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Make money, make impact

17 June 2019 at 8:41 am
Maggie Coggan
As the co-founder of Impact Generation Partners and co-chair of Philanthropy Australia, Amanda Miller is bringing business, private investors and social entrepreneurs together to use finance for good. She’s this week’s Changemaker.

Maggie Coggan | 17 June 2019 at 8:41 am


Make money, make impact
17 June 2019 at 8:41 am

As the co-founder of Impact Generation Partners and co-chair of Philanthropy Australia, Amanda Miller is bringing business, private investors and social entrepreneurs together to use finance for good. She’s this week’s Changemaker.

After years as a corporate lawyer, Miller moved towards the social sector in search of work with purpose.

Working and volunteering for NFPs, philanthropic services, and eventually moving into the impact investing space has shown her the challenges and opportunities of each sector, and how they can all work together effectively.

While the Australian impact investing market is only just getting started, Miller, who was recently announced as deputy chair of the Social Impact Investing Expert Panel, is confident momentum is growing, creating not only a great financial return for investors but immense social change that will make for a fairer country.  

In this week’s Changemaker, Miller talks on how she made it to the sector, why listening to the next generation is crucial, and taking time out.   

What inspired you to get started?

I first started out as a corporate lawyer and practiced corporate law for a number of years, but I always felt like something was missing. I was always involved in different community and not-for-profit organisations on the side, and after having kids I decided I didn’t want to eventually be a partner in a law firm. I’d already done a lot of voluntary and paid work for not for profits, and then I moved over to philanthropic services and family foundations.

It was really good to have had the NFP experience to understand the challenges they face because you have a foundation which is giving about 5 per cent of its corpus, which is great, but what the NFPs have to do to get access to that is enormous. I also discovered after working in philanthropic services for a number of years that you can’t solve all of society’s problems through grant making. I started to get excited about the rest of the money sitting in foundations and wondering how we could channel that into something positive, and then beyond foundations, how we could channel all the capital that’s out there.

What are you trying to achieve in your career?All of my work is about engaging more people in the philanthropy and impact investing spaces and tapping into my networks to give them a taste of what they can achieve. Whether it’s my work for Kids in Philanthropy or young professional people coming to a Nexus summit, getting people to a Philanthropy Australia event or people who are just starting out with a foundation, I love the feeling of lighting a spark and them suddenly realising there’s so much work to be done. It’s such a rewarding opportunity, but it’s also a responsibility. That’s a lot of what motivates me because I know once you give people a taste of it it’s addictive.

Miller appointed new Philanthropy Australia co-chair (far right) along with Ann Johnson (far left) 

The impact investing market in Australia has been slow to grow, do you think that will change anytime soon?

I think it is changing and there is a lot of momentum. I speak to more and more people whose eyes have been opened to this space, and I think they are starting to realise that you can use capital to create change but still make money – it’s not about choosing one or the other.

People are also realising that they could be doing more damage through their investments than good through their grants. They are really questioning this and taking a look at their investments so they not only don’t do damage but also proactively do good.

I think it’s also an influence of the next generation coming through who are causing their parents or grandparents to think about it because younger people don’t separate what they do in their professional lives. To them, it’s just how they live. Where they have their superannuation, what kind of food they eat, what kind of car they buy and where they work is based on their values.

What will also bring momentum is institutional investors like superannuation funds getting into this space because that will bring large amounts of capital into things like disability housing and social housing, environmental causes, and fighting climate change.

How will the Commonwealth’s Impact Investing Task Force make a difference?  

The Commonwealth government is really serious about this and how they can play a role in developing this sector. As the deputy chair together with Michael Traill of the Social Impact Investing Taskforce, we are looking to come up with some really practical outcomes that the government can implement and hopefully turbocharge this market in Australia.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I spend a lot of my time meeting with social entrepreneurs. I don’t always meet with them because they are at the stage where they are ready for impact investment, but because they are at the stage where they need to be connected with the right people. Meetings can be one-on-one, part of accelerator programs, or pitch sessions.

Some of my time is also spent with companies that Impact Generation Partners has already invested in. Being active in the NFP community is also really important to me. We’ve got the funders, but they wouldn’t be anything without the NFP community. We really need to nurture those relationships within the community of funders, both with the next generation and the more traditional funders.

Two of Miller’s kids at the Kids in Philanthropy’s Hangout for the Homeless family working bee earlier this month

What do you like to do in your down time?

My down time is spending time with my family. I have teenage children and I make sure I’m home most nights and am able to spend quality time with them. There is so much going on in their lives and they need my husband and me around. We also have a dog that I love walking, and I love going to the movies.

I sometimes manage to combine family time with my work. For example, last weekend we had a family working bee event for Kids in Philanthropy with NFPs in the homelessness space where we spent two hours making toiletry kits, food and scarves, and all three of my kids were there helping out.

How important is it that you have that time with your family?

It’s crucial. There was probably a time when the kids were little that I didn’t spend as much time at home at night as they were asleep! You could go to an event nearly every night in the social impact, philanthropy, or start-up world in Melbourne, but I’ve really cut back on that now.

What’s a bit of a challenge though is that my husband Quentin and I both work in the space, so we need to be mindful not to talk a lot about it at home. We’ve been able to involve our children by bringing them along to events in the social impact space. We also bring the entrepreneurs home to meet our kids and pitch to them, because they have better questions than we do!

What’s great is that our children are growing up with the role models of super inspiring, for-purpose entrepreneurs and people working in NFPs, who are showing them that they can actually work in or start a business where they can do good, but they can earn money as well.

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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