How to Find Your Cause
On average, individuals give approximately 0.35 per cent of their taxable income, according to tax figures cited by Queensland University of Technology’s Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies.
ANZ Wealth head of philanthropy Teresa Zolnierkiewicz says the question of how much is right will be different for everyone depending on personal circumstances and values, but giving can’t be reduced to a dollar amount.
“It’s not about the amount but what you do with it,” she says. “An organisation can be highly effective with a lot of money or very little as long as there’s a well thought out, structured and well-executed program in place.”
As an example, Philanthropy Australia chief executive officer Sarah Davies cites a member of Philanthropy Australia who established an endowment over a decade ago to leave a legacy for the next generation and to teach his children and grandchildren the value and importance of giving back to society.
He seeded his foundation with $1 million. Since inception, that $1 million donation has been wisely invested and as a result, the foundation has been able to give away more than $1 million of investment income while keeping the principal amount intact.
Find your gap
A common way people and organisations determine which charities to give to is to think about the areas of change they want to support, and develop a giving plan. It could be at the individual grassroots level, for example, helping the homeless or long-term unemployed. Or it could relate to high-level change, for example, investing in medical research or reforestation.
Opportunities for people to tax-effectively give to causes is limited by legal and tax structures but not imagination, with a myriad of worthy causes spanning the arts, environment, social justice, medical research, healthcare, ageing and disability, animal welfare and more.
Zolnierkiewicz’s advice for donors who want their money to have maximum impact is to look for gaps. She cites one of Australia’s best known charities, McGrath Foundation, as an example.
The McGrath Foundation’s core mission is to ensure every Australian family experiencing breast cancer has access to a breast care nurse no matter where they live or their financial situation. The foundation was established in 2005 by former Australian test cricketer Glenn McGrath and his late, first wife Jane, who suffered breast cancer.
Davies believes it’s important for people to talk to someone who can help them identify what they want to achieve with their giving and the options available to them.
To check the legitimacy of an organisation or find out details about their purpose, structure and charitable work, the government’s Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission website provides a list of all registered Australian charities.
Not-for-profit organisations must meet strict requirements, and have ongoing obligations, set by commission to be eligible for tax concessions.
How Australians give
Australians are generous people. At an individual, corporate and national level, Australians are givers.
Davies says giving in Australia has experienced a revival in the past few years driven by the development of “collective giving circles” and new technology making it easier and safer for people to give online.
A giving circle is a group of like-minded people who pool their resources together and collectively choose which charities they want to support.
A recent example is Impact100Melbourne, which was established in 2013 to provide high-impact grants to under-served communities in Melbourne. The Impact100 concept, which originated in the US, is simply to get 100 or more ordinary people to contribute $1000 each to philanthropic giving.
Digital platforms such as Shout for Good allow you to easily search and donate a convenient amount in a few taps of on your smartphone.
“Digital giving platforms are also making it easier for people to connect with each other and causes to raise money,” says ANZ Wealth head of philanthropy Teresa Zolnierkiewicz.
There were around 54,000 registered charities in Australia in 2016, according to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. In 2013-14 this inlcuded nearly 2750 private and public ancillary funds, and several thousand charitable trusts and foundations administered by trustee companies, based on data from the Australian Tax Office. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, total giving amounted to more than $8.6 billion in that financial year.
Giving in 2012-13 ($b)
Donations, bequests and legacies (individuals) 3.993
Donations from businesses 0.863
Donations from trusts and foundations
Other fundraising 1.903