The top end of philanthropy surges in 2019
7 May 2020 at 8:11 am
The Paul Ramsay Foundation is once again the nation’s biggest giver
The amount of money donated by Australia’s 50 biggest philanthropists last year has jumped to $748 million, the highest on record since the inception of the Financial Review Philanthropy 50 list.
Overall giving in Australia normally rises in value between five and six per cent, but this year’s list saw giving levels rise 35 per cent.
The minimum amount of money donated to make it onto this year’s list also soared, going from $3.6 million in the previous year to $4.3 million in the 2019 financial year.
The list’s compiler, John McLeod, told Pro Bono News this pointed to an overall growth in larger donations.
“It has risen each year we’ve done the list, but this is an extraordinary jump,” McLeod said.
The Paul Ramsay Foundation once again took out top spot on the list, nearly doubling the amount spent in the 2019 financial year from $85.8 million to $158 million.
But McLeod said this jump wasn’t totally unexpected.
“The size of the foundation’s corpus has it now moving towards full scale operation,” he said.
Andew and Nicola Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation took out second place at $75.4 million, and Judith Neilson jumped from 16th to third place for her independent journalism initiative at $48.9 million.
McLeod said that one factor that boosted this year’s total was the number of significant one-off bequests, with this year’s biggest coming from the estates of James and Diana Ramsay ($38 million) and Bruce and Jenny Pryor ($22 million).
“That can be just a happenstance thing for that particular year, but it did boost things along quite substantially,” he said.
The AFR said that because the cut-off for this year was June 2019, the impact on philanthropy around the bushfires and battling coronavirus would be reflected in future lists.
While the pandemic could mean mass-market giving in Australia falls by nearly 20 per cent by the end of next year, the impacts on the nation’s wealthiest foundations could be delayed.
McLeod said that for the private ancillary funds (PAFs) on the list, such as the Paul Ramsay Foundation, their giving would actually grow.
“Because PAFs will give off what their assets were worth in June 2019, what they’re giving will actually grow in that year,” he said.
It will be a different story for charitable trusts that give away money depending on income levels, but McLeod said the higher-end organisations still wouldn’t suffer nearly as much as mass-market ones, which for some in the sector was good news.
“Those organisations which are more reliant on high-end donors should hold up a bit better than some of the bigger, large-scale, mass-market type charities,” he said.