Community leaders eye strategic giving

10/12/2008 - 22:00

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CHILD health researcher Fiona Stanley is a big fan of the concept of what she calls a "philanthropic hub" in Western Australia that would help donors refine their decision-making process and direct them to the worthiest causes that best fit thei

Community leaders eye strategic giving

CHILD health researcher Fiona Stanley is a big fan of the concept of what she calls a "philanthropic hub" in Western Australia that would help donors refine their decision-making process and direct them to the worthiest causes that best fit their needs.

"That would save so much money being wasted," Professor Stanley said. "It would make a very good investment."

The concept of a well-resourced umbrella organisation advising those wanting to give on the best way to proceed, avoiding the pitfalls for both the donors and the recipients, has been knocking around since the heights of the boom.

But the idea has gained momentum of late, given a big nudge by corporate adviser John Poynton.

Better known for his private helicopter and love for cars with a bit of muscle, Mr Poynton is, for those who don't know his record, an unlikely champion of philanthropic causes.

He clearly realises that there will be those who question the motives of anyone who steps up to the plate on this subject. If nothing else, his recent corporate experiences will have alerted him to those quick to judge.

Nevertheless, Mr Poynton has a record in philanthropy - even his citation for his Member of the Order of Australia mentions his work with charitable institutions - and believes the growing wealth of WA has to be better shepherded.

He's not alone in this belief.

Lotterywest CEO Jan Stewart and University of Western Australia deputy vice-chancellor Margaret Seares were also recently in the early stages of addressing the same issue.

It is likely that those two groups will combine forces to engineer a peak WA philanthropic group - a distinctly WA version of Philanthropy Australia, which itself has toyed with the idea of establishing a Perth branch.

Partly this has been driven by the recent boom which, despite the current downturn, has left many people richer than ever in WA, yet inexperienced in philanthropy.

Many increasingly prosperous Western Australians want to ensure their hard-earned wealth achieves the best results possible. In a sense, people want to give more strategically than they may have in the past.

"For people who made a lot of money quickly, one or two have said to me they don't know how to give without getting ripped off," Mr Poynton said.

However, the issue goes well beyond the giving side of the equation.

The Azure Capital executive chairman has also heard the concerns of many in the not-for-profit sector who believe that the desire to be charitable can often be misguided.

This leads to inefficiencies and confusion, with funds directed to the wrong causes or eroded through the incorrect choice of vehicle.

Mr Poynton also sees the opportunity to potentially cut out some of the middlemen who operate in the industry, managing donor funds or administering their allotment for a cut of the money they move.

"That is the investment banking model that is somewhat discredited, I might say," he said.

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