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Predictions for 2018: Philanthropy

9 January 2018 at 8:33 am
Krystian Seibert
2018 will be another big year for charities and philanthropy in Australia writes Krystian Seibert, the advocacy and insight manager at Philanthropy Australia, in the first in a series of predictions for the coming year from leading experts across the social sector.

Krystian Seibert | 9 January 2018 at 8:33 am


Predictions for 2018: Philanthropy
9 January 2018 at 8:33 am

2018 will be another big year for charities and philanthropy in Australia writes Krystian Seibert, the advocacy and insight manager at Philanthropy Australia, in the first in a series of predictions for the coming year from leading experts across the social sector.

Here are my predictions for what I think will happen in 2018, and for (some of the) things I would like to happen in 2018.

What will happen:

Debate about the role of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits’ Commission (ACNC)

The ACNC’s new commissioner, the Hon Dr Gary Johns, took the helm in early December and not long after that the terms of reference for the review of the ACNC legislation were released.

Dr Johns believes that the ACNC has a role promoting the efficiency of charities, writing about this in an opinion piece in The Australian after he was appointed. However the objects of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012 (Cth) don’t mention efficiency.

The review process may therefore involve a debate about whether the focus of the ACNC should indeed be on efficiency. As I wrote in The Conversation, evidence from the US shows that providing donors with more information does not necessarily lead to a more “efficient” charities sector.

Nevertheless, the review process will be a useful opportunity to tidy up aspects of the ACNC regulatory framework and help ensure that the ACNC continues to be a global best practice charities regulator.

Debate about the advocacy role of charities

The advocacy role of charities is vital to our democracy, but not only that, it’s an effective way for delivering social and environmental change because it focuses on addressing the causes of social and environmental problems and not just their symptoms.

The Civil Voices report produced by Pro Bono Australia and the Human Rights Law Centre shows that many charities are “self-silencing”. As I wrote in The Age, charities have reasons to feel confident as advocates – they have the law and public opinion on their side. And at Philanthropy Australia, we believe there’s a strong case for philanthropy to fund advocacy.

However debates about the advocacy role of charities will continue in 2018, and there is already one attempt to limit funding for advocacy by charities – the legislation to ban foreign donations which has been introduced into Parliament.

Impact investment action at a federal level

2017 saw the federal government embrace impact investing, with a package of announcements in last year’s budget which were widely welcomed.

2018 will see these commitments put into action with a new Social Impact Investment Readiness Fund likely to be up and running at some point during the year. The Department of Social Services has been doing a lot of work thinking about its design and consulting with stakeholders.

It’s great to see the federal government helping to build the market for impact investment, as philanthropy in Australia is keen to see more investment opportunities.

What I would like to happen:

A better taxation and regulatory framework for community foundations

Community foundations are a valuable and unique form of community infrastructure, whose purpose is to attract resources to support and revitalise local communities and build social capital.

Currently, our tax laws make life very hard for community foundations and this is holding back their growth and their impact. Community foundations can’t accept donations from private ancillary funds, and they can also only make grants to so-called “Item 1” deductible gift recipients (I’ve written about this previously here).

2018 would be a fantastic year for philanthropy in Australia if the Australian government were to address this by creating a new DGR category for community foundations. If that’s not possible, then the next best option would be to allow community foundations to receive donations from private ancillary funds.

New strategic partnerships between philanthropy and the Australian government

There is immense potential for philanthropy and the Australian government to partner together to leverage funding and expertise to deliver positive impact. However at this stage, the level of collaboration is still rather limited.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has led the way in terms of developing partnerships with business and philanthropy, in particular through its InnovationXchange initiative. One such partnership, with the US-based Bloomberg Philanthropies, was profiled at Philanthropy Australia’s Philanthropy Meets Parliament Summit in September last year.

Whilst it would be hard for Australian philanthropy to the deliver on the scale of Bloomberg Philanthropies, it would still be great if in 2018 we saw a new partnership between an Australian foundation (or a group of them) and the Australian government in the international development space.  

More focus on digital data and its implications for charities

In 2017, The Economist declared that the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data. As far as I know, Australian charities don’t own much (if any!) oil, but they do have lots of data.

Charities collect and use data every day, and they’re also using it in new ways. Whilst the increased use of digital data is a massive opportunity to find more effective ways to address social and environmental challenges, it also comes with risks. Through its partnership with the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, Perpetual has been doing a fantastic job building the capacity of charities to understand these opportunities and risks.

The ability of charities to manage data and protect privacy is vital in this era of heightened sensitivity around data privacy – if charities don’t take it seriously, they could lose their “social license to operate” from the community.

The Red Cross data breach in 2016 showed what can happen even with effective policies and practices in place – something for which Red Cross was commended by the Australian Information Commissioner following its investigation of the breach.

A new mandatory Notifiable Data Breaches scheme comes into force from 22 February 2018 – charities should use this as an opportunity to review their policies and practices when it comes to data privacy. Not-for-profit Law has some useful resources for charities looking to do this.

About the author: Krystian Seibert is the advocacy and insight manager at Philanthropy Australia and an Adjunct Industry Fellow at the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University.

Krystian Seibert  |  @ProBonoNews

Krystian Seibert is an industry fellow at the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University of Technology and has a strategic advisory role with Philanthropy Australia.

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