09/06/2021 - 11:00

Giving up despite pandemic challenges

09/06/2021 - 11:00


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Philanthropic donations increased in 2020, despite predictions it would fall.

Giving up despite pandemic challenges
Andrew and Nicola Forrest established Minderoo Foundation in 2001. Photo: Jessica Wyld

Many of Western Australia’s biggest philanthropic foundations increased their giving in 2020, led by Minderoo Foundation, which contributed an additional $13 million on the previous period.

According to Business News’s Data & Insights, the top 10 philanthropic foundations contributed $223 million to charitable causes in WA in the 2020 financial year, up from $217 million in 2019.

These figures defy predictions made last year by JBWere, which suggested giving would fall by about 7.1 per cent in 2020, due to the economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

Fortunately, a strong iron ore price revived the WA economy, limiting the economic impacts of the pandemic.

However, while the economic fallout did not affect the amount given by many of the largest foundations, it did influence which sectors received the benefit.

Philanthropy Australia surveyed 101 of its members in May 2020 and found 88 per cent of them had changed their grant approach.

Foundations said they offered more flexibility, increased financial grant support, and had established dedicated COVID-19 grant programs.

This included Minderoo Foundation, which committed $320 million to fight COVID-19 on a national level.

In WA, Minderoo was the most generous of the philanthropic foundations in 2020, upping its contribution from $75.3 million in 2019 to $88.3 million.

Of this $88.3 million, Flourishing Oceans received the largest contribution ($15.7 million) followed by Building Community, which received $15.7 million. Minderoo’s contributions over the year placed it at number three nationally on the Australian Financial Review’s Philanthropy 50.

The foundation’s annual report confirmed Andrew and Nicola Forrest had donated more than $520 million to Minderoo in the past year, bringing their total donations to more than $1.78 billion during the past four years.

The Channel 7 Telethon Trust, ranked as the second largest foundation on Data & Insights, reports in December and is yet to publish its 2020 financials.

However, most of its revenue is generated by Telethon, which raised $46.3 million in 2020, up from $42.6 million in 2019.

Business News’s top philanthropic foundations list looks a little different to other years with the inclusion of native title trusts.

One of the biggest, The General Gumala Foundation, chaired by former leader of The Nationals WA Brendon Grylls, gave $22.6 million to its beneficiaries.

In its annual report, it said income from its Yandi Land Use Agreement reduced from $36 million in 2019 to $32 million in 2020, and its investment revenues suffered a 19 per cent decrease due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other native title trusts distributed similarly large amounts of money.

The Nyiyaparli Charitable Trust spent $16 million, Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura People Charitable Trust gave $13.5 million, and the Banjima Charitable Trust contributed $10.5 million.

Stan Perron Charitable Foundation, ranked fifth on Data & Insights, distributed $15.5 million in 2020, up from $13.5 million in 2019, making it the 14th largest philanthropic foundation in Australia, according to the AFR.

Stan Perron Charitable Foundation executive chair Elizabeth Perron said the foundation focused on assisting charities struggling to maintain their services in 2020.

“The trustees were extremely conscious that with the initial economic downturn associated with the pandemic, many not-for-profit organisations experienced a significant downturn in their funding,” Ms Perron told Business News.

“In particular, we noted a significant increase in the need to assist groups responding to issues such as homelessness and mental health.”

Ms Perron said the foundation had recently put in place a more formal framework for receiving grant requests through an online application process to ensure they could make more informed decisions and ensure each grant had maximum impact.

Perth Children's Hospital Foundation, which increased its ranking on the Data & Insights list from eighth to 10th, had a record-breaking year and distributed $8.7 million.

About 22 per cent of its grants went to research, 44 per cent to expertise, 8 per cent for education and training programs, 18 per cent for advanced equipment and technology, and 8 per cent to positive patient and family experiences.

The McCusker Charitable Foundation gave $5 million in 2020, with a focus on WA-based medical research.

It also increased its contribution to domestic violence organisations and gave funds to St Patrick’s Community Support Centre’s Doorstep Dinners program.

McCusker Charitable Foundation director and administrator Tonya McCusker said the foundation altered its giving program to help charities that had their fundraising events cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“Several charities had to cancel events in 2020 – Ear Science Institute, Anglicare WA and Leeuwin Ocean Adventure Foundation – because of COVID,” Mrs McCusker told Business News.

“The McCusker Charitable Foundation and others helped make up some of the shortfall.”


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