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AMP Foundation shifts for the future

12 September 2022 at 12:07 pm
Danielle Kutchel
As AMP Foundation celebrates 30 years of operation, its incoming general manager explains why philanthropists need to speak up and lead.

Danielle Kutchel | 12 September 2022 at 12:07 pm


AMP Foundation shifts for the future
12 September 2022 at 12:07 pm

As AMP Foundation celebrates 30 years of operation, its incoming general manager explains why philanthropists need to speak up and lead.

How do you quantify three decades of philanthropic support? 

For the AMP Foundation, the figures are right there: the foundation has given away more than $100 million over its 30 years of operation, supporting those who create financial resilience within the community.

But incoming general manager Nicola Stokes is looking forward to a future of greater impact and closer working relationships with community partners.

Speaking to Pro Bono News on the sidelines of the 2022 Philanthropy Australia national conference, Stokes said the conference is an important event in the way that it brings together “some of the most extraordinary minds in the philanthropic sector”.

“It’s quite a gift to come together in a room with like-minded people with an extraordinary focus this year on humanity, on people, place, planet and identifying the issues… in [the] community and then focusing on an outcome,” she said.

30 years of giving back

Stokes is proud of the impact that the AMP Foundation has had during its time and the role it has played in the community, and she’s looking forward to taking the funder further.

“We’re one of the largest corporate foundations in the country and have given nearly $110 million over that time to a whole set of charities and not for profits… delivering social impact,” she explained.

Though she hasn’t yet officially stepped into her new role, Stokes said part of her interest in taking on the job was around how the concept of social impact is changing, with a “surge of energy” around measuring impact.

“From an AMP Foundation point of view, the focus is shifting from philanthropic giving to philanthropic investing,” Stokes explained.

“I want to sort of absorb what’s going on in the sector now. It’s at a very crucial point, I think, especially with our economy and the way the world is going… and what COVID has done to a lot of our social fabric.”

New ideas

The AMP Foundation focuses on financial wellbeing, supporting not for profits that help Australians build their financial security.

Stokes is a fierce advocate for this and believes that certainty around one’s financial situation creates resilience.

She said the organisation would continue to focus on making investments with the goal of creating financial wellbeing, but that she hopes to be able to work with people and companies to help develop their proposal in a manner similar to seed funding.

“What we would be looking for is organisations or individuals who are able to articulate the outcome they’re trying to achieve, because I think that’s really important. So understanding the grain of the idea, why their idea came to them and what impact the effective execution of that idea will have. And then we can help them fill in from A to Z,” she explained.

The entrepreneurs would then be able to leverage the skills of the people at AMP, while AMP would help build the impact measurements into the funding. 

That impact could be qualitative or quantitative, financial or non-financial, Stokes added.

The AMP Foundation was an early adopter of impact investment, and also invested in Australia’s first two social impact bonds.

The Foundation is now taking the bold step of using some of its corpus to deliver impact too, alongside traditional philanthropic giving.

The big shift now is from philanthropic giving to philanthropic investing, which Stokes said is a “cultural journey”.

“It’s definitely a different mindset. You give different support. It’s not just going ‘here’s the money to buy this thing or to do this thing, and now tell us, did you do it?’ It’s a much closer relationship with helping the individual or the enterprise actually achieve what they’re trying to achieve,” she explained.

Stokes sees philanthropy as one of the major pillars that can deliver impact within society, even ahead of governments.

“I don’t think we should wait for government, or I don’t think we should expect them to do the things that we believe are right for society now at a societal or community level. 

“I think that’s the key role of philanthropy, is finding its place within that set of five entities, but also leading the way.”

Speaking up

Stokes also believes that we should be proud of, and loudly celebrate, our philanthropists.

Like others, Stokes believes there is a cultural tendency in Australia to not talk about philanthropic achievements.

She also believes that funders need to learn that it’s OK to fail.

“If you think of the for profit sector, they fail all the time. They know that to get to the best service delivery, you have to test, fail, learn. We need to do the same,” Stokes said.

Danielle Kutchel  |  @ProBonoNews

Danielle is a journalist specialising in disability and CALD issues, and social justice reporting. Reach her on or on Twitter @D_Kutchel.

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