The incredible largesse of the late Melbourne couple, Lionel and Yvonne Spencer, has seen more than $80 million distributed to six organisations, including Vision Australia, The Salvation Army and Scotch College.
“I think this is just the beginning of what we’re likely to be seeing,” says Caitriona Fay, National Manager Philanthropy and Non Profit Services at Perpetual which administers the bequest.
“We’re beginning to see the mass intergenerational wealth transfer and the story of the Spencers is a really interesting one because of their approach to direct giving and then more structured giving.”
Lionel Spencer (1896-1988) made his fortune in the automotive industry and was instrumental in introducing Volkswagen to Australia. During his lifetime, Lionel supported many charities and was named Life Governor at no fewer than four Melbourne hospitals.
Upon his death, Yvonne, who had been independently wealthy and worked as a personal assistant to the chair of the Stock Exchange for 26 years, became the sole beneficiary of Lionel’s estate.
“Yvonne was an active philanthropist with her own PAF,” explains Fay.
“She was passionate about women’s issues and she loved to travel—she’d worked and travelled all over the world, spending time in New York, Egypt and the Middle East.
“She loved talking about the markets and she was so smart and so switched on,” Fay remembers.
Yvonne supported causes relating to women’s health and cancer affecting women. She passed away, aged 90, in 2015.
“She absolutely knew what she wanted to do with her foundation and was excited about what it might achieve,” Fay says.
“Whereas Lionel wasn’t as exposed to structured giving, Yvonne knew the power of what that final distribution might mean in perpetuity.”
Include a Charity Week, held each September, recognises and promotes the importance of bequest giving.
“Talking about some of the options that are available is so important,” Fay says.
“Include a Charity highlights the vital role trusted advisors play in helping clients think about the legacy they’d like to leave and the things they’d like to support via their estates.
“Some of the most powerful acts in Australian philanthropy have been gifts by estates that have changed the face of medical research and contributed so much to our cultural life and identity,” Fay continues.
“Miles Franklin’s initial gift of £8,922 has grown in value to $1.3 million which goes to show what can be achieved with focus and prudent investment over time.”
Fay says that while bequest giving in Australia is growing, there remains significant untapped potential.
“Seventy per cent of Australians support charities in their lifetimes but we’re only seeing 12.5 per cent of people leave something for charity in their estates—there’s a bit of a disconnect there,” she says.
“At this important moment, when we’re seeing the beginning of a mass intergenerational wealth transfer, imagine the impact for the community if we could just lift that 12.5 per cent to 15 or even 20 per cent—the potential is enormous.”
For more information about including a charity in your will, visit Include a Charity.
To learn more about Perpetual’s philanthropy services, visit the website.