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Predictions for 2021: Philanthropy

17 February 2021 at 7:05 pm
Jack Heath
Jack Heath, CEO of Philanthropy Australia, shares some more or less, and different, predictions for 2021.

Jack Heath | 17 February 2021 at 7:05 pm


Predictions for 2021: Philanthropy
17 February 2021 at 7:05 pm

Jack Heath, CEO of Philanthropy Australia, shares some more or less, and different, predictions for 2021.

After the year that was 2020, it’s a brave CEO that makes predictions for the year ahead and an even braver one when they’ve only been in the job a few weeks but… here goes.

1. Less rushing

While lockdown has been so hard for so many, especially the home-schoolers, one silver lining is that it has forced us to slow down. When you slow down you start to notice and, in turn, appreciate things and people closer to you. In our busyness, we so often miss the treasures right in front of us. Even as the arrival of vaccines signals the pace of life will pick back up again, we should remember the value in going more slowly, more gently. 

2. More local

COVID-19 has brought stronger relationships at a neighbourhood level. Now we know more of our local shopkeepers, baristas, shop assistants and neighbours than we ever did. We’re also seeing a greater focus on place-based giving as communities rally together in the aftermath of the Black Summer fires and the economic challenges of the pandemic. The significance of local will endure post pandemic.

3. More climate change philanthropy and UHNW giving

Three quarters of the private bankers and wealth advisers who manage more than $3.3 trillion of investments for ultra-high net worth individuals, cite an increasing interest in climate change from their clients with over two thirds looking to increase their overall philanthropic giving. As the Bill Gates of the world embody just how good it feels, and is, to direct your wealth to addressing the pressing challenges facing humanity they will inspire their peers and others to do the same.

4. More online giving 

Defying some predictions, 2020 saw a 30 per cent increase in donations via some online giving platforms – a trend which is likely to continue. Younger people will continue to participate in social media initiatives like Team Trees that raised $20 million to plant 20 million trees in a matter of months.

5. Different grant-making approaches

The Black Summer fires and the COVID-19 pandemic saw leading Australian philanthropic organisations take different approaches to grant-making. More than 80 per cent of Philanthropy Australia members surveyed changed their funding practices in 2020 and almost half are now looking at significant long-term changes to their grant making. Expect to see a shift toward trust-based philanthropy with more untied funding, more realistic funding of overheads and a small but significant increase in participatory grant-making where the actual beneficiaries of philanthropic funding have a seat at the grant-making table. 

6. More impact investing

Mega wealthy investors along with super and pension funds want to see more of their investments meeting environmental social governance (ESG) criteria with already around one quarter of investments having some form of ESG screening. And with an estimated $3.5 trillion in intergenerational wealth transfers expected in Australia alone over the coming decades – the younger beneficiaries will demand their investments are directed to areas that contribute to reducing climate change and addressing pressing social issues.

7. More need

The crisis has had an uneven impact on the sector, and the recovery will likely be uneven too, shifting the landscape of need. While philanthropy needs to – and will – respond to support recovery, we need to remember that it’s ultimately the responsibility of government to ensure an equitable recovery. However, there could be good opportunities for philanthropy, government, and charities to collaborate more strategically as part of the recovery.

While most areas of giving are increasing in dollar terms – corporate giving, bequests, high net worth giving – mass market giving is stagnant at best. Charities that rely on mass market giving are under threat. Some smaller charities that JobKeeper kept alive may struggle to address critical needs in smaller communities or even fall by the wayside. Looking to the horizon, there doesn’t seem to be signs of significant improvements in mental health outcomes despite significant funding investments from government so targeted and strategic philanthropy is more important in this area than ever before. 

8. More answers

This April and May Philanthropy Australia will host our national conference along with a series of workshops in a quest to answer what does the future need from us, now? Please join us in our search for more answers as we hear from some outstanding Indigenous leaders along with provocative and challenging experts in philanthropy. 

9. More of this philanthropy

Over the course of 2021, you’ll be hearing more of me talk about the need to personalise our philanthropy – to encourage and inspire a philanthropy that is big-hearted, clear-headed and joyful, a philanthropy that is underpinned by values of dignity, impact, trust, celebration and humility, and a philanthropy that seeks to double our giving by 2030. 

And finally …

10. More pianos

Last weekend, I was visiting a dear friend who proudly showed me the stunning semi-grand piano that she had just had delivered and which belonged to her recently deceased mother. Turns out the piano moving business is breaking all records as people bring music to their homes and sing with friends and family. Here’s to more pianos!


This article is part of a series of 2021 predictions from experts across the social sector.

See also:

Predictions for 2021: Charities

Predictions for 2021: Shared value

Predictions for 2021: Co-ops and mutuals

Predictions for 2021: Impact investing

Predictions for 2021: Volunteering

Jack Heath  |  @ProBonoNews

Jack Heath is the CEO of Philanthropy Australia.

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