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?


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

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

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


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.

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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.

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!