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Equity Trustees committed in supporting the for-purpose sector

As Australia continues to face ongoing challenges, Equity Trustees is committed to supporting the for-purpose sector to reshape and rebuild.  This commitment includes looking at new approaches to funding and facilitating more philanthropy.
In order to continue to support the work and resilience of the for-purpose sector, we need to remove barriers to giving and focus on “democratising” philanthropy. This means making it simpler for Australians to start (or build on) their giving, in a more affordable and strategic way. 

We also need to be more responsive and flexible funders, learning from our experience of recent natural disasters to step back and empower the sector to do what it does best with our funding.

In December 2021 we released our fourth Annual Giving Review, reporting on the past year’s philanthropic granting, bequests, and distributions.

The 2021 review shows that despite the economic impacts of the pandemic, our annual giving increased in the 2021 financial year, yet there is still so much opportunity to be leading greater and more effective philanthropy.

The need for philanthropic funding is fast outgrowing the rate at which we are encouraging and enabling everyday Australians to give. Technology can enable us to innovate our giving and create opportunities to make philanthropy something accessible to every Australian. 

Equity Trustees is actively exploring how technology will support our current Active Philanthropy clients to give, and also enable access to philanthropy for more individuals and families are looking to start their giving journey.

In the 2021 financial year, Equity Trustees distributed just over $96 million to the community, up from $91 million in 2020. There were less funds from investment returns of foundations due to the impact of the pandemic, but overall giving was driven up by a significant increase in charitable bequests, totalling $20.8 million, compared to $7.6 million the previous year.

Last year demonstrated that philanthropy delivers the most value when it remains committed to flexibility in meeting the changing (and increasing) needs of the community. 

The for-purpose sector weathered disruption to funding patterns and partnerships alongside service delivery, operational, fundraising and resourcing challenges. In response, philanthropy continued to provide much-needed funding to organisations across a diverse range of sectors and causes and plug gaps.

As a major philanthropic funder in Australia, Equity Trustees is deeply to supporting the sector to grow capacity, continue to adapt to changes exacerbated by the pandemic, and deliver its critical services. 

Sustainable funding

The work of for-purpose organisations is all too often constrained by a lack of sustainable funding to plan around. 

Where Equity Trustees has discretion we are committed to funding capacity building for the sector, including investing in longer term supports such as core infrastructure, people and technology, rather than short-term or project-based grants. 

We also view our granting activities through a “funding for impact” lens, to direct our funding toward solutions that deliver lasting positive change. One of the ways we do this is by funding appropriate intermediaries, as we know they have far greater reach and local networks to drive impact and resilience in areas of need.

An example of this approach includes the Swinburne Social Start-up Studio, which helps to develop social enterprise businesses to tackle social and environmental challenges while also contributing to the economy and building sustainable means of combining social and commercial outcomes.

Another example is funding First Australians Capital in their Regenerating Indigenous Entrepreneurs program. Funding Indigenous businesses and unlocking valuable capital for entrepreneurs helps strengthen the sector and wider Australian community and is helping to create new employment opportunities to lift the overall unemployment rate for Indigenous Australians from 49 per cent in 2018-19. 

Creating closer connections

Philanthropy can amplify the voices of communities who traditionally may not have had a say in decisions made on their behalf.

For example, we have provided funding to support for-purpose organisations to engage people with lived experience of systemic inequity. 

One of these is is the Housing For The Aged Action Group (HAAG). HAAG built evidence and created collaborative networks to tackle Australia’s growing homelessness crisis. The group is now ramping up its advocacy based on lived experience and is encouraging other states to adopt and adapt its “Home At Last” service, which offers free and confidential support and advocacy to low-income older people who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless.

2021 and our Active Philanthropists

Last year Active Philanthropists with Equity Trustees Charitable Foundation sub-funds distributed a total of $6.4 million to the for-purpose sector.  

There was a 3% increase in giving to Human Services with the top category of support being Health.

ECF Chart

The largest single grant, a $400,000 donation was directed to the cause area of environment.  Seventy-five families (out of the 250+ Equity Trustees work with) involved their successors or next generation in their annual giving.  A number of our families are profiled in this year’s Annual Giving Review - read their stories.


The funding is never enough. But sustainable partnerships between philanthropic funders and the for-purpose sector are what resilient, effective and adaptable solutions are built on.

Australia has faced its fair share of crises in recent years and no doubt there will be others in the global reset ahead. It is when we are in untested or unfamiliar terrain that philanthropy must work hardest and take calculated risks to find – and back – new ways to innovate and lead greater and better philanthropy to support the sector to drive the social change needed. 

The 2021 Annual Giving Review is out now