The Future of Corporate Philanthropy

13 September 2018

Philanthropy is the love of human beings, not the giving of money.

At the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce’s Future of Corporate Philanthropy Business Briefing on 13 September 2018, a panel that included Sarah Davies, CEO, Philanthropy Australia, Rob Koczkar, CEO, Social Ventures Australia, Andrea Comastri, Executive Officer, PAYCE Foundation and Caroline Stewart, Executive Officer, UBS Australia Foundation discussed what best practice philanthropy looks like, how to get started and some of the challenges involved. The discussion was moderated by Lisa Grinham, CEO, Good2Give.

This event was sponsored by: PAYCE Foundation and Good2Give.

Who’s doing corporate philanthropy well and why?

Sarah Davies said we need to define what we mean by ‘well.’ Good practice corporate philanthropy has genuine integration with the core DNA of the business and all of its activities. It’s where assets are knitted into philanthropic practices. Participatory decision making, a general long-term vision, understanding your power and how you use it, transparency and accountability are all good practice corporate philanthropy. She cited some examples:

  • Cotton On Foundation: all through the supply chain, how they engage employees across stores and brands, product management, how they partner with staff on the ground to create change.
  • JB HiFi: how they engage staff in workplace giving, they focus on what matters for those particular people at that particular time.
  • Westpac Foundation and Scholarship: integrated with the enterprise overall, how do you grow ‘for profit’ all the way to ‘for purpose?’

Rob Koczkar said you must have a clear purpose which is connected to vision of the business. He gave the following examples of good practice corporate philanthropy:

  • AMP Foundation gives access to business tools, techniques and funding which ultimately led to the creation of Social Ventures Australia.
  • Samsung: provides high quality networking and support to create great STEM programs in disadvantaged schools.
  • Commonwealth Bank builds community and workforce capability to engage with increasingly sophisticated financial products.

Andrea Comastri said good corporate philanthropy comes from the culture of the organisation, it starts at the top and goes throughout the organisation.

An example of ‘brave philanthropy’

PAYCE decided it was going to work with residential rehabilitation provider, Adele House, to give those with drug and alcohol addiction the best chance in life. Andrea conceded that a key challenge was that drug and alcohol rehab was not an attractive fundraising target, that PAYCE was working at “the pointy end of the stick” and that was precisely why they chose that particular cause.

PAYCE Foundation helps Adele House to build its capacity – its Board, processes, business model, and its bed capacity. Treatment centre currently has 60 beds. Around 60% of those who stay at Adele House have come from or would be going to jail (35/36 out of 60.)

Adele House recently received a $5million grant from the government, which PAYCE has matched dollar for dollar. Looking to build a 40-bed facility at a blueberry farm in Coffs Harbour providing horticulture work experience in a therapeutic environment. Andrea said the money will help to address the shortfall in operational costs, however there are never enough donations or recurrent funding.

Where do you start?

Caroline Stewart said you need to lead from the top and start with your employees. Once you get the mandate from the top, you need to take employees along for the ride. Small organisations should think about what impact they want to have and what resources they want to put towards it. It’s important to have community champions within the organisation. Often the engaged, impassioned people are early career staff who are full of new ideas; it doesn’t have to be senior staff.

SMEs should talk to peer groups. For information about formal structures, talk to Philanthropy Australia. The Funding Network and Good2Give have contacts in ‘for purpose’ organisations. Ask the question ‘what is the structure that you want to put around your corporate giving?’ Open a separate bank account, try to stick to budget make sure the amount doesn’t go down. Set aside an amount and a time commitment. Putting time and money aside gives you the gracious ability to say no and to you already have a particular focus (addiction, social entrepreneurship, early childhood, etc.)

Lisa Grinham says you need to get clear on what you want to achieve, put money aside in a tax effective vehicle and establish community champions.

What are some of the challenges in getting a foundation up and running?

Andrea said one challenge is understanding how to navigate the healthy tension between profit and purpose – if you crack it, you’re on the way to best practice. Collaboration is the way of working today. He said that PAYCE constantly speaks about work that the PAYCE Foundation does and leverages its business networks. When you collaborate with customers and partners across sectors you achieve much more.

Sarah said that within corporate philanthropy there are assets that no other part of the system has. It’s about knitting together all the elements and exploiting the assets – the potential of the dollars and soft power of the networks.

Should corporates designate charities or give employees choice about who to give to?

Caroline said that the dual model works very well: employees can donate to community causes they’re most passionate about as well as to charities nominated by the organisation. It’s important to concentrate on long term partnerships but you also need to support employees’ interests.

Sarah said you need to go with what’s right for a particular organisation. It’s about what defines success for that entity and taking that into the philanthropic space.

Employee volunteering – how do you find the sweet spot? It’s difficult!

Caroline said it depends on the skill sets of employees – where can they value add? USB helps Juvenile Diabetes with strategic planning, board composition and fundraising.

Rob agreed that it is a difficult, fraught area and can become a big burden for NFPs. NFPs often feel compelled to accommodate employees. If organisations ask NFPs to accommodate their employees, they must be prepared to pay a financial contribution. He said it’s important to tread carefully in this space.

What’s the best way of finding the right corporate partner with shared values?

There is no silver bullet. It’s hard work and it takes time. People give money to people. You need to research, build relationships, be resilient. There are lists and databases you can buy but you then need to build the relationships. Good resources include The Giving Report, The Cause Report, The Support Report.

Does it matter where the corporates get the money from, for example, gambling?

Think carefully who your partners are. There is the question around who are we in our core – even if it’s uncomfortable, we have to put it on the table. It’s not an easy decision to make.