and educates the community about the role and contribution of philanthropy,” the report said.

It found that between 2011 and 2013, 71 US foundations awarded 393 total grants to 208 recipients totaling US$95.1 million (A$125.16 million) to Australia, and more than half of all grant dollars (52 per cent) were explicitly designated for economically disadvantaged groups.

Philanthropy Australia CEO Sarah Davies said the report did much more than provide a useful picture of US philanthropy in Australia.

“It also exposes the data deficit we have when it comes to Australian philanthropy. We have nothing like Foundation Center’s database, which maps grants by US foundations,” Davies said.

“The fact is we know more about the granting practices of US foundations and their Australian grant recipients than we do about Australian foundations.

“Philanthropy Australia believes that this needs to change. Bradford Smith’s foreword to this report highlights the benefits of transparency and openness.”

Davies said Philanthropy Australia would be seeking to work with its members and partners, such as Foundation Center, to develop the tools needed to better share data on Australian philanthropy and take advantage of the benefits that the report described.

“Providing new insights into where Australian philanthropic investment is directed will help us all increase our effectiveness. In this regard, this report is just the beginning of an exciting and important journey,” she said.

The report said that the primary goal of the partnership was to improve awareness and understanding in Australia of the US philanthropic sector, while also strengthening philanthropic ties between the two countries and demonstrating the value of transparency within the Not for Profit sector.

It examined the priorities of US foundation funding to organisations located in Australia, as well as funding for organisations supporting causes in Australia.

The report also showed that health drew the largest proportion of grants awarded to and for Australia, accounting for $40.5 million in giving and 43 per cent of total grant dollars. It said this was driven largely by funding by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which was responsible for 73 per cent ($29 million) of health-related grantmaking.

It found that almost all grant dollars in the sample (86 per cent) were made directly to organisations located in Australia. Of the top 20 recipients, 16 are located in Australia and the remaining four are in the US with programs focused on Australia.

Among grant dollars awarded to recipients in Australia, organisations located in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland received roughly equal amounts of funding (around $22 million each).

The largest funder to Australia was the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, followed by Atlantic Philanthropies and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

The top recipient of US foundation funding was the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, which received $9 million. The majority of the top recipients, 55 per cent, were universities.

The report said that US foundations awarding grants to Australia had a variety of motivations for funding in Australia. Some had personal connections to the country, while corporate foundations were likely to invest in areas where they had offices.

It found that both US and Australian funders focused on a broad spectrum of key social issues, among them income inequality, climate change, education, and the challenges facing rural and indigenous populations.

“Similar to NGOs in the US, key challenges faced by Australian NGOs included building greater capacity to measure outcomes and ensuring long-term fiscal sustainability,” the report said.

“There is a dearth of information about philanthropy in Australia that limits collaboration and coordination. As funders strive to become more effective and increase their impact, many agree that greater transparency and sharing of information are important.”

The report was released in Sydney on Monday and will be launched in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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