Key themes & insights from the Philanthropy and philanthropists report

Four major themes emerged from the research in the Philanthropy and philanthropists report. The full report is available for free download.

Culture and family matters

Culture, in the sense of shared norms and values, is an enduring motivator and shaper of giving behaviour. The influence of culture on giving extends to and is magnified by culture within families; within communities; across ethno-religious and racial groups; and national cultural values related to philanthropy. Participants in focus groups and interviews saw opportunities in embracing multiple cultures to harness shared passion and commitment to addressing social issues.

Families, personal networks and communities continue to influence all, including the wealthy and the ultra-wealthy, in relation to:

  • giving practices
  • motivations to give
  • causes
  • where they give, and
  • the channels through which they give.

Many attributed their giving to values learned at an early age from their families/communities/religions.

The prevalent role of culture and values in shaping giving practices is consistent with the findings of Giving Australia 2005.

Mechanisms matter

The mechanisms by which giving cultures are shaped appear to be expanding as new (or recently revived) mechanisms and practices emerge. These include an increased focus on collective giving and the rise of social networking media in peer-based giving. One of the strongest meta-themes of the 2016 research was the ‘democratisation’ of philanthropy: that is, an emphasis on giving as being ‘everyone’s business’.

Impact matters

A consistent and dominant theme in the research was the importance to philanthropists of being able to ‘make a difference’; to have some agency in achieving a desired outcome. While this echoes the emphasis in Giving Australia 2005 on strategic giving by philanthropists, it also introduces a more explicit intent around having a positive impact in giving.

This growing emphasis on having an impact and being engaged and to a degree, in control of giving outcomes, is consistent with experience around the world.

Ease and access matter

From individual through to institutional experiences of philanthropy, a core theme was that philanthropy is enabled where giving is made accessible and easy. The findings suggest that ease of giving can be negatively or positively affected by many factors, including:

  • technological platforms that expand giving opportunities, broaden the range of potential recipients and increase the speed of giving
  • taxation incentives, and
  • legal and regulatory policies that affect structured giving, including bequeathing.

The findings of Giving Australia 2016 suggest that to advance structured and institutional giving in Australia, regulatory conditions ideally should make giving easy and attractive, accommodate the nature of giving across contemporary life stages and recognise the diversity of causes to which philanthropists seek to give.

The emergence of digital and collective giving platforms provides rich opportunities for advancing cultures of giving in Australia.


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