Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

Insights from Life Members of Philanthropy Australia

Charlotte Melbourne Author: Charlotte Francis

The Philanthropy Australia AGM held in Melbourne on Thursday 19th April was a great opportunity to meet funders, thought leaders and others in the sector.

President Alan Schwartz AM led us through a review of Philanthropy Australia’s year summarising all the various initiatives undertaken to advocate for ‘more and better philanthropy’.  Highlights of the year included the establishment of the Friends of Parliament Group, The Philanthropy Meets Parliament Summit held in Canberra in September 2017, and the partnership with NAB on the Impact Investment Ready Discovery Grant which saw $250,000 in funding distributed across 12 grants to enhance capacity and support the sustainability of the sector.

Philanthropy CEO Sarah Davies presented three members with Life Memberships. These honorary awards went to Emeritus Professor Myles McGregor-Lowdnes, Foundation Director of the Australian Centre of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at QUT; Lady Marigold Southey AC, a member of the Myer family and president of Philanthropy Australia from 2000-2006; and Dr Michael Liffman, Founding Director of Philanthropy and Social Investment at Swinburne.

The only one of the three able to attend the AGM was Dr Liffman – Lady Southey was on her way to Italy to celebrate her 90th birthday and Myles McGregor-Lowdnes was also travelling overseas. Philanthropy Australia produced video interviews of all three, giving us insights into their thinking about the state of philanthropy today. Here is a snapshot of what they had to say:

Myles McGregor-Lowdnes
• The evidence base is important as it speaks to practitioners and policy makers alike

• He wants to see more philanthropy converted into intentions and ideas in action

• What is the story – the narrative – and what values lie behind that?

• He is optimistic about the growth of giving particularly among millennials and High Net Worth Individuals who are not giving need to be challenged by their peers.

Lady Southey – her interview was particularly delightful as it featured her two Jack Russells rolling about on the sofa behind her!

• In the last 20 years, understanding of philanthropy has grown; in the past, philanthropists were deceased   people who left estates – it wasn’t a living word.

• One of the most dramatic changes in recent years has been the birth of Private Ancillary Funds (PAFs)

• Public Accountability and leading by example is far stronger than anonymous giving

• Start young by educating children about   philanthropy - of course, as a Myer, Lady Southey, grew up in a philanthropic family.

Dr Michael LiffmanCharlotteBlog 27April
• Favours the term social investment over philanthropy as it describes funders having a stake in the transaction – it has less ‘baggage’ than philanthropy – and recognises the reciprocity of the transaction.

• The biggest challenge is to focus on outcomes produced by investment not intentions

• Since he started with the Myer Foundation in 1985, philanthropy has become cool, in that it is strategic and outcomes-focussed.

• Find the sweet spot between head and heart – as in strategic versus emotional intelligence – and recognise how powerful emotion is in the sphere of wanting to make the world a better place

• The sector needs to take risks and acknowledge failures – Foundations don’t always report learnings and things that didn’t work.

• Not everything has to be innovative – this has almost become a mantra – there are things that have worked in the past.