02/07/2009 - 00:00

Grant boost for giving

02/07/2009 - 00:00

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EFFORTS to improve Western Australia's record as a home of philanthropists have taken a big step forward with a group seeking to change the state's giving culture winning a $36,700 Lotterywest grant.

EFFORTS to improve Western Australia's record as a home of philanthropists have taken a big step forward with a group seeking to change the state's giving culture winning a $36,700 Lotterywest grant.

Loosely termed The Philanthropy Project, the fledgling group has found a temporary home at the University of WA as it seeks to investigate the best way to improve the state's record in terms of private wealth being donated to worthy causes.

The Lotterywest grant will fund a scoping study to provide the information needed to develop a strategy to improve WA philanthropy.

The group is a loose coalition of business and charity leaders, as well as leading philanthropists, with a steering committee chaired by John Poynton.

It was formed last year at a time when, despite tremendous wealth being generated in WA, statistics showed that, on a per capita basis, fewer Western Australians give money to worthy causes, and when they do, they give less than people in other states.

At the wealthiest end of the spectrum, WA does have some substantial leaders, such as magnate Stan Perron and more recent business successes such as Brettney and Annie Fogarty. However, the general view is that the state's tradition of philanthropy is not as strong as places such as Victoria or the US, a situation compounded by a lack of support mechanisms for those who do want to give to worthy causes.

Former UWA senior deputy vice-chancellor, Margaret Seares, has taken the role of project manager for the scoping study, which is being undertaken to better understand WA's philanthropic sector.

"When this project was stimulated it was the tail end of the boom," said Professor Seares, whose roles on not-for-profit boards and committees, including the federal government's National Research Infrastructure Committee, give her a good view of the sector.

"Some people who were philanthropists felt that more could get involved if they knew how."

She added that the current downturn made the group's job even more relevant.

"In the current hard times and also in the view that the sector relies heavily on philanthropists, when there are not that many people giving money it can be a bit dog eat dog. It is very competitive," Professor Seares said.

Professor Seares, who is supported by project leader and UWA finance and resources executive director, Gaye McMath, said the university's support was helpful for the fledgling group but they would ensure it remained independent from the institution, which itself is a big recipient of donations.

Lotterywest general manager grants and community development, Jacquie Thomson, described the move as foundational.

"It is about bringing a whole lot of energy together," Ms Thomson said.

 

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