Australians take the front foot on philanthropy

Emma Sakellaris

The growing number of Australians taking part in philanthropic activities has been highlighted by the findings of the latest CAF World Giving Index*, and are part of a trend towards individuals seeking to connect with charitable projects and initiatives, says Emma Sakellaris, executive general manager of Australian Unity Trustees Limited.

According to the CAF World Giving Index, Australia ranks second out of 146 countries when it comes to giving.

“We are seeing a clear shift from individuals preferring to contribute funds to a project or an organisation, to people wanting to genuinely emotionally connect into communities and initiatives,” Ms Sakellaris says.

“As part of this, the Index noted a global trend towards volunteering, with more people giving their time and expertise to causes while there has been a corresponding drop in the number of individuals donating money.

“In particular, there is a significant increase in the number of women seeking a greater emotional connection to projects and initiatives with charitable organisations and activities.”

Ms Sakellaris said there is a global shift regarding the impact women have through activities such as volunteering – not just time volunteering but also expertise volunteering.

“Often we see women who wish to start supporting particular causes, however they may not have the same capacity to significant grant funds during their lifetime.  In addition, we find that women are often not as influenced by incentives such as tax deductibility. 

“Instead, they are choosing to donate their time, expertise and energy to the causes that they feel most passionate about.

“It is evident that women seek a significantly greater emotional connection with charities and projects, so volunteering is often a logical commencement to establishing their philanthropic legacy.  Such women may then leave a significant charitable gift within their estate plan, in line with their areas of philanthropic focus during their lifetime. 

“We have also seen a gradual shift to ‘need based granting’ (assisting people who need to receive essentially the ‘basics’ – regular meals, accommodation, professional support services etc), which often includes human care, support and kindness and is not limited to the donation of funds.”

Ms Sakellaris said she is not surprised that Australia ranks highly in the Index, despite the common view that Australia doesn’t have a big philanthropic culture.

“A big part of the Australian culture is to help others – this is particularly evident through our increased willingness to support those in need of our support and kindness.

“I suggest our view of Australian philanthropy is somewhat impacted by the fact that we have significantly less ultra high net worth individuals making substantial grants and contributions in a highly visible manner, such as named buildings and scholarship programs, compared with, say, the US. 

“In Australia, philanthropy is not restricted to the domain of the ultra-wealthy, however as a result the individual contribution made by Australian philanthropists can be less visible.

“This doesn’t mean their contribution is less valuable, on the contrary, and the findings of the CAF report support this,” Ms Sakellaris says.

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