Family legacy givers lead way with more

24/04/2019 - 15:59

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Following in the footsteps of Stan Perron, some key names in philanthropy have increased their funding distribution, but many charity recipients are struggling to measure the impact of these donations.

Family legacy givers lead way with more
Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation has increased its donations, led by chief executive Carrick Robinson (right), and head of fundraising Heiko Plange. Photos: Gabriel Oliveira

Following in the footsteps of Stan Perron, some key names in philanthropy have increased their funding distribution, but many charity recipients are struggling to measure the impact of these donations.

Some of Perth’s most prominent business people are establishing a family legacy among Western Australia’s largest philanthropic foundations, which are ranked each year in the BNiQ database by funds distributed.

Leading the way is Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation, which increased its funding by a staggering $38 million in the past financial year.

Minderoo reported giving $56.5 million in the year to 2018, up from $18.7 million in 2017.

(click here to read a PDF version of the full special report)

The Stan Perron Charitable Foundation also sharply increased the amount of funds it distributed last year, increasing from $4.4 million in 2017 to $12.8 million, and maintaining third rank.

The foundation has typically donated around $5 million to some 150 charities each year.

The death of renowned philanthropist Stan Perron late last year has left the foundation in an even stronger financial position, with Perron Group announcing the “greater majority” of its future earnings and $4 billion in net assets would benefit Mr Perron’s foundation.

Taking the reins from her father, Elizabeth Perron now chairs the foundation, and will oversee what is expected to be an enormous increase in funds distributed.

While it has not achieved the same level of funding growth as Perron and Minderoo, the McCusker Charitable Foundation has jumped from eighth to fourth ranking, after increasing donations distributed from $2.6 million to $5 million.

The foundation was established by Malcolm and Tonya McCusker to formalise years of giving by the family.

Venture capitalist and former mining executive Charlie Bass is also represented in the BNiQ top 10 through his Bass Family Foundation, which donated $1 million to educational support for rural disadvantaged children in 2018.

However, a notable absence from the peak of the philanthropic foundations list is Australia’s wealthiest woman, Gina Rinehart.

The Rinehart Family Medical Foundation did not distribute any funds in 2018, despite reporting nearly $75 million in assets.

It gave $2.6 million in 2017.

The foundation has not responded to a request for comment. Mrs Rinehart has in the past been tight-lipped about the extent of her giving.

She has privately donated to multiple charities, including Parkerville Children and Youth Care, and is a regular backer of swimming, volleyball, rowing and other sports.

Some of her giving has also been through her companies, Hancock Prospecting and Roy Hill Holdings, so it is difficult to establish the philanthropic impact she may be having.

Beyond the realm of WA’s most affluent families, many other foundations have lowered their funding in the past year.

The St John of God Foundation, Bravery Trust, Bankwest Foundation, and Fremantle Foundation all donated at least $100,000 less in 2018 than the previous year.

The Channel 7 Telethon Trust, which retained second ranking, reported a drop of $3 million in donations through its most recent 2017 financial statement.

The Perth Children's Hospital Foundation, which is the hospital’s primary fundraising body, bucked the trend and increased its donations to the new Perth Children’s Hospital and wider children’s health service by nearly $1 million.

The foundation had $25 million in funding commitments over the next five years, which would be covered by investment reserves and donor pledges, it reported.

Charity boost

The BNiQ database shows that most of WA’s large charities achieved an increase in revenue last financial year.

These include Activ Foundation, Ability Centre, Telethon Kids Institute, Autism Association of WA, MSWA, Nulsen Disability Services and Clontarf Foundation.

The above charities reported increases in government grants, with the most significant boost coming from state government, particularly the Department of Communities Disability Services, as well as the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Of the top 10 BNiQ charities, six provide disability services as their core business and have leveraged these funding sources.

Disability services provider Rocky Bay jumped from fifth to third, as its revenue jumped to $70 million from $57.7 million.

This comes from the combination of a $9 million increase in funding from the state government’s Department of Communities Disability Services, a $2 million NDIS injection, as well as a continuing campaign to fund the redevelopment of its Mosman Park facility.

As of late last year, funding for the project stood at nearly $10 million.

MSWA has also benefited from an additional $3 million in government grants, but additionally reported a $3 million increase in marketing and fundraising income.

One charity into the list for the first time this year is aged care service provider Chorus, following the successful merger of Community First, Care Options and Volunteer Task Force.

The organisations were relatively small players in the charity landscape, but Chorus has now entered the list at rank 15.

It reported $36.8 million in revenue last year, and $27 million in total assets.

The second-ranking Royal Flying Doctor Service is one of two charities in the top 20 that experienced a revenue drop, losing $5.8 million.

Despite increases in WA Health Department funding and project grants, the drop was primarily caused by a $3 million decrease in federal funding, and a $7.9 million decrease in capital grants.

The Cancer Council WA is another notable example that tumbled down the rankings after a $7 million revenue decline to $25 million.

The dip can be attributed to a decrease in revenue from fundraising and donations.

In 2018, the Cancer Council reported $8.6 million revenue in this area, and from 2014 to 2016 this number remained stable at around $10 million.

In 2017, however, this revenue peaked at $17 million, meaning the rankings drop may merely be a return to overall revenue that previously remained stable at around $25 million to $27 million.

Accountability concerns

While the top-ranking charities on the BNiQ database are producing thorough financial records, recent research has found that understanding the impact of Australian charities is becoming increasingly difficult.

The 2019 Outcomes Measurement in the Australian Community Sector Report, led by the University of Western Australia's Centre for Social Impact, found accountability for charities was a key national challenge, following a drop in organisations measuring their impact.

Lead researcher Paul Flatau said the latest report showed that the proportion of organisations measuring their impact had dropped from 75 per cent to 70 per cent in the past year.

Conversely, for charities that did measure their outcomes, greater effort was being put in than in previous years.

Larger organisations with turnover greater than $1 million were more likely to measure their outcomes than smaller organisations.

“A key finding is charities face significant constraints to resource outcomes measurement activities,” Professor Flatau said.

“Around 60 per cent spend less than 3 per cent on outcomes measurement, which is far lower than recommended levels.

“A primary cause lies in the lack of funding to measure outcomes effectively, with funds mainly sourced internally.”

More than 350 small, medium-sized and large charitable organisations across the country completed the annual survey.

The report found there was a gulf between the expectation put on charities to measure their outcomes, and the funding available to do so, despite positive sentiment about outcomes measurement among community organisations.

“There is a significant opportunity for the community sector and governments to work closely together to measure the overall impact of programs and to set targets on critical social outcomes such as poverty, unemployment and overall well-being,” Professor Flatau said.

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