We need to facilitate responsive, future-focused philanthropy
18 February 2020 at 7:00 am
Equity Trustees’ involvement in establishing two disaster response trusts and the 2019 Annual Giving Review highlight the critical necessity for innovative approaches to adapt to current community expectations and needs, writes Jodi Kennedy, general manager of charitable trusts and philanthropy at Equity Trustees.
When we see a problem, or a person suffering, it’s human nature to want to respond to it. Immediately. It’s this urge to help that propelled millions of people to donate to the many bushfire appeals this year, and it is often what motivates philanthropists – via their wills or during their lifetimes – to establish charitable trusts or foundations. Irrespective of the motivation or social passion of each philanthropist, ultimately the one unifying driver is the urge to make a positive contribution to humankind in some way.
In the case of disasters, there is always a short-term requirement for cash to meet the needs of the most affected communities and people – shelter, food, injury and the trauma of loss. It is still needed, and we take our hats off to those charitable organisations out in the field taking on that Herculean task of day-to-day recovery.
But there is also a place, beyond the initial influx of one-off donations, for structured philanthropy to fill in the medium to long term. Often when the media interest has passed, and the public gaze shifts elsewhere, the hardest work is left to those navigating the complex web of rebuilding and recovery. This is the work done by the local communities themselves, the on-the-ground service delivery agencies and groups, grassroots funders and other stakeholders in communities.
In our latest Annual Giving Review, we looked at the data from across our granting programs covering more than 650 philanthropic trusts and the additional bequests for the 2019 financial year to see what it told us.
Apart from it being a record-breaking year of giving ($124.3 million – making Equity Trustees the most significant single source of (trustee) philanthropic funding in the country for the year in review), we were heartened to see that innovation in our approach, and focusing on long-term commitments to funding the for-purpose sector was yielding results. Results that meant real change to some of the difficult problems we as a community face – or at least being a part of the way forward.
We know that the for-purpose sector often struggles with attracting funding for capacity building – so we have focused attention there, channeling funding for programs like the Greater Shepparton Lighthouse Project ($850,000 over five years to ultimately achieve better outcomes for young people that stick), and technology transformation in Wintringham Specialist Aged Care and at Vision Australia ($6.2 million over five years to enable those organisations to embed technology to serve people – leaving people to focus on human connection so important to addressing disadvantage). There are numerous examples in our review – these are just a few.
More recently – on topic but outside the scope of the giving review – was Equity Trustees’ involvement in establishing two disaster response trusts – both of which focus on the long-term rebuilding and recovery, which must follow any disaster.
The reason we did this was because there are many – individuals, businesses and philanthropic funds alike – that want to commit to the recovery effort, but in the midst of an unfolding disaster are not sure where best to direct their funds. Like all Australians, we were looking for ways we could usefully help; as a trustee company it wasn’t immediately clear what that best approach was. So we decided to use our experience, expertise and resources pro bono to focus on creating trusts to help support this complex longer-term recovery.
One of the challenges in fundraising rapidly, such as in a disaster, is the limitation and inflexibility of traditional trust structures, such as public ancillary funds, in that they are restricted to who they can give funds to. Our goal was to create trusts that provided tax deductibility, but also allowed payments to be made to individuals where deemed appropriate.
These trusts are allowed to take (tax deductible) donations from business and individuals, however they are unique in that they can also accept donations from DGR Item 2 funds (private and public ancillary funds – which includes many foundations established by businesses as part of their CSR or workplace giving program, for example, as well as large private charitable funds).
Our objective has ultimately been to attract donations from as wide a pool as possible, so that we could facilitate funds flowing out efficiently, to those most in need, to get communities and people back on their feet. Knowing that natural disasters are part of the new normal, these trusts will exist in perpetuity, to attract and grow funds in preparation for what may come.
These trusts also exhibit what is also demonstrated throughout the 2019 Annual Giving Review: the critical necessity for innovative approaches to adapt to current community expectations and needs. It is our responsibility to show leadership in philanthropy – as stewards of funds entrusted to us to effect change.
It’s this kind of work that makes our job as a trustee so rewarding. To be in a position to help harness greater philanthropic clout and then influence the social impact achieved through this collaboration, is the ultimate outcome.
The Equity Trustees 2019 Annual Giving Review is now available online or in hardcopy.
About Equity Trustees: Equity Trustees was established in 1888 for the purpose of providing independent and impartial trustee and executor services to help families throughout Australia protect their wealth. As Australia’s leading specialist trustee company, we offer a diverse range of services to individuals, families and corporate clients including asset management, estate planning, philanthropic services and responsible entity (RE) services for external fund managers. Philanthropy services are provided by Equity Trustees Limited (ABN 46 004 031 298, AFSL 240975) and Equity Trustee Wealth Services Limited (ABN 33 006 132 332, AFSL 234528), both companies are part of EQT Holdings Limited (ABN 22 607 797 615), a public company listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX: EQT)