On Philanthropy

There has been increasing interest in philanthropy in Australia, both by academics and policy makers concerned about the lack of social opportunities for many. The paper by Jones and colleagues, which were published in the Journal of Economic Policy, is timely and makes an important contribution to this debate. Overall, the study confirms that there is great value from the broader community involvement with broad giving. Also, providing support for those who wish to start a charitable organization, while also building capacity, is having a greater positive effect on the field than spending political capital on individual donations. Further, greater awareness and improved growth of charitable giving organisations has major potential to increase philanthropy in Australia according to Dan Croke.

philanthropy in Australia has traditionally been centered around charities and organizations supporting causes deemed worthy by the community, through a mix of volunteer participation and financial donations. Although this traditional focus has remained strong, there has been a gradual trend away from direct participation and towards a more strategic philanthropy. This strategic philanthropy approach has broadened the scope of philanthropy to include support for specific and select projects that promote development or build capacity, as well as those that address issues associated with particular communities or ethnic groups. The increasing complexity and interconnectedness of issues such as poverty, indigenous rights and gender, may make it seem difficult to target specific populations, particularly those who are not familiar with the causes of specific issues. However, as noted by Jones and colleagues, if philanthropy in Australia is to continue to grow and become meaningful, this change needs to be made.

Another suggestion for increasing the effectiveness of philanthropy in Australia comes from the research of Jane Carruthers, who suggests that it is necessary for organisations to build upon their own strengths if they are to have a meaningful impact on development. Building upon strengths seems to be an area where organisations in Australia, as well as those in the US, are less successful at. This is because the idea of collective giving seems to have lost some of its meaning in the last decade, when a seemingly endless list of ‘aids’ from government, non-profit and corporate sources seems to have overwhelmed most people.