The best of Australian giving

This week’s guest post comes from Liz Gill-Atkinson,  writing on behalf of the Top 50 Gifts Working Group (Myer Family Company Philanthropic Services, Philanthropy Australia, ProBono Australia, Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Investment and Philanthropy, The Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund)

Recently the conversation around growing the culture of philanthropy in Australia has been ramping up. Much productive dialogue around why the culture of philanthropy in Australia isn’t flourishing as it could be and what can be done have been a focal point of many meetings and cross-sectoral discussions. Shrinking government and philanthropic budgets have reawakened an awareness of the need to grow the philanthropic pie and make the most out of every philanthropic dollar.

The obstacles to growing the philanthropic sector in Australia have been presented and dissected. A key obstacle relates to the foreignness of the word ‘philanthropy’ for many Australians. The pronunciation is clumsy and the visual can be vague or mysterious. A challenge appears to be making ‘philanthropy’ a familiar part of the Australian vocabulary and with it, the Australian culture.

This is exactly the aim of the recently launched Top 50 Gifts competition.

The purpose of the Top 50 Gifts competition is to increase awareness of Australia’s philanthropic achievements through capturing and promoting Australian philanthropic success stories in order to catalyse a nation that has untapped potential to create a fairer, more diverse and culturally rich Australia.

The Top 50 Gifts competition aims to inspire and engage existing and potential philanthropists through achieving the following objectives:

  • Demonstrate the difference philanthropy can and has made in the Australian landscape;
  • Create a repository of the most influential grants in Australian history across all sectors;
  • Provide an opportunity for the philanthropic sector to reflect on the generosity of past and present organisations and individuals;
  • Inform others of impressive historical acts of philanthropy they may not be aware of; and most importantly
  • Generate discussion about philanthropy.


  • From nominations received a list of the Top 50 Gifts will be compiled by the Top 50 Working Group.
  • A public vote on the Top 50 Gifts will determine the Top 10.
  • The Top 10 (as well as the Top 50) will be disseminated far and wide through a large media campaign to inspire and promote philanthropy by championing the public’s (your) favourite Australian philanthropic success stories.


  • By ‘Top’ we mean the most significant. We don’t necessarily mean ‘biggest’– in fact a lot may have been achieved with comparatively small gifts. A gift may be significant because of its scale, size, creativity, innovation or impact.

Australia’s historical and contemporary landscapes are rich with philanthropic success stories and whilst many philanthropists choose to go about their work discreetly, the lack of publicly available data on philanthropy in Australia has done little to promote philanthropy to the Australian public. The Top 50 Gifts competition is an opportunity to demonstrate the role philanthropy plays in adding to our vibrant cultural sector, in supporting the health and wellbeing of our nation, in facilitating discovery and in connecting us together.

We want to hear from you. What are the ‘top’ philanthropic gifts in Australia’s history? And why? Help grow the culture of philanthropy in Australia.

Click here to nominate now.



The economics of environmental giving

October saw the passing of one of the great dates on the philanthropic calendar with the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN) holding its annual conference in Melbourne. What makes the event special is the quality of speakers and the genuine opportunities to network, share and debate practices in grantmaking and environmental support. It is always a great day and one that most people involved in environmental grantmaking look forward to immensely. Interestingly it is also one of the few annual philanthropic events that brings together a good mix of private donors, board members and grantmaking staff.

One of the great challenges in environmental grantmaking is that, more often than not, collaboration among funders is required to get projects moving and sustained. The AEGN has done a wonderful job in fostering a membership that is connected and supportive of each other, making collaboration a much more natural process. One of the other special things about the Network is that there is diversity among the small but growing membership in the approach to grantmaking. This diversity allows for learning and collaboration at all levels of funding.

Despite the energy, expertise and collegiality of the environmental grantmaking sector what’s missing is sheer weight of numbers. We need more funders willing to give to the environment and we need them quickly. Many funders, despite having a genuine interest in protecting our environment, tend to feel overwhelmed about where to start in granting to ‘green’ projects. To that end, the AEGN needs to be congratulated once again on their work on Giving Green: An Introduction for Grantmakers. This step by step guide to environmental grantmaking is an important tool in building a strong green philanthropic sector.

While Giving Green is one tool for assisting environmental grantmakers, I noted with interest another tool spruiked a couple of weeks back via Ellen Fanning’s wonderful two part series in the Global Mail, which examines the cost of saving Australia’s endangered animals. The articles get to the heart of the many challenges environmental grantmakers have when choosing how and where to make their investments.   The ability to make economic arguments about why and how to protect our natural environment is increasingly important. This is a shift we are seeing across the funding space of the ‘public good’.

We are no doubt gathering the data, the skills, the collaborative relationships required in green philanthropy to better affect change in our environment and environmental policy in Australia. The time is right for those funders with interest to move into the green giving space and boy don’t we need you.

You can follow the musings of Caitriona Fay on Twitter via @cat_fay

Collaborating with government

I recently had the opportunity to sit with other representative from across the philanthropic sector at the formal launch of the Guiding Principles for Collaboration Between Government and Philanthropy. The development of the principles was in and of itself a collaborative working effort between many within the philanthropic sector and representatives of the Victorian Government’s Office for the Community Sector. The launch of these guiding principles was an Australian first, and a point of much pride for those involved in what was at times a difficult and challenging process of documentation.

It is not a surprise that the Victorian State Government is advanced in the development of its relationship with philanthropy.  The vast majority of traditional philanthropic foundations in Australia are centred here in Melbourne.  To those of us that work in the sector, Melbourne has and always been and will always Australia’s philanthropic centre. With such a high density of philanthropic foundations comes a high density of philanthropic distributions to Victorian based or centred organisations.

For some within philanthropic circles, guiding principles or not, the role of philanthropy is to avoid where government works not to duplicate it. I have had views expressed to me suggesting that in working closely with government philanthropy is simply absolving government of its responsibilities, its duty. I don’t count myself in the anti-government camp. For me the role of philanthropy has always been to work where there is need and opportunity and sometimes that means working with or beside government.

The education sector has long been hamstrung by philanthropic philosophy that believes the workings of our schools, the training of our teachers and the wellbeing of our students are best left in the hands of government. Slowly that wheel of thinking has turned and today more and more foundations are donating directly into schools or through nonprofits who work directly in support of schools. I have heard fewer and fewer debates around the merit of such an approach.

My experience of working with government, the Victorian or otherwise, has been mixed. Like many professions the government bureaucrats who we philanthrocrats rely heavily on in the development of relationships and understanding, are controlled by the politics of, well… politics. The political cycle is one of the greatest challenges facing the development of meaningful relationships between government and funders. What incentivises the behaviour of a philanthropic foundation is ultimately very different to what influences the behaviour of a government.

So is there a secret working formula these guidelines have produced?  Of course not, nor did the working group intend produce one.  That said, I tip my hat to those involved in the development of the Guidelines, as they are a comprehensive set of principles.  The key Guideline for me is engaging early. All of the projects that I have seen where philanthropy and government have worked together have had that one shared characteristic. Trying to get philanthropy to buy into a government supported program half way down the track is challenging, equally, governments seem to engage best when they are involved in projects (as cash supporters or otherwise) from the beginning.

Of course every guiding principle is defunct without a willingness by both government and philanthropy to at least be open to exploring how they might support the work of the other.  The Victorian Government, through the Office for the Community Sector is more willing than most. It often surprises me how little other state government across Australia have considered leveraging philanthropic support. Hopefully these Guidelines lead more government to look at their own working practices and their willingness to engage with philanthropy.
You can follow the musings of Caitriona Fay on Twitter via @cat_fay or the blog via @3eggphil

Can we teach old dogs new tricks? Increasing giving through Wills

We’re delighted to have this guest post from Ross Anderson, Director on the Board of the Include a Charity campaign and Christopher Baker, a Research Fellow at the Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Investment and Philanthropy. There are few people in Australia better placed to talk about charitable giving via Wills.

We all know that there is significant demographic change underway in Australia.  The next decade will see Australia’s population exceed 25 million and age dramatically. It will also see members of the population boom that followed the end of World War II (Baby Boomers born between 1946-1964) firstly retiring and then ultimately passing away in increasingly large numbers.

Baby Boomers currently comprise 24% of our population, yet they own over 50% of our nation’s private wealth. By 2020, when most of those ‘never-grow-old’ Baby Boomers will be in their 60’s and 70’s, we will witness the start of the biggest inter-generational wealth transfer in our history.

No wonder charities are stepping-up their efforts to generate increased income from gifts in Wills. This is one of the most logical and obvious sustainable funding strategies that they could possibly adopt given these demographic predictions. But we must act together now to truly harness the powerful philanthropic effects of an increasing mortality rate and the intergenerational transfer of huge wealth that is anticipated to occur over the next 40 years.

What do we know about this form of philanthropy?

Not that much as it happens. We know that charitable giving through Wills in Australia is wildly out of kilter with levels of ‘giving whilst living’ via the support we give to charities whilst we’re alive.

The latest ATO figures show that 4.4 million Australian taxpayers (or 35.55% of the Australian taxpaying population) made tax-deductible donations totalling $1.96bn in 2009-10. Other studies estimate that almost 90% of us support charities in some shape or form.

So why is it that only 7% of us have been sufficiently inspired to include gifts to our favourite charities in our Wills?

A detailed study at Swinburne University of Technology of 1,700 Victorian wills has provided the statistical evidence for what you might have already expected to hear.   The overwhelming majority of us leave all of our accumulated wealth to our immediate family members: first to our spouses, then to our children.  It doesn’t seem to matter how much wealth we’ve accumulated or whether or not we have contributed generously and passionately to charitable causes throughout our lives, when it comes to dividing up our estates – charities essentially don’t get a look in.

The question this raises is whether or not f this role modelling by older Australians has  doomed future generations to repeat this same pattern of estate-planning and overlook charitable giving  in their Wills too?

Let’s be clear, of course looking after our families comes first in most cases.   Adequately providing for those who are dependent on our financial support during our lifetimes is an important aspect of our estate-planning and decision-making. Our current family provision legislation and our ability to challenge the final wishes set out in our Wills ensures that the legal system makes this a reality.

There are however more significant levels of charitable giving through Wills in comparative countries:

In the UK, despite the fact that a very healthy looking 16% of British Wills that went into probate last year contained charitable gifts, the UK Government has introduced substantial financial incentives in an attempt to encourage further giving from personal estates to charitable causes (see  for more information).

In the US, the latest figures show that charitable giving through American Wills increased over 12% in the last year to a total of US$24.41 billion.

With our current levels of giving, Australia sits very low down on the league table of charitable giving from Wills.  We don’t believe this is something to be proud of.  We do see it however as a significant opportunity to improve.  The big question we face is “What we can do to inspire more Australians to leave money to charitable causes in their Wills?”

So, what can we do?

Many Australians will be shocked to learn that so few of us make any charitable provision what-so-ever in our Wills.  Given our self-perception as a generous nation, it is unlikely that most of us actually take a considered decision to specifically exclude charities; low participation rates are far more likely to come as a result of a general lack of awareness or falsely perceived barriers getting in the way.

Our current behaviour is unlikely to change without a collaborative and systematic approach to improving our attitude towards charitable giving through our Wills.  This is not an either / or decision. The challenge is not to try and get Australians to leave their entire estates to charities instead of their families.  The challenge is to get most of us to a point where we can consider leaving most of our estates to our families AND to include gifts as a small portion of our estates to our favourite charities.

The Include a Charity campaign ( is a practical response to that very challenge. With some realistic, measurable and achievable goals in its attempts to bring about wide-scale social change, this is one of the only true cross-sector initiatives led by 140 Australian charities. With ambitious plans for further collaborative, collective joint impact initiatives, this is one social change campaign to watch.

The campaign has already delivered a wide range of targeted activities to introduce the idea of including charitable gifts in the nation’s Wills to a wider public audience. It is also seeking to increase the skills and sophistication of all in the sector in our efforts to encourage more Australians to take the step of including a charity when preparing their Wills.

We know that the challenge of tipping the very strong prevailing social norm in estate-planning away from thinking about “family only” and towards thinking in terms of “family first, philanthropy second” is large indeed.  It is important to the sector and to wellbeing of Australian society that we are able to make some significant inroads to change the current behaviour in estate-planning.

Arguably we have a window of opportunity to change Australian’s attitudes towards charitable gifts in their Wills of some 10 years.  If Baby Boomers start to include more charitable gifts in their Wills now, the sector will start to receive significantly increased income from this generation over the next 10-20 years.

We’d like to hear from you

The Include a Charity campaign is open to your suggestions and ideas.  We’d love to hear your reflections on what you think is needed to change our behaviour.

  •  How can we work together to inspire older Australians to act philanthropically, supporting their favourite causes at the same time as making sure their families are provided for?
  • Are Australian children entitled to challenge their parents from “spending the kids’ inheritance”?
  • Does the Government have a role to play in incentivising more charitable giving through Wills?

You can continue this conversation with Ross and Chris via the comments section below, or chat with them on Twitter via @ChristopherSWIN and @rossandersonIAC

Increasing professionalism: the role of trustee companies in philanthropy

It has been expressed to me on more than one occasion that philanthropy is becoming too professional. I work in the sector, so I try not to take it personally but I think it is time to pick apart the debate a little. We’ve previously tackled on this blog the delicate balance that good philanthropic grantmaking must attempt to strike: a warm heart and a cold eye. There have been a number of good posts and speeches about the nature of philanthropy and the belief that altruism is unique and embedded within human nature. There are also the economists of this world and other theorists who believe altruism, like all other human behaviours, is incentivised and can be moulded into form.

It appears the nonprofit sector, with the exception of a couple of amateur sporting codes (Gaelic football comes to mind), is the final domain of debate around whether increased professionalism diminishes rather than increases the value of a sector. Does increased professionalism, and the development and employment costs it carries, remove much needed funding from the service coal face, or ultimately help to deliver more while building efficiencies?

With relation to professionalism within philanthropy I hear two main complaints:

  1. There are a lot of people making a lot of money out of spruiking the value of professional organised philanthropy and/or;
  2. Philanthropy has lost its benevolent heart and is no longer organic or enjoyable.  In short, it’s become work rather than play.

The question of philanthropy profiteering is more often than not pointed in one direction – trustee companies. With the enormous growth in private ancillary funds and the governance arrangements they carry there is suddenly money to be made in giving away money. Of the 5,000 or so estimated trusts and foundations in Australia more than half are thought to be held within trustee companies.  These pots of funding are held outside of the public view and are managed and coupled with investment and other financial services. To the cynical, trustee company philanthropy is perceived as tax-break grantmaking and the philanthropic services they offer is viewed as being muddled up with, and merely ancillary to, the bigger bucks of the financial services game.

Equally, those who lament the loss of the benevolent heart of philanthropy are genuinely fearful that philanthropy is the latest victim of fads and bureaucracies that add little value and ultimately deter people from giving. In the world of strategic grantmaking, venture philanthropy, philanhrocapitalism and engaged philanthropy, the concern is that the joy of giving has been lost and with it, potential philanthropists.

It would surprise some detractors perhaps to learn that despite concerns around profiteering and the loss of the joy of philanthropy, it appears that financial advisers and trustee companies might actually be playing an important role in both attracting people to and educating people about philanthropy.  A report from the Queensland University of Technology, Foundations for Giving: why and how Australians structure their philanthropy, documents responses from 40 people involved in structured, formalised philanthropy.  Virtually all respondents indicated that advisers and other intermediaries played some role in their philanthropy and the views expressed were generally positive.  In fact, the negative views expressed by respondents around advisers seems to suggest a greater level of expertise in philanthropy and skills in grantmaking would be preferable.

Philanthropy is and always will be a ‘people’s’ game.  Its about people being inspired by other people.  Its about people trusting and believing in other people.  Most of all it is about people wanting to create better lives and communities for others. It is hard to imagine that the heart of philanthropy will be lost simply through increased professionalism. In fact there is mounting evidence to suggest that the opposite may actually be true. Some of Australia’s trustee companies are driving not only increased professionalism within philanthropy, but also a greater diversity in practices and approaches to grantmaking. Some of our most vocal proponents for greater levels of giving among Australia’s wealthy, increased investment in organizational capacity support and improved engagement and evaluation of grantmaking approaches, are coming from within the trustee company sector. The gags many individual philanthropists are compelled to wear when talking about their philanthropy are less evident within adviser circles.

Good trustee companies will be passionate about their philanthropy and the approaches available to their clients.  Poor trustee companies will see philanthropic services as ancillary, and more than likely will charge a hefty price for the pleasure. As is the case with all services, donors should shop around, the cream of the crop will quickly become evident.

The professionalism that trustee companies bring to client services is beginning to have an impact on philanthropy as it is delivered in Australia.  It’s a diversity that the sector absolutely needs.  More choice for donors and potential philanthropists is important as is greater debate on grantmaking approaches and philosophies.

You can follow the musings of Caitriona Fay via @cat_fay on twitter and the eggs via @3eggphil

Blueprint 2012 – Looking at the new social economy

Religious readers of this blog (my parents) know that more than once I’ve spruiked the value of Lucy Bernholz’s Philanthropy 2173 blog. It’s a great read for those interested in emerging trends in philanthropy and social investment. Lucy, a self confessed philanthropy-wonk and  visiting scholar at the Stanford University Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, also publishes a much anticipated annual industry forecast.  I got my hands on a copy of the Philanthropy and Social Investing 2012 Blueprint just before Christmas and it was a great way to both end 2011 and prepare for 2012.

The 2012 Blueprint is ultimately aimed at assisting “donors, investors and enterprise leaders address three big shifts in 2012”.

  1. Finding your way in the new social economy in which philanthropy and impact investing now operate
  2. Considering the implications of the Citizens United decision on philanthropy and social investing
  3. Making sense of data as a public good

On initial reading you’d be forgiven for thinking points 1 and 3 are the only ones that could possibly relate to an Australian context, but interestingly the potential implications of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in the Unites States provides a couple of ‘ah-ha’ moments around the potential future of Australian philanthropic investments in light of our own High Court’s Aid/WATCH ruling (more on that later). I’m going to explore all three big shifts on this blog a little further over the next week. Today I’ll be taking a peek at the first of the identified big shifts; Finding your way in the new social economy.

One of the big statements of the 2012 Blueprint concerns the need to shift our traditional perspectives on non-profit/donor interactions to a much broader frame that encompasses the multiplicity of ways private resources are today being used for public good. This is a shift to the social economy frame and acknowledges a greater diversity of players, stakeholders and influencers in the resourcing of the ‘public good’. Lucy lists three main ‘galaxies’ as being at play within the social economy: impact investing, political giving, and charitable giving. Here in Australia are we too focused on exploring charitable giving without consideration to the role of those two other galaxies?

It’s fair to say impact investing in Australia is lagging well behind the United States and UK, but 2011 was a big year for the sector (think SEDIF, Hepburn Wind & the NSW Government Social Impact Bonds* announcement). While political giving may not be natural space of play within our system, the Australian High Court’s Aid/WATCH ruling has the potential to change traditional interactions between political parties, donors and non-profits (if donors and non-profits can cope with the cultural change required in this sphere of influence).

In short the interactions between these galaxies within the Australian context are happening at a growing rate and the influence each is expelling on the other needs greater examination.  The 2012 Blueprint helps to explore this beautifully:

Donors today are choosing between and among philanthropy, impact investing and political giving to pursue their goals…the line between the galaxies are clear, other times they are blurry.

As an example, a donor today may choose to pursue their interests in protecting the environment by funding direct landscape restoration & maintenance.  Alternatively they may decide to invest in a community wind farm project or support direct political advocacy with the aim of removing cattle grazing from a national park.

Lucy’s exploration of the social economy and the different galaxy of players has me thinking more and more about who is in the room when conversations about funding and tackling social and environmental problems are actually being had. Are we (donors & doers) actively excluding each other and if so, why? Lucy once again sums it up best:

It is not enough to focus only on philanthropy and nonprofits; rather we need to understand the changing dynamics of the whole economy over time…..The key to our future is accepting that our old assumptions about “which sector does what” may no longer hold.

It’s fair to say that despite opening with a statement on American political giving in the 2012 presidential campaign year, the Blueprint is packed with an enormous amount of content that will be of interest to Australian social investors. For those interested in where the shifts are happening, what the buzzwords of 2012 are likely to be, as well as a prediction on where the social economy is heading, then a copy of the 2012 Blueprint is a must.

You can get your hands on the 2012 Blueprint the following ways:

  • Hard copies from Lulu
  • PDFs at Scribd
  • Kindle version from Amazon
  • eBook from Smashwords. Also available for Amazon Kindle, B & N Nook and others.

*Interestingly Social Impact Bond is on the 2012 Blueprint Buzzword Watch List


You can follow the musings of Caitriona on Twitter via @cat_fay or the blog @3eggphil

Australian Philanthropy in 2011 – A review

Welcome to 2012 philanthrocrats. On behalf of the Eggs, I hope you had a safe and wonderful festive season.

Apart from the occassional overindulgence in food and frivolity I often find my festive season filled with reflections on the year past. Dinner conversations quickly turn to the ‘best of’ lists; movies, albums, theatre and so on. 2011 is certainly a year worth reflection in terms of philanthropy in Australia. The year, in my mind at least, marked the beginning of what is going to be a period of tremendous change in the non-profit sector in this country.

Over the next few blogs we’re going to reflect on the 2011 year that was and look at what 2012 has in store for the philanthropic and grantmaking sector in Australia. We’ll be taking a look at Philanthropy and Social Investing: Blueprint 2012, the annual industry forecast released by Lucy Bernholz, philanthropy wonk and visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Centre on Philanthropy and Civil Society. The Blueprint presents some interesting Australian parallels with what is happening in the charitable and philanthropic sectors in the United States.

But before we kick off 2012, perhaps it’s time to undertake a ‘best of’ type list for philanthropy in 2011. Rather than focusing on the best of 2011 it might be more useful to look at the big movements, moments and changes of 2011. What happened that really influenced the way philanthropy was and is working in Australia? What were the important gifts? The most talked about projects? The most influential policies? Please feel free to share your comments, views or even your own list in the comments sector below, as it would be a terrific resource to revisit at the end of 2012.

So here it is, in no particular order, my Top 10 list of big movements, moments and changes in Australian philanthropy in 2011.

1. Disaster and Emergency relief: It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since the Queensland and Victorian Floods devastated both States. Unfortunately, those floods set the scene for what was a year of natural disasters in our backyard, with Japan and New Zealand both devastated by earthquakes. Giving at all scales was greatly influenced by these events and there is much to learn about how best to manage this outpouring of philanthropy in the future.

2. Statutory Definition of Charity Announcement: The 2011/2012 Federal Budget announcement on the implementation of a statutory definition of charity was met with mixed views from within the non-profit sector. Many in philanthropy have applauded the commitment as it will assist in providing greater clarity around what and who can be funded in the wake of the AID/Watch and Word Investment High Court decisions.

3. Research into Philanthropy: Two significant inaugural annual pieces of philanthropic sector research were launched in 2011 and initial results from both proved hot talking points. Research into Australian philanthropic funding for women and girls was conducted by the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at Queensland University of Technology for the Australian Women Donors Network while the Leading Learning in Education and Philanthropy (LLEAP) research project was launches by the Australian Council for Education Research and The Ian Potter Foundation. It’s great to see greater attention going into how we give and where the money goes and to what end.

4. Public Ancillary Fund Guidelines: One of the big legislative changes for the philanthropic sector in 2011 was undoubtedly the drafting and passing of new Public Ancillary Fund Guidelines that, according to Treasury, aim to improve the regulatory framework and ultimately the integrity of these public philanthropic funds. The Guidelines also provide direction on minimum distribution rates, brining Public Funds into line with their Private Fund counterparts (albeit with a slightly lower distribution rate).

5. The establishment of the Australian Charity and Non-for-profit Commission (ACNC): While the impact will be felt more keenly in the years to come, the establishment of the ACNC must be seen as one of the most significant moments for the non-profit sector in this country. The ACNC will be responsible for determining the legal status of groups seeking charitable, PBI and other NFP benefits. It will also serve to greatly reduce and streamline the current exhaustive red tape process faced by many non-profits. The ACNC has potential to do much good but there are important lessons to be learnt from its counterparts in Europe in North America.

6. A decline in giving: The 2008-2009 tax statistics released in 2011 showed a decline in giving by Australians for the first time in a decade. These results come on the back of a year where some of Australia’s most prominent wealth advisors and philanthropists courted controversy by dismissing as a myth, the common perception of Australian generosity. Time will tell whether this decline in giving is merely an apparition or a new reality.

7. The Sidney Myer Creative Fellowships: The Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund have a long and prestigious history in supporting the Arts in Australia. So when it was announced that the Myer would no longer be supporting arts organisations and instead would focus its support on individual artists, a few eyebrows were raised. In short, it was a gutsy move by a Foundation that has a history of driving innovation with its grantmaking. In December the Foundation announced its first 12 winners of The Sidney Myer Creative Fellowships, providing artists with $80,000 a year for two years to pursue their artistic endeavours. For me, it was a one of big grantmaking innovations of the year that created a healthy level of debate around how best to build the capacity of the arts in Australia.

8. Global Fundraiser of the Year: Melissa Smith, currently Director of Development at RMIT in Melbourne, was named both Australian Fundraiser of the year and Global Fundraiser of the year in 2011. Melissa received the awards for her role in securing a $25 million gift from Dr Chau Chak Wing’s to the University of Technology Sydney in 2010, where she was a development manager at the time. The gift ranks in the top ten of largest ever single donations in Australia philanthropy. It’s great to see Melissa professionalism and passion rewarded, but equally it’s wonderful to see Australian gifts of this magnitude recognised globally.

9. The closure of Rio Tinto Aboriginal Fund: After nearly 16 years of innovation in support for aboriginal projects in Australia, Rio Tinto’s decision to close its Aboriginal Fund was a shock to many in philanthropy and the boarder community. The fund was particularly supportive of urban aboriginal projects that do not benefit from mining royalties. While Rio Tinto has defended the decision arguing the over $100 million annually will continue to flow to remote and rural aboriginal communities via mining royalties annually, the loss of the fund is blow to Indigenous philanthropic giving in Australia.

10. The launch of It’s ok to be a bit self-indulgent isn’t it? Ok, the launch of this blog isn’t one for the top ten 2011 moments but it is reflective of a significant philanthropy communications boom that is taking place at the moment. Australian philanthropy is being discussed on blogs, Twitter and in the media like never before. Long may it continue.

So that’s my list, what did I miss that you think should be there? What does your list look like?

I hope 2012 is a big one for Australian philanthropy. All the best to you in this year ahead.

You can follow the musings of Caitriona Fay on Twitter via @cat_fay or the Blog via @3eggphil