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2022 Philanthropy Australia National Conference, Collaborating and celebrating for the love of humanity

Over the past two years, virtual conferences and virtual meetings have made an attempt to keep the sector connected and collaborating, but the 2022 Philanthropy Australia National Conference in September demonstrated that nothing replaces sharing stories and experiences in person.

Over three days (900+ in person delegates gathered in Sydney, and many others who participated virtually), the sector celebrated the theme For the Love of Humanity: People, Place and Planet.

Inspiring, thought-provoking speakers and panelists shared their learnings, experiences, frustrations and hopes throughout the Conference.
We gathered together some notes on what made us think, reflect and wonder about how we can best play our part, as a leading source of philanthropic funding. 

Defining philanthropy and our role

“At the heart of philanthropy, is humility, love and joy - no matter the size of the gift” – Jack Heath, CEO Philanthropy Australia
Stan Grant in his keynote address, State of the Nation challenged the audience by asking, “Is philanthropy focusing on the right things; can it / will it make a sufficient difference or will it just play around the edges making some of the givers feel good about themselves?”
If you’re sitting in a room that makes you uncomfortable, that’s a very good place to be.  With discomfort, follows the question: to stay idle, or take action in a meaningful way? 
“Maintaining status quo is the biggest risk we can be taking” – according to Shelley Cable, Generation One, Minderoo One Foundation.
Dr Andrew Leigh MP spoke of the Greek word for love - Agape, “a selfless love that is passionately committed to the wellbeing of others, seen as the highest level of love known to humanity” and he shared, it’s about the “we” not the “me”. 
While we have the privilege to sit, listen and reflect, we must remember that none of us are on this planet for very long, but while we are here, we all have the chance to make a difference in whatever way we can.
Chancellor Professor Peter Shergold AC asked: “Is philanthropy the answer? No. But is it a good starting point? Absolutely yes.”
How do we as philanthropists live our risk-capital rhetoric to invest in innovative ideas that might be highly unlikely, but if we get them right, could have such significant scalable impact – asked Professor Kristy Muir, CEO Paul Ramsay Foundation
In discussing impact investing, the panelists from Hand Heart Pocket Foundation and Paul Ramsay Foundation emphasised that “philanthropy plays the role of discovery” and spoke about the power of bringing together investment and granting/impact specialists to help for-purpose organisations or social enterprises determine funding or finance structures that work best for their specific outcomes. 
A challenge for philanthropists and trustees in realising the full potential of philanthropy is not to get sucked into only funding the “sure to be successful” initiatives (framed as: we shouldn’t be all “slam dunks and no moon shots”. - Dr Beth Breeze, Director of the Global Challenges Doctoral Centre and the Centre for Philanthropy, University of Kent.

For consideration when taking action

Language matters.  Dr Salmah Eva-Lina Lawrence who is the Director Systemic Change and Partnership with International Women’s Development Agency, offered her thinking that if we keep using terminology like third world versus first world, developed or under-developed, we are automatically creating a power imbalance. She raised the well-documented concept of a majority and minority world, which removes the pre-conceived power imbalance. • The power of listening.  First Australian business leader, Naomi Anstess stressed the need to listen and learn from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Indigenous populations.  To recognise that they know their culture best, along with what works in creating lasting change in their communities.  Naomi also shared that First Australian communities don’t want a “hand out” – they wish to be empowered to “do it for themselves”, via self-determination.
Funder accountability for impact creates true partnerships and ensures that philanthropic dollars are going in the right direction.  “What’s really good about accountability for impact is that it creates a more equal dynamic with the doers. It’s way more equal. And if you’re accountable for impact, you’re as grateful to them for their impact as they are for your money. You’re now interdependent and you can be real partners instead of lip-service partners” – Kevin Starr, CEO Mulago Foundation
Kevin also shared that for funders, it is absolutely critical to understand your own mission and know what you’re setting out to accomplish and understand what success or failure looks like.
“If you want to diversify your funding, diversify your team” - Shelley Cable, Generation One, Minderoo One Foundation around the impact of having team members who are connected and interested in different beneficiary groups and how much this can aid in funding new areas in impactful ways
If you aren’t funding First Nations people and organisations, why aren’t you?

The importance of collaboration

“In a world of complexity, we can’t do any of this alone. None of us can. We are but one of the actors in the system and there is great opportunity for all of us to come together and co-create a different future” – Professor Kristy Muir, CEO Paul Ramsay Foundation
Know when to get out of the way of the do-ers, but also ask, “what can we do to help?”
Craig and Di Winkler, leading Australian philanthropists shared – “We aren’t the experts”, so they listen to the communities they support, learn and then apply this to their philanthropy.
“Trust and relationships are core to impact, but trust takes time to build” - Birger Stamperdahl - President and CEO, Give2Asia. 
The donor and the doer is not a binary relationship.
The newly appointed Assistant Minister, Competition, Charities and Treasury, The Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP spoke about the government’s priorities in relation to charities – which included a focus on the harmonisation of fundraising laws, nationally, reducing the reporting burden on charities as well as increasing the focus on impact.  He noted, “More generally as a community we need a greater focus on community, connection and collectivism”
CEO of Common Ground, Rona Glynn-Mcdonald spoke about the power of storytelling.  She asked, “how do stories inform the way we think, act and do? Can we create stories that bring us together rather than tear us apart?”

These observations were provided by Denise Cheng, Relationship Manager, Active Philanthropy, and attendee at this year’s conference.

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