Taking philanthropy mainstream – The Village Observer

7 May 2019

The term ‘philanthropy’ can evoke images of high net worth individuals bequeathing large sums of money to worthwhile causes, yet new ways of giving are making the space more accessible to everyone — regardless of how much they can afford to give.

By Jocelyn Biddle

With social issues on this rise, it’s a necessary change as pressure on the charitable dollar increases. In 2017-18 alone, another 2830 charities commenced in Australia.

Sarah Wickham is the Policy & Research Manager with charity sector association Philanthropy Australia. She says that the combination of complex social issues and our increasing social conscience has seen many new charities start up to address these concerns.

According to the 2016 Australian Charities Report published by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), there are now over 56,000 registered charities in Australia. This number includes not-for-profit organisations such as universities, aged care centres, religious institutions and non-government schools.

However, despite the size of the sector, Australia still has fewer charities per capita than Canada, USA, UK and New Zealand. 

Wickham says that the traditional notion of philanthropy has evolved, so that it now comprises three elements – namely time, talent and treasure.

“Whereas philanthropy used to be about signing a cheque, there is now a changing trend as people recognise that giving your time is just as important. Volunteering can really increase a charity’s ability to make a difference,” says Wickham.

“Philanthropy applies to giving at every level. Regardless of how much you can afford, it’s about giving with intent, using a considered approach to identify your particular passion and helping to make a difference that’s within your means.” 

McCrindle Research recently released its Australian Community Trends report to examine the effectiveness, engagement and awareness of the not-for-profit sector.

Its survey of over 1500 Australians showed that charitable giving remains strong in Australia, with 5 in 6 Australians supporting charities or NFP organisations. Almost one third of respondents had volunteered in the past 12 months with key motivators including a responsibility to give back to the community (56%); to make the world a better place (50%); and the feeling they get when they volunteer (47%). 


With thousands of charities requiring support, the sector is continually looking for new ways to attract funding.

And one initiative that is having a very positive impact, particularly for grassroots charities, is crowdfunding.

A relatively new concept for Australia, it involves bringing groups of people together to jointly fund a project or social social change. Through leverage of the group, participants can see how their donation goes much further.

Julie McDonald is the CEO of crowdfunding organisation The Funding Network (TFN). She says grassroots charities are undertaking great social innovation - often in areas not being covered off by larger charities - however they receive little funding. 

This is substantiated in JB Were’s ‘The Evolution of Philanthropy’ report released in June 2018, which showed that the top 10% of charities receive 94% of donations and bequests.

To address this gap, TFN holds events around Australia to which likely donors are invited to listen to pitches by smaller charities at the forefront of social change. Following the pitches, audience members are invited to support their chosen charity. 

“You don’t need to be wealthy to be a philanthropist,” says McDonald. “By pooling funds, our audience can see how they are making a difference with however much they can afford.

“Each charity delivers a compelling pitch and audience members can ask questions to better understand areas of need and how their money will be used. It’s a really powerful forum. When you’re in the moment and you are seeing first-hand what the charity is trying to achieve, it becomes very compelling.”

With anywhere from 150-250 people attending each event, an average $100,000 — $150,000 is raised in an evening. Through this forum, TFN has raised $10 million in the past 5 years. 

TFN’s McDonald says that a democratic process is used to select the charities. Anywhere from 30 to 60 charities apply for each event and an extensive due diligence process takes place (including review by an external panel) to develop the shortlist.

Read the full article on The Village Observer website.