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7 min read

Olivia Clark-Moffatt on structured giving: Benefits and trends

Profile of Dom O'Donnell
Written by Dom O'DonnellPosted on 14/6/2022

Whether you are new to giving or a long-standing member of our community, understanding structured giving and knowing how to talk about your own giving journey isn’t always easy.

“In Australia, people who give generally find it difficult to talk about their generosity,” says Olivia Clark-Moffatt, Australian Communities Foundation’s Head of Engagement who discusses giving every day with people across Australia.

“It can be difficult in the same way we find it uncomfortable to talk about money generally, then there’s the added layer of trying to explain what actually goes on behind words like philanthropy and structured giving.”

“Understanding how it works and being able to have these conversations with others is important. No doubt your giving journey, or your plan to give, is something precious and meaningful to you that you’d like to share. That could be true for others, maybe people you know.”

With the end of financial year being the busiest time for conversations about giving, we sat down with Olivia to understand how she demystifies philanthropy for newcomers, what trends she’s seeing and why there’s no better time to give.

DO: Structured giving, philanthropy, whatever you choose to call it, can be difficult to explain, but this is what you do in your job every day. Can you give us your elevator pitch for structured giving?

OCM: There’s no doubt it’s hard to explain. I tend not to talk about what it is and instead talk about what it can achieve. If you start defining it and using words like ‘ancillary funds’ – that will put most people to sleep.

I start with something like: Structured giving means starting a fund or foundation and this enables you to give to causes you care about in a way that works for you.

That’s probably the elevator pitch, but say we’ve taken the stairs…

Structured giving offers you the flexibility to make the donation at the best time for you and you decide where it goes when you’re ready.

One of the benefits I find people really value is that it separates the ‘transaction date’ of your donation from your ‘decision date’. So, I’ll say something like: Structured giving offers you the flexibility to make the donation at the best time for you and you decide where it goes when you’re ready. Or it might be that you want to donate now but give later in response to specific needs in the areas you’re passionate about. Sometimes I say, ‘donate when it’s best for you, grant when it’s best for the cause’.

Another key benefit that motivates people is legacy. My ex-husband and I recently opened a Gumnut Account (the easiest entry point to structured giving at Australian Communities Foundation or ACF) to establish a legacy of giving in our family. We’re making small regular donations into the Gumnut, and one day (once it hits $20,000) it will mature into a Named Fund that our children, or our children’s children, can use to give to the causes of tomorrow.

The idea is that it will exist in perpetuity because our dollars are invested to grow – and that’s the other benefit that resonates with people. When explaining that donations are invested while they wait to be granted out, I say: You might choose to only grant out the income from those investments, meaning your fund or foundation can exist in perpetuity. At ACF, pooled funds are ethically invested in line with our commitment to 100% responsible investing, and I think that is increasingly important for people – that the money in your fund is doing good and not nullifying the impact of your future grants.

How do you describe Australian Communities Foundation to people who’ve never heard of us?

The first thing to explain is we’re a community foundation, so I say: A community foundation is where we do structured giving together. Most community foundations do it together around a key place or issue that is usually local. At ACF, our place is national, and our issue is what matters to you.

As for the elevator pitch, I generally start with something like: I’m lucky to be part of a national community called Australian Communities Foundation where I can participate in all of the activity and opportunities that a billionaire has when they set up their foundation – in a much smaller, everyday way.

It’s a bit like a giving bank account. The Foundation does all the compliance and regulation, and gives me all these opportunities to learn about issues I’m interested in supporting. Plus, the Foundation itself sets a very progressive agenda through its flagship Impact Fund, which is all about Indigenous self-determination, climate action, a stronger democracy and reducing inequality.

I find it also clicks for people when I put it in these terms: ACF can connect you not only with the organisations doing the best work on the issues you care about, but also with others who have the resources to give – so you can give together if you choose to and further maximise your impact.

ethical and responsible investing… it’s becoming a vital part of the structured giving package. People want their money to be doing good every step of the way.

Tell us about the conversations you’re having at the moment about structured giving. Are there any patterns or trends you’re noticing in your conversations?

The first thing I’ll say is that we’ve never been busier! The end of financial year is always a busy time but we haven’t seen anything like this before. Every day, we have new people reaching out to us who are totally new to giving. They may have given a one-off donation here and there, but have never thought about taking that further. I’m bowled over by the generosity and activism I’m seeing at the moment.

The next thing is that more people are interested in how we invest their donated money. It’s exciting to be able to explain our ethical and responsible investing and it’s becoming a vital part of the structured giving package. People want their money to be doing good every step of the way.

The third and final trend I’m noticing is a greater concern for impact. I’d say around a third of people I talk with are very clear from the outset about what and who they want to give to. But we’re now seeing more people asking how they can get their money to the right people at the right time. I love this question – I take it as an opening to sing the praises of my colleagues in the Philanthropic Services team like Georgia, Gabby and Anna. Every week, the team is having conversations with hundreds of community organisations and leaders across the country. They know who is doing the work and where gaps need to be filled.

As we return to ‘Covid-normal’, I think one thing that’s changed for so many of us is that greater awareness of the inequalities the pandemic brought to the fore.

Why do you think more people are motivated to give this EOFY?

Okay, another three-pronged answer for you. Firstly, the science and the experts are clear that the next three years around climate matter so much. This is driving people to give now and not later. If you’ve been thinking about funding climate action, now is the time. You might say I’m biased, but you couldn’t give a better dollar than to our Impact Fund and its partners working on climate action.

The next thing is that people are increasingly aware of the growing wealth inequality in Australia. As we return to ‘Covid-normal’, I think one thing that’s changed for so many of us is that greater awareness of the inequalities the pandemic brought to the fore.

And thirdly, we’ve just had a change in government at the national level, and I think the lead-up to a federal election is always a time where we take a look at ourselves as a nation. Our shortcomings as a country are often front-of-mind and people take action where they can, and for some that means getting started with giving.

Regardless of how you voted, the Australian Parliament now has a makeup it has never had before and we’re in uncharted waters. I think we’ll see a lot of conversations in the coming months – with both new givers and people who have been doing this for a long time – around what the new Government is and isn’t supporting. If you’re a fundholder, now might be a good time to book in your annual fund review and have a chat with us about what the election means for your giving (link below).

Next steps

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