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Giving strategically with thought, purpose and impact doesn’t just happen – it takes time, consideration and research.
The Equity Trustees Giving Consultancy exists to guide and support philanthropists and their families to establish and confirm, values and aspirations for their giving. This collaborative approach to developing the strategy also enhances the family ability to know themselves before they embark where they would like to give, now and into the future.
The Giving Consultancy process, delivered by your Relationship Manager covers:

Vision for the change you wish to create
Family values and how they apply to charitable organisation selection
Mission statement for how you wish to achieve your vision
Giving risk tolerance to evaluate the risk appetite you have to achieve the change
Succession plan to see your giving continue into the future.

Understanding a family’s concept of ‘effective giving’ is an important discussion during the Giving Consultancy process.  The family’s definition of effective giving will influence how, where and to who they give.  Over time, these giving behaviours will modify and transform as families become more comfortable, informed and reflective, as their giving develops. 


The conversation about risk takes place as a part of defining ‘effective giving’.  Understanding a family’s giving risk appetite means a greater understanding of potential giving options, and a greater chance for satisfaction with the impact it can make.
There are a number of ways philanthropists can support the for-purpose sector, and there is no single right answer or universal solution.
As a philanthropist, you can support organisations within an existing system, or look to change or create a new system for organistions to operate within. Either way, there are varying levels of risk; the important thing is to know where you are on the spectrum of giving ‘risk’ – are you comfortable directing your giving to newer ventures or untested projects or approaches, or organisations, or do you prefer established organisations and programs – or somewhere in between?
Understanding what level of risk a family is willing to take and clearly setting giving objectives means that philanthropists are offering their donation with eyes wide open and recognising an identified level of risk. No other grant-making group has this same freedom in choosing the risk it wishes to take, which is why philanthropy is often referred to as ‘society’s risk capital.’
Conversely, Government funding is often risk averse. It allocates taxpayer funds which has inherent obligations and accountability. It is often more likely to fund charities after program success has been demonstrated and measured.
Corporate funders also have different obligations and accountabilities again -  and often aim to reflect their employee or shareholder preferences in their giving, which can mean their risk appetite is often low.  Only philanthropic funders have the freedom to experiment with new solutions and flexibly build new systems that solve existing or emerging problems.
When we talk risk appetite, philanthropists might choose to fund something that is tried and true, and solutions that are effective within our current knowledge of how the world works.  Others may choose to fund ‘systems change’.


The concept of ‘systems thinking’ originated in 1956 in the hallways of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management (MIT Sloan).  Systems thinking is an approach to analysis that focuses on how the different parts of a system interrelate and understanding how things influence the other.

In philanthropy, ‘systems change’ thinking is starting to evolve as many grant-makers are seeking to understand the complexity of different systems and look holistically at shifting the multiple conditions that hold problems in place.  So rather than sustaining existing systems, they look to transform them to something new.
Systems change is still misunderstood, but at its core it involves tackling the root causes of a social problem by changing policies, power dynamics, the flow of money, talent, and other resources — and sometimes even transforming customs and mind-sets.

It is a complex and long-term approach and requires more resources than a single grant-maker will have access to.
For philanthropists who are at the start of their giving journey, or even a bit further along, is it possible to adopt systems change thinking in your granting?
Definitely, but to do so we need to look upstream:

Consider your chosen cause area and dig deeper into the root cause of the situation, looking beyond the symptoms of a social issue
Examine the critical players in the ‘system’ who are creating positive change, listen and consult, then invest in those players
Partner and collaborate with other grant-makers who are also invested in systems change
Support organisations on a multi-year and ‘untied’, flexible basis, allowing organisations you trust to invest in new approaches and emergent work.
The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) is supported by Equity Trustees and is undertaking ground-breaking research around systems change in philanthropy.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Giving Consultancy or systems change grant-making, speak with your Relationship Manager.