WHEN philanthropy in Western Australia is debated in the context of the wealth created during boom times, the example of the Fogarty Foundation often crops up.
The foundation, established by Annie and Brett Fogarty, is a rare example of wealth derived from the resources sector being used to address social issues in the local community.
The foundation spends nearly $1 million a year on a broad range of education-related programs in the state.
Mr Fogarty was founder and executive chairman of Perth-based engineering and infrastructure company GRD. He banked more than $120 million when he sold out of the company in a staged exit between 2007 and 2008.
It would be easy to conclude that WA will have to wait a while to see other resources sector players do likewise, as many remain at the helm of their companies and their wealth is mainly of the paper kind, represented by shares in the businesses they have founded and run.
However Mr and Mrs Fogarty did not get into the philanthropy business recently. Their foundation, and its expenditure on good causes, goes back more than a decade to its founding in 2000.
Mrs Fogarty, who runs the foundation and is the spokesperson for the family’s philanthropy, admits that the program of giving started off modestly in the early days, reflecting their lack of experience as much as anything else, and possibly their means at the time.
“We started slowly and, over the years, we have gathered knowledge on how to do things,” Mrs Fogarty said. “We now pass that on.”
Mrs Fogarty has become a public figure, in part because she recognises the need to offer leadership with regard to giving, in order to encourage others. Her husband, though, prefers to remain behind the scenes and out of the limelight.
Leadership in the sector comes in many guises, including the sharing of information with others by way of formal talks and seminars. There is also an informal element to spreading the word and encouraging others. For instance, Mrs Fogarty has been involved in establishing a giving circle, akin to a book club, which offers a more social setting for charitable works.
“We (the members) decided to put a certain amount of dollars in and we take it in turns to look at programs and present that to the group,” she said.
“We have always said ‘yes’ but we like to know what is going on in the community and hopefully it has more impact because there is a group of us doing it.”
The foundation itself is run along the lines of business - with a strategic focus on education - although Mrs Fogarty said it had been established as a family initiative and they had benefitted significantly from it.
“It is a great part of our life,” she said. “It is part of our dinner conversation.”
To highlight the family interaction, Mrs Fogarty said her daughter Caitlyn, a recent graduate in early childhood education, had been a trustee of the fund since 2009.
“Hopefully our children will take over the fund and keep running it,” Mrs Fogarty said.
She said the family’s strategy with the foundation was to maintain or grow the capital base and mvest the dividends and interest in the programs.
The foundation’s focus on education gives it a broad mandate. It is involved in programs such as providing playgroups in disadvantaged communities, helping train principals to organise the resources they need, and offering scholarships at the University of Western Australia.
The programs with which the foundation is involved include those it has created itself, through to collaborations with other organisations in the not-for-profit field, government and industry.
“Most of our programs have a leadership element as well,” Mrs Fogarty said.
“The better leaders we have in our community, the better off the community will be as well and then they are better able to help those that are disadvantaged.”
The foundation chief points to the example of the scholarships at UWA, where dozens of high-achieving students have been assisted with funding and a series of special lectures from leaders across a broad range of fields.
Some have gone on to become Rhodes Scholars, including David Sherwood, who was named last month and will go to the University of Oxford to study politics, philosophy and economics.
In pointing to the achievement, Mrs Fogarty highlighted that Mr Sherwood, with a friend, had established his own not-for-profit group Teach Learn Grow, an organisation that sends university students to regional primary schools to boost literacy and numeracy.
In fact, the scholarship recipients offer some proof that a giving mentality has the propensity to be propagated.
For instance, the students have established their own Fogarty Scholars’ Association to launch a range of new initiatives, including their own Fogarty Futures scholarships for high school students from regional WA.
“It is a great example of the ripple effect,” Mrs Fogarty said.