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7 min read

Why We Give: Most-read stories from our giving community

Profile of Australian Communities Foundation
Written by Australian Communities FoundationPosted on 6/6/2023

Recent research from Philanthropy Australia has found that Australians are motivated to give by three key factors: a sense of personal connection, a sense of agency, and a sense of community.

“It’s no surprise that personal connection is first on the list – giving is deeply personal,” says Nicole Richards, Australian Communities Foundation’s Head of Communications and lead storyteller.

“There are usually very personal reasons that drive people to give, and those reasons develop over time. That’s why we talk about giving journeys, and it’s the stories of these journeys that connect us.”

At Australian Communities Foundation, we share stories from our giving community all throughout the year. The end of the financial year holds particular significance though. As the most common time in the calendar for getting started with structured giving, the EOFY period brings new readers to the stories from our community. With this in mind, we’re sharing highlights from our most-read interviews from the past 12 months.

Read on to learn about the personal connections that drive our community to give, and how giving through a community foundation can also bring a sense of agency and a sense of community to your giving.

Ellen Koshland
Arts & education advocate, Melbourne

Ellen Koshland has been hailed as one of Australia’s most visionary philanthropists. Her unwavering commitment to equity in education led her to establish the Education Foundation in 1989 (which later became a division of the Foundation for Young Australians) and the Australian Learning Lecture in 2015.

“It’s important to say I was a small part of these initiatives,” says Ellen. “It has taken many extraordinary people working together.”

“Giving is important because it’s about building a better community… Education is very important to me. I believe deeply that every child has a talent and that they deserve the opportunity to develop that talent.”

For Ellen, giving through a community foundation has brought a welcome sense of collaboration to her philanthropy.

“When I started in philanthropy all those years ago, it felt as though it was all quite competitive. Everyone was trying to get money from this and that and on to the next thing. In contrast, now you have the collaborative and collective nature of community foundation. When that level of collaboration happens, it doesn’t matter as a philanthropist how much money you have – you can still make a contribution that’s invaluable and I think that’s a wonderful development.”

Linh Do
Climate activist, Melbourne

Linh Do’s climate activism began in a very public way at age 16 when she initiated the Change a Million Light Bulbs campaign.

“Taking action is the best antidote to any form of paralysis,” says Linh. “That’s why my answer to anyone who’s unsure about what they can do about the climate crisis or how to start giving is always, ‘Just start’. 

“I’m not someone who has gazillions of dollars, and I also don’t think that money will solve absolutely everything. But there is something about knowing that I’m able to make a difference. My parents came to Australia as refugees and growing up, they taught me that there was always something we could be doing to help other people.”

Linh’s structured giving journey with Australian Communities Foundation began with a Gumnut Account, which she has grown over time to become a Named Fund

“For me, working with the Foundation has been super useful,” Linh says. “At the bigger picture level, it has helped me think more strategically about my giving decisions rather than being a bit ad hoc. At the smaller picture you can’t overlook the administrative benefits of having a structure to participate in that guides you along.”

Dennis Altman
Writer & academic, Melbourne

“I think it’s important that one gives money to promote social change,” says writer and academic Dennis Altman, “and that you don’t just give money to support the status quo.”

“Of course, there are humanitarian crises where you give money. There’s certainly value in that kind of giving, but I think beyond that, one needs to recognise that money is an important tool for change. I think that is the whole point of a place like a community foundation. It encourages people to think of giving money as a pathway to lasting change.” 

A long-standing fundholder at Australian Communities Foundation, Dennis recently chose to leave a bequest to his Named Fund.

“Knowing that it will be invested and grown into an ongoing source of funding for my focus areas makes it a more attractive option than simply leaving a one-off gift to charity. As a gay man, I am very conscious that relatively little philanthropy supports queer causes. I am particularly passionate about supporting people seeking asylum because of their sexuality or gender identity, of whom there will sadly be more in coming years.”

Sue Shepherd
Retired, Brisbane

Shepherd Family Foundation

When her husband Bruce passed away in 2019, Sue Shepherd looked for a way to honour Bruce’s legacy of giving back.

“Bruce was always conscious of the fact that he had more than many others,” says Bruce’s wife Sue, “and so he gave generously throughout his lifetime.” 

Sue and family then established the Shepherd Family Foundation, which today supports Queensland organisations that “enable positive social change and make a real difference in people’s lives,” explains Sue. “Our aim is to support Queensland communities to thrive.” 

“The prospect of establishing our own foundation by ourselves was overwhelming… Australian Communities Foundation has supported us throughout the journey, allowing us to focus on giving without the burden of administration.”

Melanie Gandevia
Content producer, Brisbane

Lana Wilson Memorial Fund

Like Sue, Brisbane-based content producer Melanie Gandevia (centre) began her structured giving journey to honour the memory of a loved one.

When Melanie’s mother Lana died suddenly at just 51 years old, Melanie was inspired to begin her giving journey in her mother’s name, donating to the causes she knew her mum was passionate about: children, animals, and people in regional communities. 

“She didn’t have a lot of money, but she was always very generous and willing to help absolutely anyone who needed it,” Melanie says. “After Mum passed away, I made a donation to Taronga Zoo in her name to help build the Lemur Forest Adventure space.”

Melanie continued giving, switching gears from charitable donations to structured giving by establishing a Gumnut Account, the Lana Wilson Memorial Fund.

“It’s a way to remember her and keep her spirit alive. This is my way of continuing her legacy.”

Tina Jackson
Impact100 Sydney North Chair, Sydney

Tina Jackson (second from left) heads up collective giving group, Impact100 Sydney North. “Collective giving has enormous potential in Australia because it’s such a powerful idea,” says Tina. “By pooling intellectual and financial resources we can make a difference beyond what we could alone.”

The group uses a Named Fund at Australian Communities Foundation to supports its simple model consistent with all IMPACT100 collective giving groups: 100+ members contribute a tax-deductible amount of $1,000 each year with members voting on where the funds should be distributed.

“Our grants go to smaller, grassroots for-purpose organisations dedicated to helping children, young people and families at-risk in the Greater Sydney region.”

Tina says the benefits of pooling resources – whether through a collective giving group or a community foundation – are driving people to give together.

“While the multiplier effect of collaborative giving is the most obvious, there are many more benefits: giving that is intentional and strategic and knowing how your money is being spent, creating a measurable impact, hands-on learning about philanthropy and local communities and causes, being part of a community of like-minded people and sharing the joy of giving.”

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