31/08/2018 - 12:31

Sustainable, collaborative giving

31/08/2018 - 12:31

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The growth of giving circles such as 100 Women and Impact100 WA is demonstrating that the model is a sustainable pathway for philanthropy.

Sustainable, collaborative giving
Alicia Curtis says 100 Women is now producing tangible benefits to not for profits. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

The growth of giving circles such as 100 Women and Impact100 WA is demonstrating that the model is a sustainable pathway for philanthropy.

For many Western Australians, philanthropy is typically associated with established business identities displaying support for a range of charities, arts organisations and the like.

However, the emergence of giving circles such as 100 Women has brought philanthropy to a new demographic in WA.

Co-founder and chair Alicia Curtis told Business News that giving circles had come to Australia from the US, introducing a form of collaborative giving to people otherwise unfamiliar with the practice.

Now in its fifth year of operation, 100 Women operates alongside similar organisations such as Impact100 WA, Impact100 Fremantle (Fremantle Foundation), The Funding Network, the Awesome Foundation, and The Channel.

A recent report by Creative Partnerships Australia found that membership of giving circles is predominantly female, with an average member age between 40 and 65.

The ‘Collective giving and its role in Australian philanthropy’ report found a high volunteer presence within organisations nationwide, meaning 100 per cent of donations were distributed to projects and not for profits.

100 Women invites female and male members to donate towards a $100,000 pool each year, which is then distributed to select not-for-profit groups.

Members can donate $300, $600 or $1,200 a year, and vote on shortlisted grant applicants.

Ms Curtis said 100 Women was inspired by a desire to find worthy causes and fund them in the most effective way.

“I didn’t want to set up a service delivery organisation, because there are plenty of organisations out there doing great work,” she said.

“What I did know they needed was funding.”

The result was a giving circle aimed at investing in female empowerment for the benefit of the community.

Ms Curtis said 100 Women was also designed to highlight the work of female philanthropists.

“Women have always given, but they’ve not necessarily been in the spotlight,” she said.

“For us it’s about highlighting those women as philanthropists and showing them as role models in the community.”

During the formative stages of 100 Women, Ms Curtis worked closely with Impact100 WA founder James Boyd.

With seven independent chapters across Australia, the Impact100 group has collectively given more than $4.5 million.

Impact100 WA and 100 Women use similar business models, which Mr Boyd said had proved successful in the US.

“Giving circles make powerful philanthropy available to everyone,” Mr Boyd told Business News.

“They reflect the democratisation of philanthropy.”

Both 100 Women and Impact100 WA have a similar screening process for grant applicants, shortlisting not-for-profit organisations over a number of months, then giving members the opportunity to vote.

In addition to the benefit for grant recipients, Ms Curtis said 100 Women had an important educational effect on philanthropy in WA.

She said the engagement of younger members was an essential element in discerning the best use of grant money, as knowledge was shared between generations and members learned to determine valuable causes.

“Philanthropy is really an intellectual process of where you put money, where you put funds, in the best way possible,” Ms Curtis said.

She said an events program had also facilitated a network of younger philanthropists, allowing members to share experiences.

“It’s about creating a community in WA with a focus that’s beyond the individual,” Ms Curtis told Business News.

“I think people are sick to death of the traditional business networking and how it can become a bit stale, and this is an innovative way to meet new people.”

100 Women and Impact100 WA each holds an annual gala event, allowing members the chance to network, and giving grant recipients a platform to meet potential donors.

Mr Boyd said many grant recipients had received ongoing financial and volunteer support from Impact100 WA members after connecting through the gala dinner.

He has also seen a rise in Australian youth-based philanthropy, noting Melbourne-based The Channel as an example.

With members predominantly aged in their 20s and 30s, The Channel supports LGBTIQ+ community projects and has a grant pool of $50,000 a year.

Despite the potential financial volatility of younger members, Ms Curtis said the nature of giving circles provided stability.

“It’s risk mitigation,” she said.

“You’ll always have some people not renewing their memberships for some reason, and new people joining, and that’s why we’ve been able to keep (the total funding pool) stable.”

100 Women has provided 13 grants since 2014 totalling just over $380,000, with recipients beginning to produce tangible results.

Positive Pathways, an education program by Zonta House Refuge, received $40,000 from 100 Women in 2014.

In 2016, the program was the recipient of the WA Council of Social Service Community Excellence Award.

Zonta House was also a finalist in this year’s Telstra Business Awards in the social change maker category.

It was beaten to the prize by the Earbus Foundation of WA, which itself received a $30,000 grant from 100 Women in 2017.

In 2014, Opportunity International Australia received $40,000 from 100 Women to help fund a training program for female health leaders in rural Indian communities.

The charity now reports that 4,013 women have been trained as health leaders throughout India and Indonesia, and 4.9 million people in local communities have been reached with basic health, hygiene and nutrition education.

Surveys by the organisation show that seven in 10 families in those countries are now regularly practising improved health behaviours such as washing their hands with soap and purifying drinking water.

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