Should we toast philanthropy?

By Associate Professor Wendy Scaife

As a nation, we spend five times as much on alcohol as we claim in tax deductible donations each year (ASIC 2016). It’s worth asking what’s afoot in Australian giving and where arts givers/giving sit within this.

Australian giving generally

Fewer people are donating but those who do are giving more. Each cause/organisation needs to know and nurture those who believe in their work enough to give.

Giving Australia 2016 (GA) charts $11.2b donated by individuals and $17.5b by business (partnerships/donations/non-commercial sponsorships). The average donation for the 81% of adult Australian givers was $764 (median $200). More ‘mega-givers’ have emerged in recent years. Fundraising Research and Consulting has tracked 330 large donations/pledges since 2011 - a handful to arts and culture. Eleven are over $100m and seven top $50M. Huge generosity and passion are behind all these numbers and they deserve to be celebrated. But measured against potential, there’s room to improve. 

Far and away, the top motivation reported by philanthropists ... was belief that their giving can make a difference. Insights for academics seeking philanthropic funds include demonstrating the measurable, sustainable difference research or teaching will make, and the theory of change that sits behind the outcomes sought.

Australians with more than a million dollars in investable assets (including superannuation) doubled to 234,000 between 2005 to 2015 (Capgemini 2016). Yet perennially, four out of 10 high-net wealth individuals (HNWIs) do not claim any tax deductible donations (McGregor-Lowndes & Crittall 2018). Only 10% of Australian givers gave more than $1,200 a year (GA household survey 2017). The most common total annual donation for GA survey respondents earning $156K or over a year was $100.

Fewer people are donating but those who do are giving more. Each cause/organisation needs to know and nurture those who believe in their work enough to give.

Arts givers

Within this landscape, arts givers and recipients are wide ranging: affluent Australians, everyday people and businesses large and small. The Australian Major Performing Arts Group is reporting record but uneven private support now at 19% of total income (2018). For philanthropists and foundations, “Culture and recreation” rated as one of the key priorities for 33.3% of respondents to the GA survey, lagging well behind Social services, Education and research and Health [1].

Large businesses (200+ employees) directed 6% of their donations and partnerships to Culture and recreation [2].

The GA household survey pinpointed:

  • 4.2% of all givers donated to arts and culture with giving participation similar across the life cycle

  • Arts and culture giving ($179.72m) was only 1.6% of total dollars given.

  • The average annual donation was $239.32

  • The average annual amount donated was highest from 55 on ($576.00 for 55–64, and $586.61 for 65+), very low for 18–24 ($20.70) [3]

  • Relationship-building approaches are still the bedrock (e.g. F&P 2015). But some innovations have been seeded (see examples such as Queensland’s Arts Business Innovation Fund thanks to the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation and crowdfunding consolidation in Scaife 2016 https://theconversation.com/where-to-next-for-arts-philanthropy-in-australia-63410)

Far and away, the top motivation reported by philanthropists in the GA study was belief that their giving can make a difference. Insights for academics seeking philanthropic funds include demonstrating the measurable, sustainable difference research or teaching will make, and the theory of change that sits behind the outcomes sought. Differentiation from other projects, and evidence that this funding will create needed change are vital. Collaboration among philanthropists and across funding sectors is gaining momentum because philanthropy dollars need leveraging as they are in relative terms small. A funding collective may make a larger contribution feasible and more interesting for a philanthropic funder.

As Anheier and Leat (2006:10) suggest of endowed ongoing philanthropic foundations:

“They are uniquely able, if they chose to think the unthinkable, ignoring disciplinary and professional boundaries … They can change the way we think about things …”

Unlike government dollars, philanthropic ones are geared to pilot, innovate and be “creative capital”. There is genuine synergy with arts thinkers.

 

[1] Culture and sport cannot be separated in this survey and respondents to this question could tick all the areas that were a priority so figures do not add to 100%.

[2] Again Culture and Recreation cannot be separated in the business survey.

[3] Caution is needed with these figures as they were a small part of the sample.

References

AMPAG (2018) Sponsorship and donations revenue up, but volatile and uneven http://www.ampag.com.au/article/sponsorship-and-donations-revenue-up-but-volatile-and-uneven

Anheier, Helmut and Leat, Diana (2006) Creative philanthropy: Toward a new philanthropy for the twenty-first century London: Routledge.

ASIC (2016) Australian spending habits https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/managing-your-money/budgeting/spending/australian-spending-habits

Capgemini (2016) World Wealth Report https://www.worldwealthreport.com/download

F&P (2015) Exclusive book extract: the power of ‘values philanthropy’ http://www.fpmagazine.com.au/exclusive-book-extract-the-power-of-values-philanthropy-343099/

Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership (2017) Giving Australia 2016 https://www.communitybusinesspartnership.gov.au/about/research-projects/giving-australia-2016/

McGregor-Lowndes, Myles & Crittall, Marie (2018) An Examination of Tax-Deductible Donations Made By Individual Australian Taxpayers in 2015–16. Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD. [Working Paper] https://eprints.qut.edu.au/119001/

Scaife, Wendy & Williamson, Alexandra (2015) Where to next for arts philanthropy in Australia? https://theconversation.com/where-to-next-for-arts-philanthropy-in-australia-63410


Associate Professor Wendy Scaife is the Director of the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (ACPNS) at Queensland University of Technology. She leads an experienced team that delivers evidence, learning and nonprofit sector and community impacts. She was National Project Director of Giving Australia - the nation’s largest ever research into giving and volunteering and has worked on various projects around private sector support for the arts.

Wendy provides service on government bodies, philanthropic grants committees and international research boards. She chairs a small community heritage organisation and was previously CEO of a health non-profit organisation.