10:35am – Southern Highlands Foundation – Philanthropic Investment

Shelley Boyce

The Foundation pools the charitable gifts and bequests of donors into a permanent, income-earning endowment that benefits the people of the Southern Highlands in perpetuity. Grants from these funds support a range of initiatives from health, education and social services to arts, culture and the environment.

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Philanthropic Investment in Australia

Philanthropy is defined as “The desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.” It should be noted that philanthropy is different from charity, although there is considerable overlap. The difference is summarised as charity relieves a particular social problem while philanthropy looks to solve the underlying cause of that problem thereby removing the problem altogether. From this definition alone it can be seen that philanthropy can be an incredibly beneficial to society, but its holistic approach to  providing a solution means that only those with substantial influence can offer the means necessary. Philanthropy has been a part of society since it was documented during the ancient Greek period and has survived and evolved in different forms throughout history. Modern philanthropy is dominated by entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerburg who through amassing huge financial earnings are able to leverage both their celebrity and financial power to bring about massive change to their areas of focus. They have also set up The Giving Pledge where billionaires pledge to give away at least half of their fortune. Bill Gates has, through his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also given away an estimated 28 Billion dollars and has been at the forefront of combatting 3rd world disease prevention.

Modern philanthropy has been characterised by hugely successful tech entrepreneurs taking on secondary roles where they seek to “give something back” to the world by either straight donation or personal involvement in important global causes. The relative speed of technological business success and the transparent nature of today’s pertinent causes has produced an environment where philanthropy has become almost expected amongst the world’s richest individuals. And the age of where philanthropic donations can expect to be seen has also decreased to individuals now in their 20’s and 30’s. This reflects the business community itself where tech entrepreneurs are building considerable wealth at a much earlier stage in life than has traditionally been the case within the business world.

One of the leading advocates of philanthropy in Australia is Philanthropy Australia (http://www.philanthropy.org.au ) who offers the opportunity to partner and collaborate with likeminded individuals looking to benefit their society through philanthropic activities. There are currently an estimated 800 trusts, foundations, families, organisations, individual donors, professional advisers, intermediaries and not-for-profit organisations. It is a key characteristic of philanthropic donation that the giver can not only give over a long period of time but that they can also be involved in the process and delivery of the benefit. As many of the donators come from successful entrepreneurial backgrounds it is only to be assumed that they would wish to have a hands on approach to donating, one where they can assure that their donated funds will be put to the best use.

For regional areas where there are a large proportion of retirees from successful business careers it can be highly beneficial for the region to set up philanthropic frameworks to facilitate donations from residents. These donated funds can greatly help communities which may not be able to secure funding in other ways.