The virtues of ‘giving’ are well known. Winston Churchill once said ‘we make a living by what we can get; we make a life by what we can give”. Surely there is no better gift in life than giving our own time and energy to a worthy cause.
There usually comes a time in our lives when we transform our giving from one-off, ad-hoc donations to more planned and purposeful charitable giving.
‘Engaged Philanthropy’ describes the new trend towards sustainability and accountability in charitable enterprise. It’s the new mantra of those who really want to make a difference and it derives its ethos and much of its language from the commercial sector.
Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide scaling change. Rather than leaving social needs to governments, these individuals find what is not working; solve the problem by changing the system and spreading the solution as widely as possible.
The notion of these leaders as ‘entrepreneurs’ comes from their visionary zeal and absolute focus on outcomes.
The new breed of engaged philanthropists seek tangible measurable and enduring benefits to society. these philanthropist are now known as ‘social investors’ and they want to do more than just give money’ they want to see the impact of their philanthropy and feel the passion and journey of the people involved in making change happen.
And new models of philanthropy are emerging. Social Ventures Australia is one that has achieved remarkable success since its launch in 2002. Its role is to alin the interests of social investors with worthy social entrepreneurs to ensure effective outcomes.
Social Ventures Australia acts as a ‘venture capital facilitator’ for the social venture sector and applies the same types of disciplines on its charitable operations as those found in the traditional venture capital network. Unsurprisingly perhaps, given that its founder, Michael Traill, was previously cofounder and executive director for 15 years of Macquarie Bank’s venture capital business.
As Traill recently commented, “the non-profit sector must provide evidence that giving will make a difference. Organisations need to take a more strategic, results-orientated approach and to provide their funders with engagement opportunities and an understanding of the social issues involved. At the same time, funders wanting their money to contribute to creating sustainable social and environmental change needed to take a more strategic approach to their philanthropy.
‘Our experience is that when this occurs funders tend to provide much larger amounts and for longer periods because they are prepared to take a long-term view and are clear about the social return on their investment. They are connecting their heads to their hearts.”
So how does it work?
As a parent and school principal from the south coast of NSW, Sean Gordon was often troubled by the effects that major tragedies were having on the minds of yourng children.
Sean was especially concerned that extensive media coverage of events like earthquakes, flooding and other natural tragedies were left unresolved in the minds of our kids.
So in 2003 he set about giving those children a way to respond. he set up a School Aid with a group of friends who collaborated on a shoestring budget but with unyielding energy and big hearts.
School Aid empowers Australian kids to learn about the value of giving whilst helping other kids in need. Kids helping kids.
By the end of 2008, School Aid had raised over $1.5 million and provided significant and focused assistance to kids who have suffered from tragedies such as the Russian school hostage crisis in Beslan (2004), the Pakistan earthquake (2005), Aceh, Indonesia following the Tsunami disaster (2006) and Cyclone Larry in Queensland (2006).
As a consequence of his determination and drive, Sean has made it easier for our kids, Australia wide to build a sense of hope and resilience in the face of tragedy and an understanding of the difference they can make personally in their own communities.
social investor – making his mark
Mark quit the ‘formal’ workforce at 41 years of age. With a wife and two children Mark had worked hard for a top international organisation and was on a steep ladder to serious success. But he wanted more than that. The stock market had been kind to his investments so he felt it time to start giving back.
He restarted his working life with a three-day a week volunteer job with the Smith Family to learn about how charities run, from the inside. At the same time he transferred some of his accumulated investments and started a family run foundation.
Mark applied his foundation funds, and his considerable skills and experience focusing on education as a cause, because “education is the way to break the cycle of poverty”. He wanted to make a difference and believes there’s no time to waste “why hold on to capital for 50 years when the world’s problems need solving now?” says Mark. “How can I say to a starving child in Somalia, sorry little girl, I’ve allocated all my money this year, so just sit there at the side of the road and I’ll be back with more next year?”
And what are the benefits of giving for Mark? “The most memorable family holiday we ever had was spent in Tanzania last year. The kids had two weeks in a local school there and learnt the important lesson that despite not having anything of wealth those children were happy just to be learning.”