April 25, 2017

CEO Update - April 2017

A Giving Australia

When I was a child my parents taught me to give. There wasn't a lot of disposable income, but we gave donations to different charities, my mum always carried change to give to rough sleepers and I started volunteering with my twin sister as a thirteen-year-old. Decades later, I still regularly give and continue to be motivated by contributing to social change. I’m not alone.

Just over 8 in 10 Australians give financially to charities and non-profit organizations. In 2015-16 this accounted for A$12.5 billion. These findings are part of the Giving Australia research undertaken by the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at Queensland University of Technology, CSI Swinburne and the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs and funded by the Department of Social Services. 

This important research is being released as a series of five reports. The latest report, Philanthropy and Philanthropists, found that I’m not unique in my motivations to give. Many people who give have been influenced by culture within their families and communities and are driven by social change. Indeed, this report found there is already a trend beginning in life-long giving amongst younger philanthropists. 

Philanthropy and Philanthropists, co-authored by CSI’s Christopher Baker, Jo Barraket and Aurora Elmes with colleagues from QUT, is about the giving patterns of high-net-worth individuals and institutions. The research found that the focus of giving hasn’t changed - most funding goes to social services, education and research, health, culture and recreation, and development and housing. However, the way high-net-worth individuals and institutions give has changed. There is more collective giving, use of online technologies, proactive searches for charities, and expressions of interest, checks on NFP’s capacity to deliver and a focus on ethical investment. New funding models have also emerged, like impact investment, but these currently remain on the fringe of giving.

High-net-worth individuals and institutional investors are also placing more emphasis on

  • social impact (e.g. evaluating effectiveness)
  • how organisations work with communities (e.g. co-creation and strategic partnerships)
  • sustainability (e.g. being open to longer-term investment)

 These findings have important implications for charities that are looking for and receiving funding including how they apply for funding, how they work, who they work with, their use of technology and how they measure and demonstrate the difference they make.

 All of these are important areas of focus for CSI.

With high-net-worth individuals nearly doubling over the last decade (from 146,000 in 2005 to 234,000 in 2015), there is increased potential for more people to give significant amounts of money to charity.

But it’s not all good news: the total proportion of people giving declined in Australia over the last decade, a fall from 87%. More than ever, we need to make sure these high-net-worth individuals fall within the group of Australians who give. Heeding the lessons from this important research, including building a culture of giving in families and communities, should assist.

I’m looking forward to what else we can learn from the next four reports in the Giving Australia series commissioned by the Department of Social Services and due to be released throughout 2017. It's an important piece of work, and I'm proud that CSI is a part of it.


Professor Kristy Muir, CEO

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