The Australian Financial Review is a Sound (and Heartfelt) Investment

All of us in the philanthropy space (fund-raising, fund-receiving, grant-making, researching, etc.) look forward to the Australian Financial Review (AFR) that includes the annual BRW Rich List. But Friday’s edition (29 May 2015) was special – it’s not often that I receive such an immediate payback on my $3.80. The front page headline was “How Pratt was tempted to give it all away.” Right there, I was riveted! And I knew I wouldn’t need to buy my ritual morning java – no need for a heartstarter, so the coffee money was saved. Thank you, AFR.

It didn’t take long for me to realise that John Stensholt was using “give it all away” in a different sense to what I was hoping. The intended meaning was “selling up and moving on,” not giving all/most of one’s wealth away (either while one is alive or in one’s estate) to charities and good causes.

Fair enough. I can appreciate that many AFR readers are looking forward to selling up, going “S-R” (semi-retired) or “GF” (gentleman/gentlewoman farmer). And that they would be intrigued to learn what might have tempted one of Australia’s most successful entrepreneurs, Anthony Pratt, to “sell up”.

But, oh John, you are such a tease! For a minute there I was thinking I would need to dash a good news email off to Uncle Charlie (hero to Warren et al.) – he loves to hear any good news that relates to giving while living. Especially big news.

But, alas, that would have to wait. In any event, it (and the related cover story in the AFR Magazine) was a great read. And a fascinating narrative on how challenging it is for wealthy entrepreneurial families to remain wealthy and entrepreneurial down through the generations. I have sincere appreciation for what Anthony Pratt & co have accomplished both commercially and environmentally. And as far as giving goes, the entire Pratt family (and Visy) have a much-appreciated and long record of giving (both publicly as well as quietly), and of giving substantially. It’s a great success story, all around!

So Simon and Catriona Mordant remain (Please correct me if I am wrong…) our one and only ultra-high net-worth family to publicly commit to giving it all away to good causes in their lifetimes. And Andrew and Nicola Forrest remain our one and only family to commit to The Giving Pledge. But it’s a grand beginning!

And I smiled (many, many times) as I worked my way through this year’s BRW Rich List, and thought about all of the wealth (millions and millions) that so many of those listed have given away in their lifetimes – tangible financial gifts that have changed so many lives forever. And saved so many lives! Bravo to all you Big Givers!

The Sydney Morning Herald (29 May 2015, p 3) estimates that the combined wealth of Australia’s top 200 is approximately $A196,000,000,000 (one hundred and ninety-six billion Australian dollars). Any way you look at it, that’s a lot of money. If they all gave 1% of their net investable wealth (NIW) away every year, that would be approximately $A1,960,000,000 (one billion, nine hundred and sixty million Australian dollars)  in charitable donations. Each year. Every year. For the rest of their lives.

And there is even more great news: Remember that annually giving away 1% of your NIW means that you will always have 99% of your wealth (always; by definition) and your primary home to live in (always, as long as you live). Imagine being one of the country’s greatest (annual) givers and only having to give away 1% of your wealth every year? Amazing! And still prudent. Conservative even. Certainly no risk of ever ending up down-market, that’s for sure!

But I think I hear a number of you mimicking Darryl Kerrigan in the background: Tell ‘im ‘e’s dreamin’.

OK, OK. How about if only 25% of the top 200 gave away only 1% of their NIW each year? That’s still a total of $A500,000,000 (five hundred million Australian dollars) a year to charities (and tax-deductible if given to DGRs)! And that’s from only 200 families. Out of 24 million people.

Give it some thought. Any give it some action. There are still a few days left in this tax year (ending 30 June 2015). Every $2 gift counts.

1 For the super wealthy, the difference, percentage-wise, between total net assets and total NIW (i.e. total net assets less the equity in their primary residence) is negligible.

Giving is not taxing!

It’s nice to see someone spruiking the latest technologies for fundraising (“Harnessing power of a crowd is less taxing”, Sydney Morning Herald, March 20). The democratisation of philanthropy – by all means!

And it’s thought-provoking to suggest that more individual giving might eventually let us “pay less tax and still improve social programs and infrastructure”.

But taxes are mandatory, and giving is voluntary. This is not a zero sum game. Taxes are for what the citizens decide, collectively via the ballot box, must be provided for by government – the minimum social standard by which we, as voting citizens, say we need and must have for all who are eligible.

But giving, large or small, is voluntary and is based on one’s desire to personally help, over and above what the government is doing. It’s complementary, not compensatory.

It’s meant to be individual and voluntary. It’s meant to be direct, specific, de-centralised, and non-bureaucratic; when YOU see a need that you personally feel must to be addressed, even if the collective commonwealth thinks otherwise at the time. And it’s even better when the giver is actively involved in the charitable organisation and has line-of-sight over how their funds are prudently spent.

We have a long way to go before we can legitimately claim that “Australia tops list of giving nations”.1 To wit:

  • We have mates we cheerily call “philanthropists” who give away less than ½ of 1% of their net worth per year.
  • We have wealthy individuals/families with billions of dollars in net assets who give little to charity. And some who apparently give nothing – more than 1/3 of our million dollar annual earners (some 8,000 individuals) don’t take even a single tax-deduction for charitable donations2.
  • The most generous person in Australia’s entire history is not an Australian – he’s an American. Originally from New Jersey. He doesn’t even live here. (Thank goodness he likes us!)
  • At the risk of quibbling, please don’t promote giving as:

  • “another tax”, or
  • a means to lower taxes.

Giving is not taxing. It’s one of the most life-affirming things a human being can do. Giving is joyous! Both for the receiver as well as the giver. But you won’t really understand this until you give, and give regularly.
1 “Australia tops list of giving nations”, Sydney Morning Herald, December 20, 2012, p.8.
2 “Philanthropy is big business – except in corporate Australia”, Sydney Morning Herald, Weekend Edition, June 4-5, 2011, Weekend Business, pp. 8-9.

Speeches

November 2, 2012. “Philanthropy in Australia: Can we create a new normal?”

Click here for an excerpt of this speech given at The Wesley Research Institute Corporate Dinner, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Fundraising Events.

If you are interested in having Dr. Dave Kennedy give a speech on giving at your next fundraising event, please write to him via the contact us page.

About us

This website is sponsored by Dr. Dave Kennedy. As a recipient of a number of academic scholarships that have transformed my life, I know, very personally, the value of receiving. As an experienced fundraiser and grantmaker on three continents (North America, Australia, Asia), I have been taken aback by how fortunate my life has been and how much need there is for giving in today’s world. And I have been humbled and heartened by those who give, and give regularly – large givers, small givers, and givers in-between. But most importantly, I have been astounded by how regular giving has changed me.

igiveonepercent.org is not a charity. I don’t have “favourite charities”. This is not a foundation. I am not asking you for money. I don’t accept money from any government. This is not a for-profit venture.

I simply want to promote the idea of planned, sustainable, annual giving, in one form or another.

Figure out a way to start giving. How much, to whom, when, anonymously or publicly – that’s all up to you. It’s your money!
But don’t wait. Get started today. Until you learn to give, and to give regularly, you won’t really appreciate how joyous it will make you feel. It will change you. Irrevocably. For the better.

As I develop this website, I will add more information on how to give, why it’s good to give, and who is giving 1% of their net assets each year, rich and poor, and in-between.

Favorite Quotations & Aphorisms

“Gather all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.”
– A Quaker proverb

“There is no wealth but life. Life, including all of its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.”
– John Ruskin (19th century British poet, writer, and philanthropist)

“Life is service – the one who progresses is the one who gives his fellow men a little more – a little better service.”
– Ellsworth Milton (E. M.) Statler (hotelier and philanthropist)

Our Mission

Inspired by the Giving While Living philosophy of Chuck Feeney, igiveonepercent.org is a not-for-profit initiative with a mission to enhance peace, good will, and personal happiness by increasing individual and corporate giving at all levels of society. We promote a “new giving norm” (the new normal) for annual monetary giving to charities and not-for-profits. We suggest you give up to 1% of your Net Investable Wealth (NIW) each year. NIW is your Total Net Worth less the equity value of your primary residence.

The practice of giving away money annually is a multi-faceted skill that is only learned (and appreciated) over time. The amazing thing about giving away 1% of your NIW annually is that you will ALWAYS have your primary residence to live in as long as you live, and you will ALWAYS have 99% of your additional Net Worth to live on. ALWAYS, by definition. No fear! More importantly, you will experience the sheer joy of giving on a regular basis! Now, you can wait until you die and leave all of your assets in your Last Will and Testament, or you can get on with it – deliberately, prudently, and joyfully. As my mentor Chuck Feeney told me: “There isn’t a lot of joy in the cemetery.”

 

Metrics

As a fundraiser and grantmaker, I have long held the belief that philanthropic advocates use the wrong metrics when talking about giving norms. Instead of advocating that individuals give a percentage of their annual income, I suggest the standard should be a percentage of their net worth (net assets). In essence, when planning and budgeting for giving, I think folks are using the wrong base to work from.

Here’s why:
• Income may fluctuate from year to year. This complicates giving in a number of ways, not the least of which is planned giving.
• Income can be defined in a number of ways, and is substantially impacted by taxes and related accounting protocols.
• Assets, on the other hand, are more tangible, and can be assessed fairly easily at current market value.
• Assets reflect the appreciation and amalgamation of stored income over a lifetime, and often over several lifetimes. If you inherited some of your wealth, then you know well the value of giving.
• We may seek to minimize our annual personal taxable income, but we typically want to maximize our net assets over the longer term.

And I like a small percentage, like 1% because it’s do-able. It’s a reasonable starting point. Any new behaviour has to start somewhere, so make it an easy start!

It’s only one-hundredth of your total assets. That means that each year, no matter what you give away, not matter what your annual rate of return is, no matter what your marginal income tax rate is, you still have 99% of your wealth left. No fear! By definition, you will never run out of assets! Even if your pile diminishes over time, each year you will always have 99% left.

The Platinum Standard

The Platinum Standard for calculating 1% of your net assets is simply to add up the value of all of your assets (home, superannuation, investments, savings, etc.) and subtract all of your liabilities (i.e., any loans or debts held against your assets). This dollar ($) amount is your net worth or net assets. Then multiply this by 1% (.01). The product of that multiplication is your giving goal for this year.

So, if your net assets are $100,000, your annual giving goal is $1,000.
If it’s $1,000,000 (one million), your annual giving goal is $10,000.
If it’s $1,000,000,000 (one billion), your annual giving goal is $10,000,000 (ten million).
If it’s $10,000,000,000 (ten billion), your annual giving goal is $100,000,000 (one hundred million).

I remember having this conversation with a friend of mine. He said, ‘We have at least one Australian reportedly worth more than $20,000,000,000 (twenty billion dollars). At one percent, that means giving away $20,000,000 (twenty million dollars) per year.’ To which I added: ‘You need to add another zero my friend! One percent of $20 billion is $200 million each year. Every year!

Everyone can give 1%. From the poorest person to the richest. And everyone can give in proportion.

In fact, it is arguably more difficult for the poorer person, on average, to give 1% than the richer person. Because the poorer person is still trying to accumulate the basics (e.g., a roof over their head, basic transportation, reliable work, etc.), while the richer person passed this benchmark long ago (for some, their forebears passed this threshold a generation or more ago).

Proportional generosity. Is it possible that a person with modest net assets is more generous, proportionally, than a wealthy person? Yes! The person with $100,000 of net assets who gives away 1% each year (i.e., $1,000) is proportionally more generous than the billionaire with net assets of $1 billion who gives away $5 million each year. Because, despite their wealth, the billionaire has only given away ½ of 1% (.5%) of their net worth while the poorer person has given away 1%.

And, giving away 1% of your net assets each year won’t cost you that much time when it comes to that all-important investment question: “How long will it take to double my money?” Don’t believe me? Then calculate it for yourself.

First, assume a long-term return-on-investment (ROI) that is realistic for you (for some, it could be as low as 4%; for others, it could be 10%, 20%, or more). Then estimate how many years it will take, after taxes, to double your assets.

Then, using the same ROI figure, but now deducting 1% of your assets each year to allow for the monies given away, calculate how many years it will take, on average (after taxes) to double your money. Were you surprised how little difference there is? One additional year? Less than 1 additional year? Several months?

Surprised? I was! And so is just about anyone who takes the time to do this calculation.*

The Gold Standard

Is the Platinum Standard too high a standard for you? That’s understandable. It is for most of us. And difficult to achieve because for most folks their largest asset is highly non-liquid because it’s their home.

So, we suggest the Gold Standard as your aspirational giving target. The Gold Standard is 1% of your net near-liquid assets. I define net near-liquid assets as your net assets less the equity value of your primary residence.

To calculate this, simply deduct the equity value of your primary residence (the market value of your home less the value of your outstanding mortgage) from your net assets. Then multiply your net near-liquid assets by 1% (.01). This is your annual giving goal.

For most of us, our home is our biggest asset, and by definition, it is not a liquid investment. And while we are alive, we will always need shelter. So exclude your primary residence, and give 1% of what you have left. (And please resist the temptation to exclude your second home, your third home, etc. if you are fortunate enough to have homes in abundance.)

For many Australians, your net near-liquid assets will essentially be the value of your superannuation. For some, it’s your superannuation plus your additional shareholdings, the equity in your investment properties, etc.

The Gold Standard is much easier and much more do-able than the Platinum Standard. Now, for all practical purposes, if you are a billionaire, the difference between your giving 1% of net assets (the Platinum Standard) and your giving 1% of your net near-liquid assets (the Gold Standard) is not going to make much difference. But for most of us, it will make a big difference, and is frankly much more realistic.

The Silver Standard

Is 1% of your net near-liquid assets too much? Okay, then use ½ of 1% (.5% or .005) of your net near-liquid assets. What I call the Silver Standard. So if you have $100,000 in net near-liquid assets, your annual giving goal is $500 (five hundred dollars).

The Bronze Standard

Is ½ of 1% still too much? Okay, then use ¼ of 1% (.25% or .0025) of your net near-liquid assets. What I call the Bronze Standard. So if you have $100,000 in net near-liquid assets, your annual giving goal is $250 (two hundred and fifty dollars). That’s about $4.81 per week over 52 weeks.

And if your favourite charity is a tax-deductible charity, and you have a receipt for your donation to this charity, you can claim a tax deduction on your federal income tax return.

Tax-deductible giving. For example, if your marginal federal income tax rate (your top rate) is 19%, the federal government will allow you a credit of 19% of the value of your deductible gift against your owed taxes. In the case of a $250 gift, that credit (after you have received your income tax rebate) will be worth $47.50, meaning that the net cost of the $250 gift to you will be $202.50 (or $3.89 per week).

And if you are in a higher marginal income tax bracket (say, 32.5%) the after tax cost to you of this $250 gift is only $168.75 per year ($3.25 per week).

Here’s the real point: Try it! Get started on giving! Keep working at it. Aspire to get to the Silver Standard, and then to the Gold Standard!


*The folks at the One Percent Club, using an average annual return of 7%, estimate that instead of doubling your money in 10 years, it will now take you 11 years (please click here). But since each situation is unique, do your own calculations or have a professional estimate them for you. It’s well worth it!

Caveats

There are no caveats.

Some will argue that no one should advocate some ideal level of annual giving or some cultural giving norm. And they are entitled to their opinion.

But here’s my opinion: If you don’t keep score, in any game or aspect of your life – such as your weight, your tennis match score, your income and expenses, your investment portfolio, etc. – you’re not really playing, you’re just fooling around…

And if you don’t have a giving goal, and a giving plan, then how can you be sure that you have set aside the funds, in a liquid form, to make your gifts within your planned timeframe of one year?