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Philanthropy’s generosity remains strong… but for how long?


3 June 2020 at 1:49 pm
Maggie Coggan
Nearly 90 per cent of Australian grantmakers have stepped up support of charities during COVID-19, new research finds  


Maggie Coggan | 3 June 2020 at 1:49 pm


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Philanthropy’s generosity remains strong… but for how long?
3 June 2020 at 1:49 pm

Nearly 90 per cent of Australian grantmakers have stepped up support of charities during COVID-19, new research finds  

Australian philanthropy is far more sophisticated, mature and responsive to disaster events than it was five years ago, but more must be done to encourage growth for future disasters,  philanthropy leaders say. 

The comments follow the release of a Philanthropy Australia survey, which found the country’s top trusts and foundations were giving more than ever and had acted quickly to support charities during the economic fall-out of COVID-19.   

Out of the 101 grantmakers surveyed, 88 per cent of respondents had already changed the way they support charities during the pandemic, increasing flexibility in funding (72 per cent), untying restricted funding (48 per cent), increasing financial grant support (42 per cent), and setting up dedicated COVID-19 programs (32 per cent). 

On top of that, 40 per cent of respondents have opened up new grant opportunities, beyond their regular programs, to support communities and organisations needing immediate relief and recovery funding.

The survey found that philanthropists had increased their giving during COVID-19 by an average of 20 per cent, with 22 per cent of respondents saying they would further increase their giving in the next financial year.  

Philanthropy Australia’s CEO, Sarah Davies AM, told Pro Bono News that if the pandemic had happened five or six years ago, philanthropy wouldn’t have responded in nearly the same way. 

“The sophistication, the maturity and the practice of Australian philanthropy is really impressive,” Davies said. 

The pandemic closely followed a summer of catastrophic bushfires across the country, an emergency that philanthropy also jumped in to assist with. 

Davies said that while she believed the values, strategies and intent of philanthropists meant the generosity of the community would endure, their resources were ultimately finite.   

“The question is that at some point, existing donors and philanthropists will have given away all their money,” she said. 

“What I think we have to do now is focus on growing the participation in giving and growing the number of philanthropic trusts and foundations that we have in Australia, because I think that is how we maintain and grow our ability to respond effectively.” 

She said this could be done by encouraging collaboration and fostering a strong community of philanthropists in Australia.  

“At the best of times philanthropy can be a lonely pursuit, and it’s not an easy craft to master because there are skills and tools and frameworks and relationships and a whole heap of things that are needed to make it effective,” she said.  

“So being part of a community where you can take inspiration, learnings, motivation and ideas from peers, and where you can collaborate and work things out together is critical.”  


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

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

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