Do we need bolder leadership in philanthropy?

According to some of the most prominent names in the sector, the answer is a resounding YES.


We need bolder leadership everywhere. What are we afraid of? Philanthropists were the original innovators and reformers of social change. They used their status and funds to take on institutions, governments and social norms. Philanthropists are meant to be disruptors! Allan English, Jill Reichstein, Graeme Wood and Geoff Wilson are some of the philanthropists I really see using their imagination to think beyond Now to Next. Ian Darling and the Good Pitch crew truly transformed and joined-up philanthropy like no others this year. Danny Almagor and Berry Liberman = #gold. They consistently show up, are wide awake and persist in pushing the envelope in all that they do. The Myer Innovation Fellowship is the only opportunity in Australia for people in the social sector to get paid to try out new ideas. What a gift!!” Jan Owen AM, CEO Foundation for Young Australians


Here’s a recent quote that I liked: “Philanthropy has been described as risk capital for change”. So we need to be bolder and be less fearful of failure to bring about high leveraged outcomes for community. Allan English, Founder, English Family Foundation


There are so many great leaders in the sector and so many amazing people coming at the sector with different insights and structures. We need more of that: more thinking outside of the box, more looking at new structures, and more cheering for those who are disrupting entrenched ideas. That’s coming from a new generation of values-led Gen Ys and Millenials: and more power to their elbows as they change it all up. Audette Exel, Founder Adara Development


Without a doubt. The first problem is that we define philanthropy as giving, whereas philanthropy is a concept that literally means ‘the love of human kind’, in which case it extends much further than giving money away. Philanthropy should be present in every act that we do, including our charity but not limited to it. Investing our money for a social and environmental benefit is also philanthropy, as is volunteering. So I would suggest that we need to be much broader on what we consider as philanthropy and extend it to the full spectrum of our activities including what we buy (i.e. If you want to show love to other humans, don’t buy products that exploit people or destroy the environment), where we spend our time (work, volunteering and leisure) and where we put your money, whether it be charity or investment. Danny Almagor, Founder, Small Giants


I think 2016 will be a great year for philanthropic leaders to continue to assert the key role played by philanthropy in our society and the economy.  Every day, philanthropic leaders are working with service delivery organisations at the grassroots of our society; they understand the issues that are being faced right across our communities and should have a greater share of voice in debate about issues of social and government policy. Deanne Weir, Director, WeirAnderson Foundation and Chair, Australian Women Donors Network


Leadership in philanthropy takes many forms. We read a lot about famous philanthropists like the Gates, Forrests and Zuckerbergs who help to shine the spotlight on giving, but leadership doesn’t necessarily mean being in the public eye. Bold leadership in philanthropy is about the way people conduct their philanthropy – it is about inspiring people, working in collaboration with other funders and, importantly, backing great leaders and well run organisations to effect social change.  Whilst many people are shy at first about talking about their giving, I encourage them to have the courage to speak up and share ideas. The more that philanthropists talk to each other, and talk to their peers and their families about what they are doing, the more it sets an example and encourages others to get involved – and we can never have too much of that.  Antonia Ruffell, CEO Australian Philanthropic Services


Yes, I think there is a need for more creative thinking and in particular more conversations regarding the issues faced by society and how we can make a difference. We need to look at how we can best collaborate with the not for profit sector, business and government to ensure that the impact we are having is not diluted by the other dynamics in our society but rather focusing on a future vision that we are all contributing towards. I am hoping that the new leadership of Philanthropy Australia will play an important role in fostering these conversations and helping to realise the opportunities. Anthea Hancocks, CEO Scanlon Foundation


The beauty of philanthropy is that there is no right or wrong way to give, it is a personal journey for so many and not everyone wants to be bold or take a leadership role.  Having said this, I have met and know well many people, staff and trustees alike, who want to take bold steps with their grant making, measurement and investment and they are held back by slow timelines and conservative boards.  In philanthropy there is always tomorrow and no sense of urgency.  So for me, rather than bolder leadership, I’d love to see a greater commitment to tackling challenging issues now rather than when meetings and favourable board composition permits. Stacey Thomas, CEO Fay Fuller Foundation


Yes, I believe we need risk-takers to back things that might not work. For example, let’s trial neuro-plasticity in men’s behavioural change programs for domestic violence. Nothing else is working, and NP has had some strong successes in other fields. Innovation always involves the risk of the unknown…but it just might work! Andrew Tyndale, Founder, Grace Mutual and Chair, The Funding Network


We certainly do need bolder leadership from the more visible philanthropists in the Australian scene. But by leadership I mean more than just large public donations. It has to be more about the type of donations. Popular philanthropic endeavours such as medical research or the arts are always applauded and are safe politically. They do not challenge the status quo or risk upsetting powerful vested interests. Philanthropic leadership will involve funding projects in the climate change space such as the transition away from fossil fuels. Such funding will be controversial, it does challenge powerful vested interested and is politically risky (witness the current House of Representatives inquiry into the DGR status of environmental NGOs). However, only such leadership will see our nation transformed and the world’s climate protected. Popular and more socially acceptable causes such as arts, medical research or conservation will be completely derailed by the catastrophic effects of severe weather, many millions of climate refugees, and wars over clean water and arable land. It is the really important, politically risky and highly contested areas that require true leadership from philanthropists. It is time for more to step up. John McKinnon, Director McKinnon Family Foundation


There is already some terrific leadership in our philanthropic community, but much of it is hidden from view.  There is huge and exciting opportunity for leaders to step forward, with humility, yes, and with confidence. We can and should be bold, think big, take on the complex issues and deliver impact at scale.  Philanthropy brings unique capability to invest in truly ground-breaking ideas, back leaders, develop breakthrough thinking and action and be genuinely catalytic. Rosemary Addis, Co-founder and Chair, Impact Investing Australia


Yes, we do. I would love to see individuals and foundations become less risk averse, share insights, demonstrate some flexibility and take a long-term funding horizon approach. External influences on the non-profit sector have been a shifting target for some time with significant changes in government policy. Some of those who were supported by government are now turning to philanthropy to continue to deliver their services.  This is putting strain on an already highly competitive funding environment and severely limiting innovation. There’s enormous potential for funding innovation such as the Dusseldorp Forum’s Case for Inclusive Learning Systems Report that aims to move the national conversation from what isn’t working in education to what is. These types of initiatives are highly effective because the funders behind them are educated, courageous and are prepared to take responsibility. We also need bolder leadership in advocating giving to motivate others to follow. The Funding Network is about celebrating the joy of giving, however there is still a limited number of role models who have the opportunity to talk publicly about how and why they give. Lisa Cotton, Co-founder and CEO The Funding Network


Philanthropy can go where others fear to tread.  The best leaders should be bold and know the ecosystem around their purpose and strategy intimately. By doing this they can aim to think different, do different and make a difference.  A difference far beyond the local problems they are trying to solve by influencing the actions and activities of others including government. Dr Noel Chambers, CEO National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation


Yes, in this age of information overload it’s important that philanthropy has a clear, loud and compelling voice to ensure our sector cuts through the noise on important issues. Critical to this is bold leadership. Amy Tribe, Executive Officer, nib foundation


Yes. We need that leadership from every Australian. We are all incredibly fortunate to live in this amazing country, collectively we need to celebrate all philanthropic endeavours: from community volunteering, to individual philanthropy and the work corporate Australia is pursuing in creating shared value – where giving becomes intrinsic to a corporate model to achieve a shared value with the community. We need to share more of our successes and failures and do so with an open mind where we all learn from the experiences. We can always do much more. Geoff Wilson, Founder and Director, Future Generation Investment Company Limited and Future Generation Global Investment Company


Always. Philanthropy is about providing not only financial support but also thought leadership, advocacy and direction. We have a role to play in supporting the sector, including on how best we, as a community, can address the root causes of the social challenges we face today and into the future. Having said that, we should always remain mindful of the fact that our not for profit partners are the real experts in the field and we should do this in cooperation and partnership with them. As the recent Guardian article stated so accurately, “… philanthropists shouldn’t impose their idea of common good on us”. Vedran Drakulic, CEO Gandel Philanthropy


Yes! Now that we are seeing a new wave of philanthropists like Graeme and Louise Tuckwell taking visible roles in Australian philanthropy after being inspired by long-time philanthropic advocates like Andrew Forrest, Paul Wheelton and Peter Winneke, it’s now time for the Australian philanthropic sector to start nurturing grass roots, community leaders to become champions of giving. A bold new leadership approach is required to break down the barrier of misconceptions and mystery surrounding the word ‘philanthropy’. We need to facilitate a new layer of leadership that educates, inspires and engages everyday Australians to give back to their communities. We need a new leadership that will develop a culture of giving amongst the future generations of Australians, highlighting the innovative and accessible ways that people can give back. Sarah Wickham, Co-founder Good Mob


There are some great philanthropic leaders in Australia but I think as a philanthropic community we can do more to drive social innovation by effectively measuring the social outcomes we are achieving and using those insights to inform our decision making. Rob Koczkar, CEO Social Ventures Australia


Yes, absolutely we do!  The corporate world has woken up to the need to apply a gender lens in the workplace to ensure the advancement of women and girls. Business and society as a whole reaps the benefits when women are supported to contribute to their full potential.  We need bold leaders in philanthropy to champion this gender-wise approach to social investment where it is arguably even more powerful.   We are facing a raft of new social challenges and, as a sector, we need to be much smarter about getting the biggest bang for every philanthropic buck! Julie Reilly, CEO Australian Women Donors Network


I don’t think it is important to have much bolder leadership in Philanthropy. What we need is to have more philanthropists being bold. By that I mean we need more people talking about their philanthropy and what is being achieved. This does not have to be about the big donations it is about the little ones as well. The key is communicating what is being done so that it encourages others to join the philanthropic path. Paul Wheelton OAM, Chair Wheelton Group


Yes, let’s keep tearing down the barriers that stop people engaging with philanthropy!  Let’s support more opportunities, resources, mentoring, scholarships and education to engage diversity in philanthropy. 100 Women is changing up the narrative of who can be a philanthropist or be involved in philanthropy.   We are igniting people, in particular women and young women as powerful philanthropists who are actively in charge of funding that makes a difference. Alicia Curtis, Co-founder and Chair 100 Women


Yes but from new and old voices. There is a risk that we only hear from the same (wonderful) people. Rikki Andrews, Founding Committee Member Impact100 Melbourne



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