Give Some Thought To Giving.

As featured in the Australian Financial Review on 27 June 2011.

This week promises to be a very busy time for anyone thinking about making a donation. Advice from accountants and lawyers stressing the need to reduce tax by making donations will be combined with an almost insurmountable pile of repeat mail from charities shouting: “pick me, pick me!”

This situation, in and of itself, can drive people away — after all there are other ways of reducing a tax liability. Serial benefactors will be receiving calls from friends asking who they should donate to and others will defer to a charity they know.

Those who are Trustees for charitable trusts — including the ever growing population of Private Ancillary Funds, who must distribute at least 5% of their fund — will be meeting to argue the merits of one social program over another and finalise distributions.

But in my experience, it’s September that is ‘philanthropy month’ in the Australian calendar. People who have yet again donated in a hurry amidst all their other frenetic end of financial year activities to meet June 30 find the time and space to think about how they can really work towards solving a social challenge next year, rather than just send off some token cheques.

They’ve made a new (financial) year’s resolution to lose the weight of June 30 indecision and put their donations, heart and mind, and influence into something that matters to them.

So what are the mental barriers people face about making their giving more planned than spontaneous?

After declaring something like: “We would like to ‘give back’ by donating to worthwhile charities that focus on indigenous issues and art,” people often struggle with the next step. This is often exacerbated by perceptions of poor charity transparency and effectiveness, or the old chestnut that too many cents in a dollar go to ‘administration’. Good business leaders understand and act to resolve issues that affect their business. Good not-for-profit leaders are no different. I’ve spoken with many of them; they are working to resolve these perceived issues and making solid progress.

On the question of whom to donate before June 30, 2011, the seven organisations I would put forward are:

  • Beyond Empathy (Arts)
  • Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (Indigenous Education)
  • Fair Business (Employment)
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (Medical Research)
  • The Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal
  • Bush Heritage Australia (Environment)
  • Mission Australia (Welfare)

More than 800 other Australian have established a Private Ancillary Fund to help focus their giving. Why not join them and make 2011 the last year you just cut a last minute cheque to charity.