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What Motivates Australian Philanthropists?

1 December 2016 at 10:33 am
Wendy Williams
In 2016 Australian philanthropists are keen to make a difference, promote an ongoing culture of giving but also want a much bigger say in the outcomes of their giving, according to the largest ever national research effort into philanthropic behaviour.

Wendy Williams | 1 December 2016 at 10:33 am


What Motivates Australian Philanthropists?
1 December 2016 at 10:33 am

In 2016 Australian philanthropists are keen to make a difference, promote an ongoing culture of giving but also want a much bigger say in the outcomes of their giving, according to the largest ever national research effort into philanthropic behaviour.

The Giving Australia 2016 project, which launched in Canberra on Thursday, shows that foundations and philanthropists tend to choose a giving strategy and stick to it but are using technology to improve their systems.

Nearly three-quarters (72.5 per cent) reported that their giving priorities had not changed significantly in the past 10 years. However, just over half (53 per cent) indicated that their processes had changed significantly.

Common changes included moving to online grant applications, requesting expressions of interest prior to a full submission from applicants, greater due diligence into organisational capacity, taking a proactive approach in seeking out those organisations aligned to their grant making priorities and using new technologies to assist in decision making.

The $1.7 million Giving Australia 2016 project has been undertaken by the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at the Queensland University of Technology and its partners, on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Social Services and the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership.

The research found that the motivating factors for Australian philanthropists were that giving can make a difference (92.2 per cent), their desire to give back to community (77.7 per cent) and the desire to set an example (77.7 per cent).

Philanthropists were also influenced by causes they were passionate about (96.2 per cent), whether the charity had sound governance (92.3 per cent) and that their grant would provide more “bang for their buck” (65.4 per cent).

Director of the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University and co-research lead in the Giving Australia project Professor Jo Barraket told Pro Bono Australia News that developing and mobilising a culture of giving was one of the strongest themes to come out of the research around philanthropists and foundations.

“[The culture of giving] came through particularly strongly both in terms of the role of societal norms and values and informing people’s practices, the role of family and community in particular and also in the sense of cultural values – an area where we have levers we can pull to increase giving capacity in Australia,” Barraket said.

“One of the things that a number of the people who were high net worth or ultra-high net worth individuals pointed to was growing the cultures of giving within their own families and using structured giving in frameworks such as sub-funds and family foundations to encourage younger generations to engage in giving.

“So we saw a lot of that intergenerational push and cultural development that supports giving and extending giving.

“The first time the Giving Australia project was carried out in 2005 there was qualitative research done but this time we have done qualitative research as well as a survey of 105 philanthropists and foundations.

Culture matters are not a new idea in relation to giving and volunteering. What did come through was a sense among those who were active in philanthropy is that we are seeing a democratisation of philanthropy starting to emerge.

“The idea that giving is no longer about bequesting alone and there is this interesting and strong sense in the philanthropy community around the democratisation of philanthropy, that everyone who can give should be giving and also that there are a wider range of people able to give through the new mechanisms of fundraising.”

Barraket said the role of online technological platforms to support peer-to-peer informed giving, the revival of giving circles and generally the influence of social networking in initiating giving and creating new channels for giving beyond traditional channels all came through strongly in the research.

“These are starting to inform cultures of giving. So you have that intersection of technology and culture then,” she said.

“The other thing that came through in our work was the need for greater flexibility. Which is somewhat distinct from 2005.

“Greater flexibility in the life course [of giving] and a strong emphasis on giving while living saw a lot of philanthropists articulating a desire to do that and reflecting that in some ways some of our structured giving platforms and mechanisms are perhaps not enabling the flexibility of giving.

“There was some reflection that the vehicles we have aren’t really adapting to a contemporary life course or that experience of giving while we live. It’s partly about practice exceeding the regulation, the speed of change and technological advancements across the board. It simply makes it difficult to regulate at that speed of change. It is not a flaw of policy but rather a need to catch up.”

Barraket said another area that came through in the research was crowdfunding and also the regulations around what kinds of organisations that funds and sub-funds are allowed to give too.

“Those are the the areas of some tension in the work that we did,” she said.

“Well it’s partly to do with what some funds and some Private Ancillary Funds are allowed to give to as regards to charitable status of organisations. That was the main issue.

“Across the board the desire to have a social impact came through as the strongest theme, if you like, about what motivates people to give and there were two inflections in that in terms of our work with philanthropists and foundations.

“The first was making a difference and there was strong emphasis on that and a dominant factor but the flip side was having some agency or control over the outcomes of your giving.

“There is a much stronger narrative around impact generally in the 2016 data compared to 2005.”

Barraket said overall the research provided a very deep and broad evidence based support for policy and regulatory decisions.

“The work of the ACNC has undoubtedly been important and it’s starting to build that routine evidence base as well but they only cover the not-for-profit sector and it is not focused on all the aspects of giving and philanthropy,” she said.

“It has generated an incredibly rich data set. It will allow for other researchers to slice and dice the data in the future. It is a holistic snapshot across the sector.”

The first Giving Australia project was carried out in 2005.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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