Philanthropy: towards a better practice model

15 May 2018

Philanthropy is an important catalyst for social change and plays a pivotal and instrumental role in supporting communities and ameliorating disadvantage. The Trust Company’s Engaged Philanthropy Model suggested five key pillars of a good practice grant making framework:

1. Grant making philosophy

2. Capacity building and not-for-profit resilience

3. Scaling, replication and collaboration

4. The strength of the relationship between grant makers and grant seekers

5. Approaches to evaluation and social impact

Building on these pillars, this project developed a survey tool to establish a framework for thinking about philanthropic practices and supporting better practice models. These results are substantiated by thirty interviews with grant makers and grant seekers.

In general, there is optimism about the future of philanthropy in Australia and a genuine desire to continue to develop best practice approaches to social impact by both grant makers and grant seekers. All those interviewed were united in their commitment to address serious social problems and work collaboratively to support social change.

However, our findings revealed a disconnect between Australian grant seeker and grant maker perceptions around these issues, with philanthropists having a far more favourable view of the state of practices and relationships in the sector than their not-forprofit (NFP) counterparts. Interview respondents from throughout the sector identified multiple causes for the mismatch between grant maker and grant seeker and experiences and impressions, and broadly felt that the responsibility and power to continue to enhance philanthropic impact lay with the continued development of more strategic relationships between the NFPs and philanthropy.

An important catalyst is a greater focus on the strategic impact of philanthropic initiatives and a higher priority by philanthropic decision makers, namely the philanthropists themselves, and the Boards and Trustees responsible for governance of philanthropic entities, to clarify their strategic intent and measure their performance against this strategy.

The insights from this report establish a benchmark for the current state of play in Australia. It presents challenges, but also enormous opportunity for changes that will build towards better practice models and increased impact of Australian philanthropy. The NFP sector is seeking stronger, more strategic relationships with grant makers in order to make that happen.

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