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Feeling philanthropic? How to give more

With so many ways to share your good fortune, it pays to think seriously about what you want to achieve.

Charitable giving comes in many guises: sponsoring a friend’s fun run, setting up a monthly deduction to a favourite cause or participating in workplace giving programs.


They’re all worthwhile ways to spread the love. Whether it’s $10, $20 or $100, every little bit counts for organisations that rely on the generosity of others.


But philanthropy has the potential to be much more than a solicitous donation to an annual fundraising campaign.


“Planned, long-term giving moves charity beyond the feel-good factor, taking you on a journey that can see you become a bigger part of building the kind of society you want to see.


You don’t need to be wealthy to make meaningful change. The key is to fully explore the options and find the one that best meets your level of commitment, structure and focus.


There are a number of really terrific opportunities for people to get involved with giving,” says Sarah Davies, CEO of Philanthropy Australia.


Group efforts


A good place to start might be through a corporate giving program. Depending on the program, you can select your charity of choice, or choose from a pre-selected group of community partners. And some employers will even match your donation dollar-for-dollar, doubling your impact.


Collective giving is another option, says Davies. There are many models of collective giving, sometimes called giving circles. Basically, they’re groups of likeminded people – around the corner and around the world – interested in the same causes and issues you are.


“It’s about leveraging everybody’s contribution to do something significant,” she says. “You’re joining a club of givers.”


The benefits go beyond boosting contributions. “More importantly it’s about the experience and learning that you get along the way,” says Davies. “You get a bit of insight on the community sector, the social change sector; who’s out there and what they’re doing.


“People who start that exploration experience the richness and diversity, and incredible work going on and become highly engaged and informed.”


All in the family


Setting up a named sub-fund within a community foundation structure is a collective giving option that can involve the whole family. There are many different foundations across the country and some, like the Australian Communities Foundation’s Gumnut Account, start at just $2,000.


Davies likens them to “a philanthropy savings account”: a long-term commitment that becomes “an engine to generate philanthropic gifts” the group can bestow to a range of campaigns “that speak to your experience or emotions”.


Unlike savings accounts, putting your money into a named sub-fund means your donations are immediately tax deductible. Community foundations also take care of compliance and reporting and, because they’re not-for-profit organisations, their job is to guide giving for maximum impact.


“Many of them run giving circles themselves or they’ll have field trips and speaker programs, so you can connect with all the other donors within that world,” says Davies.


“Being an active citizen is a really important part of who we are. And having an opportunity to participate in and build a civil society is a privilege and a pleasure.”


Strange bedfellows


Investment banking and philanthropy can make surprisingly good partners. Take it from someone who knows.


Audette Exel is the CEO of the Adara Group, which she founded in 1998 after a successful career in banking. It became one of the first examples the ‘business-for-purpose’ model of philanthropy.


All profits made by the private business side of Adara are directed to an international development organisation working to improve health and education for women, children and communities in need.


It fits neatly with Exel’s lifelong passion for social justice activism. “I always knew I was going to try to live a life where in some small way I tried to do my bit towards making the world a fairer place.”


Exel describes herself as a “social activist dressed up as a banker” and Adara is how she brings both sides of her life and learning together. It’s been a long journey and those in the banking and charity sectors weren’t always on side.


“When you’re trying to do something that doesn’t run with accepted orthodoxy, it’s very hard for people to grasp,” she says. “The private sector’s message to me was are you really going to run investment banking to pay for the poor or is it a tax structure?”


On the development side, NGOs were also suspicious. But Adara went from being “way out” to mainstream and Exel says that watching this hybrid bank bridge the divide between the private sector, the NFP sector and vulnerable client groups has been “a thing of beauty”.


“I often say to people I’m the luckiest woman you’ve ever met. I’ve had a fascinating, enriching journey of learning. And I’m still learning, still making mistakes.


“But when you put purpose at the absolute centre of your life it’s just wonderful,” Exel says.

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