The EOFYthing

There are only a few days left for Australians to make tax-deductible charitable donations for the End Of Financial Year 30 June 2020.

Besides making yourself feel great about giving to the charitable organisations that you love, remember that the Commonwealth Government will significantly subsidise your gift.

If you make a donation to a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) charity you will be refunded a material portion of it in your next income tax return.

Here’s how it works:

If you have taxable income of $180,001 or more this FY, the government will refund you 47 cents of each dollar donated – that’s the marginal tax rate of 45% plus the 2% Medicare levy.

So, all other things equal, for every $1,000 that you give to a DGR charity, the Commonwealth will reduce your tax liability for 2019-2020 by up to $470. Make a gift of $1,000, but your out of pocket cost is only $530. Sweet!

If you have taxable income between $90,001 and $180,000 the government will refund you 39 cents (the marginal tax rate of 37% plus the 2% Medicare levy) of each dollar donated.

If you have taxable income between $37,001 and $90,000 the government will refund you 34.5 cents (the marginal tax rate of 32.5% plus the 2% Medicare levy) of each dollar donated.

And when making your donations, please keep in mind:

  • The average annual donation is approximately $765.
  • 81% of our adult population make annual charitable donations.
  • Despite making less money on average than men, women donate a higher percentage of their annual income to charity.
  • 40% of Australians with annual taxable income of $1,000,000 ($1m) or more make no tax-deductible donations at all – not even a single $2 dollar donation. OUCH! Hard to believe, but the ATO data is irrefutable.

Please make your donation today. It will make your day. It’s the EOFYthing.

Is Australia one of the most generous countries in the world?

Each year for the past ten years, the Charities Aid Fund publishes a list of “the world’s most generous countries.” It’s called the CAF World Giving Index (https://www.cafonline.org/docs/default-source/about-us-publications/caf_wgi_10th_edition_report_2712a_web_101019.pdf) and it uses data from the Gallup World Poll (https://www.gallup.com/analytics/232838/world-poll.aspx).

Based on 10 years of data (2009 – 2018) from 128 countries, the CAF ranks Australia #4 in the world in generosity, with the USA, Myanmar and New Zealand ahead of us.

That’s great news for Australia and a strong indication of our overall charitable endeavours.

But are we really one of the most generous countries in the world? Well, as I tell my research students, it all depends on how you define the variable in question and how you measure it. Which is why it’s always a good idea to go beyond the headline and look at the Methods section of any data collection report or empirical publication.

In the Gallup World Poll, there are three questions that pertain to charitable endeavours.

In the last 30 days, have you:

  • Helped a stranger or someone you didn’t know who needed help?
  • Donated money to a charity?
  • Volunteered your time to an organisation?

 In calculating a country’s giving score, each of the responses are weighted equally.

Are these 3 questions a good indication of generosity? With generosity defined as the quality of being kind and generous (without reference to the quantum of each of the above) then the answer is certainly YES. And my hat is off to Australia for its overall generosity.

But before we take this to mean that we are equally financially generous with regard to our charitable donations (i.e., gifts of cash and other near-cash assets such as real estate, art, etc.), we need to look deeper.

Specifically, we need to examine tax-deductible charitable donations. Now, don’t get me wrong – helping others in need, especially when it means you have to go out of your way, and volunteering your time are generous and noble behaviours that contribute to our national ethic. But cash is cash, and for me, if you have cash beyond your needs, that puts giving cash in a very noble giving category. And the quantum of cash relative to your net worth is an even more telling indicator of financial generosity.

Each year the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (ACPNS) at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) publishes a report (https://www.qut.edu.au/business/about/school-of-accountancy/research/australian-centre-for-philanthropy-and-nonprofit-studies) on the tax-deductible charitable donations claimed by Australia’s individual taxpayers (not corporates and related entities). And they use information directly from the Australian Taxation Office. Here’s what the ATO data for 2016-17 reveal about charitable donations:

  • On average, each of us gives away tax-deductible cash of 0.42% (.0042 or approximately 4/10 of 1%) of our annual taxable income.
  • About a third (32.6%) of us do not make a tax-deductible donation of any kind, even a $2.00 donation (the lowest amount of cash giving that is tax-deductible).
  • More than 44% of those with taxable incomes of $1,000,000 ($1m) or more make no take-deductible donations of any kind, not even a single $2.00 donation.

So while we are, on average, a generous nation, we have a long way to go before we can feel comfortable labelling ourselves a financially generous nation – especially amongst those earning incomes at the highest levels.

Unthinkable tragedies hard to even imagine…

Imagine if you were 17 years old and you learned that your mother and 12-year old brother were killed in a head-on car collision with a semi-trailer? And your remaining 14-year old sibling, in the same car, was injured so severely that she had to be put into an induced coma to try and save her life?

Now imagine that four days later, in a separate incident, your father’s body was found washed up in a creek bed, a victim of floodwaters resulting from a cyclone?

That’s exactly what Shanon Heidemann is living with right now. On April 4, 2017, Jane Towers, aged 39, and Jayjay Heidemann, aged 12, were killed on the Princes Highway in Berry, New South Wales. Khloe Heidemann, aged 14, survived but is in a coma battling two broken legs, a broken arm and a shattered pelvis. A piece of her skull had to be removed to inhibit brain swelling (http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/woman-child-killed-in-crash-on-princes-highway-at-berry/news-story/76c4a563f4d2bbfb567b4cb06b0fd802).

Then on April 8, Shanon was told that the body of his dad, David Heidemann, aged 50, was found on the banks of the Barambah Creek, west of Murgon, Queensland. David went missing on March 30, following Cyclone Debbie (http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/4585549/cruel-twist-in-princes-highway-crash-tragedy).

Two separate tragedies. Three dead. Two orphans – one struggling to stay alive, the other struggling to keep on keeping on.

Incomprehensible. Unthinkable. Staggeringly unlikely odds.

Will Khloe survive? How will Shanon cope? What does the future hold for Shanon and Khloe?

The 24/7 e-fuelled news cycle relentlessly brings tragedy to our eyes and ears. Instinctive sympathy can easily slip into helplessness, slump into indifference and even sink into compassion fatigue. Turn the page, change the channel…

What can one person do?

Send some money – relatives have organised a GoFundMe webpage to help raise funds (https://www.gofundme.com/The-Berry-Crash-Tragedy) for the survivors.

Write to your friends and colleagues and encourage them to do the same.

Share this story on social media.

Say a prayer for the family, lost as well as living.

Contemplate how lucky you really are, despite past or present challenges.

Hug your family.

Make an appointment to donate blood (https://www.donateblood.com.au/make-appointment).

It’s Good Friday and I have done all of the above. I imagine that it is still not enough…

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 it Away in Tax Year 2013-14

The 2014 Rich 200 List will appear in the Wealth Issue of the July edition of the AFR Magazine. At newsstands on Friday morning, 27 June, and free online via BRW.com.au. I wonder if some folks buy it just so they remember to call their relatives to tell them how lucky they feel to be part of such a wealthy family…

It’s a marvellous time of the year to publish the Rich 200 List – as of Friday morning there are only 4 days left in the tax year to make income tax-deductible gifts to your favourite DGR (deductible gift recipient). Bravo, AFR! A nice nudge!

We are indeed a lucky country, and if you are lucky enough to have earned more than $180,000 in the tax year ending 30 June 2014, the Commonwealth will refund 45 cents on the dollar (46.5 cents on the dollar including the Medicare tax levy) for every single dollar you give to a DGR. So, all other things equal, for every $1,000 that you give to a DGR charity, the Commonwealth will reduce your tax liability for 2013-2014 by up to $465. Give $1,000 in cash but after taxes you only spend $535. Sweet!1 And a big THANK YOU to all of our fellow taxpayers for giving us (via the ATO and our tax system) this massive incentive to share with those less fortunate than ourselves. Win-win-win. Hurrahs all around!

And since the AFR Magazine is an insert in Friday’s AFR, you’ll get this year’s BRW Rich List at a significant discount to previous years when it was published separately by BRW. Bargain!

But for all you folks who keep track of the wealthy as part of your profession, or just as a hobby, here’s my #1 reason to pick up this year’s AFR Wealth Issue on Friday: They are running a story on the recent run (over the last 24 months or so) of REALLY BIG CHARITABLE GIFTS made in Australia. Charitable gifts of $50,000,000 or more. That’s right – gifts of 50 million dollars or more. “Giving it Away.” Pages 26 to 32. Interviews with a host of REALLY BIG GIVERS and why they make REALLY BIG GIFTS. In the same issue as the Rich 200 List. Now, that’s journalistic bravery! Not to mention clever psychology…

Not so long ago (just 6 years – in 2008), I recall a conversation with one of the godfathers of Australian philanthropy as to what constituted a REALLY BIG GIFT in Australia. He told me that a gift of $1,000,000 for a capital project (i.e., a new building, a new wing, etc.) was a “big gift” and a $2,000,000 gift was “about the top amount” as far as a single big gift went. For an Australian. (By some unspoken agreement, we avoided the name of a certain foreigner who regularly gave more than that here.) And a $10,000,000 gift was the “next breakthrough threshold” that any seasoned fundraiser could realistically seek. (And he was spot on – shortly thereafter he secured a $10,000,000 gift for his university, and set a new record for what constituted a Big Gift by an Australian to an Australian organisation.)

And lo and behold, just 6 years later, we have breached the $50,000,000 level, and done it 5 times since mid-2012. An incredible leap in such a brief time!

Here’s my tally of the recent (one-off) gifts of $50,000,000 or more in Australia. (If I’ve missed any, please let me know.) I salute you one and all!

1. $50,000,000 from Graham and Louise Tuckwell for scholarships to the Australian National University. In July, 2012. (tuckwell.anu.edu.au)

2. $50,100,000 from Clive Berghofer for the Queensland Institute of Medical Research – now the QIMR Berghofer. In August, 2013.2
(qimrberghofer.edu.au/page/News__Events/Media_Centre/Media_Releases/
Archive/2013/Clive_Berghofer_makes_record_501million_donation_to_QIMR)

3. $65,000,000 from Andrew and Nicola Forrest for post-graduate fellowships in Western Australia and a brand new residential building at the University of Western Australia to house the Forrest Fellows. In October, 2013 (campaign.uwa.edu.au/our-priorities/research). Watch out Rhodes Scholars – the Forrest Fellows are coming!

4. $60,000,000 for arts in Sydney – $30,000,000 from the Packer Family combined with $30,000,000 from the Crown Resorts Foundation. In November, 2013. (crownresorts.com.au/crown-resorts-foundation/crown-resorts-foundation)

5. $100,000,000 from the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation for university scholarships. In April, 2014. (info.westpac.com.au/200years)

Bravo to these individuals and their families for their personal philanthropy and bravo to the shareholders of Crown Resorts and Westpac for their corporate philanthropy! (And kudos to the corporate leaders who brought their Boards and shareholders along.) This is an amazing string of BIG GIFTS, at a new level, in a very short period of time!3

And to put this swag of BIG GIFTS in proper perspective, the only previous gift in Australia of $50,000,000 or more was some 5 years ago. The Atlantic Philanthropies 4, founded by Chuck Feeney, was the first (to my knowledge) to make a gift of $50,000,000 to an Australian organisation – the Translational Research Institute (TRI) in Brisbane, led by the brilliant Professor Ian Frazer. It was July of 2009. At the same gathering that day in Brisbane at the QIMR, in a flurry of giving still un-matched in our great country, Feeney simultaneously announced two other major gifts – one for $27,500,000 for the Queensland Institute of Medical Research5 and one for $25,000,000 for the Queensland University of Technology. Total gifts by The Atlantic Philanthropies in one day of $102,500,000. And combined with other funders (primarily the organisations themselves, the State Government of Queensland, and the Commonwealth Government of Australia) they collectively launched the construction of three new buildings valued in excess of $750,000,000. In the midst of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).

So, a huge tip of the hat to the Tuckwells for bringing Australia back to the $50,000,000 gift level and likewise for all the rest that followed! In the future, I hope this period will be judged as a pivot point for philanthropy in Australia.

(Shameless plug alert…) If you haven’t made a tax-deductible gift this financial year, please give it some serious thought. By 30 June. Four more days. It will make you feel good. And don’t just take my word for it – there is plenty of empirical evidence from research psychologists pointing out that giving to others makes us happier than doing a lot of other things, including giving “gifts” to ourselves.

Some suggest giving 1% of your annual income as a normative annual giving level. I go a bit further and suggest 1% of your net investable wealth (i.e., 1% of your net worth minus the equity value of your primary residence). Whether you have a lot or a little, we can all try to be proportionally generous. That’s a fair go!

PS: True story. A friend said “If you were worth $20 billion, then 1% would be $20 million.” I said “Mate, you need a new calculator – 1% of $20 billion is $200 million. Every year.” He almost fell off his chair. But think about it – if you only give away 1% of your net investable wealth each year, you will always have 99% of your wealth left over to live on. Plus your primary residence to live in. Always. As long as you live.


1 If you are in a lower marginal tax bracket, you’ll get a lower percentage deduction. But it’s still a good deal. (And please don’t whinge to me about the “inherent unfairness” of the progressive tax system we have. You will look like a knucklehead when I explain to you why lower tax rates for lower annual incomes are inherently fair.)
2 Disclosure: Chuck Feeney assisted QIMR with helping to organise this gift. And I got to carry Chuck’s “briefcase” (a plastic bag) to the meetings with Clive Berghofer et al. and the QIMR leadership team (Professor Frank Gannon, Professor John Hay, et al.)…a ringside seat.
3 I know, I know…there are a lot of other factors at play here, like different motivations between personal giving and corporate giving, the terms of the gifts, anonymous vs. public giving, tax-deductibility vs. non-tax-deductibility, relative giving (i.e., proportional generosity) vs. absolute $ amount giving, intergenerational wealth vs. this-generation wealth, and so on. But that is for another time. The Big Point here is that, anyway you look at it, these are Landmark Gifts.
4 Disclosure: I was an employee of The Atlantic Philanthropies at the time.
5 Now known as the QIMR Berghofer.

“Berghofer, You Beauty!”

At 11:00 am on Wednesday morning, 7 August, a 78 year-old self-made Queensland millionaire fronted the media in Brisbane and announced that he was making a gift of $50,100,000 to the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) in the hopes that they might find a cure for cancer.

With Dr. Chris Davis, the Queensland Assistant Minister for Health on his right, and Professor Frank Gannon, QIMR’s Director and CEO on his left, Clive Berghofer, the labourer turned carpenter turned land developer, made the largest single philanthropic commitment to one organisation in the history of Australia.

Clive narrowly edged out Chuck Feeney’s The Atlantic Philanthropies’ $50,000,000 gift to the Translational Research Institute (TRI) in 2009, and Graham and Louise Tuckwell’s $50,000,000 gift to the Australian National University (ANU) in February of this year. Not that Clive knew he was setting a record – apparently he added an extra $100,000 to the $50,000,000 gift at the last moment to cover some additional work.

And with the $10,000,000 he previously gave to QIMR, Clive became the largest single benefactor in QIMR’s history. Their response was to rename their facility the QIMR Berghofer in recognition of his outstanding generosity.

The ageing multi-millionaire was straightforward but humble. He wowed the media with his fair dinkum, down-to-earth demeanour, telling the reporters how

  • he left school at 13 and has been happily working ever since,
  • he and his sister used to get up at 4:00 am each morning to milk the cows,
  • he works now to keep his mind and body active, and uses his income to help out worthy causes, and
  • “there’s heaps of people with plenty of money who don’t give!”

If you want to see what personal happiness looks like, watch Today Tonight’s lead story that evening (http://au.news.yahoo.com/today-tonight/celebrity/article/-/18399316/billionaires-who-give-back/#video) – it was a very, very happy Clive Berghofer running the gauntlet of appreciative scientists and lab technicians after the press conference.

I don’t think this news got much print newspaper attention outside of Brisbane (although a number of the online editions picked it up).

$50m Gift of Life Brisbane Courier Mail 07/08/2013

Was the federal election coverage too extensive to squeeze in this good story? Was the biggest single gift in our country’s history not that newsworthy? Is Queensland not considered an important part of the national giving scene? Who knows???

But I promise you that this burst of beneficence will long be remembered in Queensland, and will not go un-appreciated in places like the Channel Islands, New York City, Seattle and Omaha.

In any event, Clive was magnificent. Here’s my favourite quote of the morning:

“Some people want you to give, but they don’t give themselves.

I like to lead by example.”

Lead on, Clive!

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.

Are you fearful? Or are you courageous?

I have written elsewhere that fear is one of things that keeps us from being more generous of our time, possessions and money. And I believe this is particularly true when it comes to giving away our money.

Is that possible? Does fear hold us back from giving away our money? I think so.

A number of complementary factors must come together for someone to give away some of their money to a good cause:

  • First and foremost is a worthy cause – someone or something that touches you,
  • Funds surplus to your needs,
  • A generous heart, and
  • The deliberate discipline and follow-through (the bias for timely action) that it takes to turn a good intention into actual giving behaviour.

And if you’re a planned giver rather than an occasional giver, there are additional factors that come into play:

  • A giving plan,
  • A giving budget with protocols to convert assets into cash at the appropriate times,
  • Decisional criteria to guide your giving (i.e., specific charitable causes or giving themes, specific geographic locations, effective organisational leadership, appropriate governance, transparency, etc.),
  • A ‘vetting’ process to systematically review grant requests and applications,
  • And much more.

So where does fear come in?

The fear of giving away money manifests itself in a number of ways – there are the internal questions that we ask about the other

  • Will they spend my money well?
  • Will my money get to those I intend to receive it?
  • Is this the best worthy cause?
  • Should I spread my money around to many causes to maximise reach or should I give larger amounts to fewer causes to maximise impact?

And there are the internal questions that we ask ourselves about ourselves

  • How much should I be giving?
  • How long will I live?
  • What if I run out of money?
  • What are my real reasons for my giving?
  • Should my gift be anonymous or public?
  • What role should tax-deductibility play in my giving?
  • And the list goes on…

And for some, it is paralysing.

But ask yourself this: Do I have similar fear when I am spending my money at the supermarket? On a holiday? On a gift to a loved one?

I think not.

Is it because we have budgeted for these other purchases? Is it because we know we can afford it? Is it because we need it or deserve it? Is it because we have learned to do this so well it is part of our routine?

So what is the antidote to the fear of giving away money?

It’s COURAGE.

The courage to give, the courage to start somewhere (even a nibble), the courage to not get it right every time, the courage to keep learning about being a better giver, the courage to go against the norm…

Imagine how much courage it takes to publicly pledge to give away ½ or more of your net worth in your lifetime? To give nearly 90% of your wealth away in your lifetime (Andrew Carnegie)? How about irrevocably giving away 99.9% while you are in your fifties (Chuck Feeney)? This is courage writ large.

But fear is front and centre in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald – ‘Tough times hitting charities.’[1] The news is not good: charitable donations in Australia have slumped compared to this time last year. In 2012, 461,000 gifts were made to the Salvation Army Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal; so far this year only 170,000 donations have been made.

The cost of living is up. Job uncertainty is clear and evident. This is legitimate fear for many. But not for all of us.

There are only 8 days left to Christmas. And only 14 days left in this calendar year.

Do you have net worth in excess to your needs? Do you have a generous heart? And now, the big question, do you have courage?


[1] “Tough times hitting charities,’The Sydney Morning Herald, December 17, 2012, p.1.

Vale, Dame Elisabeth Joy (née Greene) Murdoch AC DBE

All of Australia celebrates the 103-year life of Dame Elisabeth Joy (née Greene) Murdoch AC DBE. As a humanitarian, charity activist, and philanthropist, she will be an enduring role model.

Her legacy will include the many organisations that she has helped to nurture and sustain, the thousands of lives she has positively impacted, and the four generations of her philanthropic family that she leaves behind. She received many awards for her charitable works, including the inaugural Great Australian Philanthropy Award in 2003.

She lived her philosophy – life is caring for others. She helped at least 100 charitable and non-profit organisations directly, and her activist philanthropy extended far beyond cheque-writing to include volunteering, advising, influencing, and the leveraging of her considerable network of contacts.

Of the many organisations that she assisted, two of her most important legacies will be the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in Melbourne. Dame Elisabeth was the Patron of the Children’s Institute up until her death. And her grandson Lachlan’s wife, Sarah Murdoch, is the Institute’s Ambassador.

Over the past 26 years, beginning with Dame Elisabeth, the Murdoch Family has given nearly $AU50,000,000 (fifty million dollars) to the MCRI 1. Her son, Rupert, utilised the opening of the new Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in November of 2011 to personally announce the family’s latest gift of $AU10,000,000 (ten million dollars) 2.

For decades the researchers at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute have developed new protocols, procedures, and pharmaceuticals that undoubtedly save hundreds, if not thousands, of children’s lives each year, not just in Australia but worldwide. The Institute is particularly well-known for its work, going back to the 1980s, in identifying the prone sleeping position as a major contributing factor in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The MCRI continues their world-leading SIDS research today. All of us, parents and non-parents alike, are blessed by Dame Elisabeth’s vision, commitment, and generosity.

On behalf of the entire Australian philanthropic community, I send heartfelt condolences to her family (four generations and 77 living direct descendants) and all of her friends. She will be long-missed and well-remembered.

In lieu of flowers, the Murdoch family has asked that donations be made to the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (please see https://donate.mcri.edu.au/inmemory).

1 “Donations ‘key’ to medical research,” The Australian, November 7, 2011.

2 “Clan gathers to kick off institute fundraiser,” The Australian, November 8, 2011.

Are you a planned giver? Or an occasional giver?

The month of December is a great time of the year… ’tis is the Giving Season!

I remember visiting a billionaire in his office about this time last year. I was there to try and get him interested in giving to one of two building projects (one was for a $AU90,000,000 medical research institute in Tasmania; the other one was for a $AU80,000,000 medical research institute in New South Wales). The foundation that I was working for at the time had contributed millions to both projects, as had the federal government and the respective state governments, as well as the grantees themselves. On behalf of the grantees and my employer, I was “on the road” visiting high net-worth Australians to solicit major gifts to help complete each of the capital campaigns so that construction of the new buildings could begin.

After some pleasant conversation, I gave a brief presentation on each of the projects – how much they would cost, how much had already been raised, the significant needs that each project would address, as well as the potential benefits to humanity, and so on.

I had met this man on a number of occasions. He is a wonderful guy – well-respected, with a reputation as a “giver.”

He told me that while both projects looked worthwhile, “all of his money was tied up.”

I told him that “I understood” and wrapped the meeting up shortly thereafter.

While I was disappointed, I wasn’t upset. After all, it’s his money and he should do with it exactly what he wants.

Upon reflection, I thought “Of course his money is tied up! He’s a billionaire. It’s invested – in operating companies, real estate, the stock market, and so on. He doesn’t have it in his desk drawer!”

Having worked for a major international philanthropic foundation, I knew well the protocols of having quarterly grant budgets, and quarterly cash-flow projections to meet our pledges. And the related complexities of converting assets to cash on a timely basis so that we met our grant commitments. But somehow I had not translated that knowledge to the other side of the desk. It was a valuable lesson, and it well illustrates one of the key differences between being a grantmaker and being a fundraiser.

Now, whenever I sit down with a high net-worth person or would-be philanthropist, I try to ask this question early on: “What is your annual planned giving budget?” Or something similar…

The answer will tell me a number of things, but the most important thing is that it will give me an indication as to whether I am talking to a planned giver or a non-planned giver (or someone in-between). In reality, there is a continuum, and it is often based on a number of factors including years of experience in giving, amount available to give, and one’s zeal for giving.

If I am talking to a planned giver, the conversation will likely progress though a number of topics that include the quantum (budgeted amount) of annual giving, the type of projects she/he is attracted to (or at least an overview of past projects or grants), how giving requests are analysed and vetted, what projects are under consideration at present, etc.

With a planned giver, I know two key things right up front: 1. They have an annual giving budget, and 2. They systematically prepare to convert their assets into cash to meet this planned budget. In other words, they give regularly, and they have systems and procedures in place to make it happen.

If the person does not have an annual giving budget, or talks about “a gift I made a few years ago,” they probably are not a planned giver – not in the way that I define it – with an annual budget, cash-flow forecasts to insure assets are liquid at the appropriate time, etc.

Now please don’t get me wrong – everyone has to start somewhere and the occasional giver or opportunistic giver may very well turn into a planned giver at some point down the road. And they are definitely not a non-giver. But it is a very different starting point and I’m glad that I learned this lesson.

So what does this have to do with you? Because whether you’re a battler or a billionaire, it still boils down to the same two key things: What amount am I going to give away this year (your planned annual giving budget) and when am I going to give it away (your cash giving budget)?

Hopefully, you’ve read the Metrics section of this website. If not, check it out. It outlines four levels of annual giving (the platinum standard, the gold standard, the silver standard, the bronze standard), all based on giving away up to 1% (one percent) of your net assets each year. They are guidelines for planned, annual, sustainable giving.

We budget for our mortgage, our vacations, our retirement. If you are a planned giver, you also budget for your giving.
How else will you know what amount is available to give? And how else will you insure that the cash funds are available when you need to make the gift?

Of course, there are many other questions and challenges involved in the giving process. What will I give to? How can I be sure I am giving to the right cause? How can I be sure they will spend my gift wisely? All good questions.

I will cover many of these questions in future blogs. But if you are serious about regular giving, think about becoming a planned giver (If you are already a planned giver, Bravo!). Start by asking yourself one question: How much do I intend to give away this fiscal year? Then, make sure that you have the appropriate amount of cash on hand when you need it. It’s not the only place to start, but it’s a good one!