Sustainable support: A balancing act for philanthropists
12 August 2020 at 7:11 pm
Dr Chau Chak Wing shares some insight into how he approaches his giving and the importance, now more than ever, of finding the balance between preserving the past, stabilising the present and nurturing the future.
From every business to every home, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a deep and significant impact on the livelihoods of Australians, with implications we cannot even begin to forecast. Over this period, we have seen businesses close, earning capacity compromised, and donation and volunteering capabilities suffer. At an unprecedented time in which so many have been robbed of the opportunity to support a neighbour or good cause, the message is clear; those who can, should. For this reason, philanthropists must maintain or even increase their support, and invest in Australia in a sustainable way that seeks to find the balance between preserving the past, stabilising the present and nurturing the future.
While it may be tempting for philanthropists to be seen to invest in the “new” or the exciting unknown, it is of the utmost importance to remember that the only way that we can achieve a future that is better than the past is to learn from a well-preserved history. The COVID-19 pandemic carries with it important lessons for philanthropists, one of which is that the stability of future investments is not a given. For this reason, it is crucial to diversify support to include the past and present, so that we might forge a better future.
For those looking to give, it is pivotal to consider Australia’s rich and significant history, a history which must be preserved if we are to gain insight into how we as a nation move forward. I have found that my support for veterans, both past and contemporary, through the Soldier On charity has been some of my most fulfilling work.
However, it is also important for philanthropists to note the significant role the arts and cultural industries play in the long-term growth of our nation, contributing over $111.7 billion to Australia’s economy yearly, up 30 per cent from the decade prior.
Not only is this a fruitful and admirable cause, it is a direct example of the way in which philanthropists can invest in the future by setting their sights on the past. This is highlighted as data has shown that jobs in the creative industries are projected to grow 87 per cent by the year 2030, as opposed to a sharp decline forecasted across other industries.
In my experience, this is as rewarding and fruitful of an investment as any. A recent example of which being a collaboration I was fortunate to be a part of with the University of Sydney to give Sydney its newest museum. The museum will house the largest collection of historical antiquities in the southern hemisphere. This is an example of an investment that I believe will not only sustain the lessons of our rich history through education, but will bridge a divide between past, present and future for generations to come.
Supporting the present is another excellent investment for philanthropists who wish to help cultivate tomorrow’s Australia. Under the current circumstances, it is critical that we back causes that help to rebuild our economy and support those who need it most. That means future-proof support that benefits Australia now, and will continue to benefit the next generations of innovative young minds.
Work I have found particularly fulfilling is supporting various educational institutions, such as the University of Technology in Sydney, to develop infrastructure that will serve as a space of pioneering education now and long into the future. The building, which has won multiple awards for sustainability and innovation, is just one example of the ways in which philanthropists can set sights on the future while still supporting the nation through this challenging time. I personally believe that the soundest investment that any philanthropist can make in the future, is an investment into those who will shape it.
As we emerge from this crisis, we will all have reflected especially hard on what the new future of Australia might look like. While this is an important reflection, to contribute meaningfully to benefit our Australian society we must be willing to simultaneously nurture the country’s rich past and turbulent present in order to ensure a promising future. That’s why I am looking forward to continuing to contribute through my foundation to causes that will help Australia emerge stronger from this devastating pandemic.