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Becoming a philanthropist

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In February 2013, the Australian National University (ANU) announced the establishment of the Tuckwell Scholarship program. The $50 million donation by Graham and Louise Tuckwell to the ANU is the most generous gift to benefit students in Australian history.

The term ‘philanthropy’ often invokes images of wealthy individuals making large donations to charities and other organisations, but around 9 in 10 Australians make at least one donation each year.

According to Australian government figures, individuals and businesses give around $11 billion in money, goods and services each year, but the average donation is just $494.  Around $5 billion of annual gifts are made to charitable causes, often on an ad hoc basis in response to emergencies and appeals.

Although this is an easy and flexible way to make donations, it can be difficult to see the results or measure the outcomes of the gift. There is also little likelihood of the giving continuing after your death, unless you make a specific provision for this in your will.

Most Australians make donations because they believe in the project or cause receiving the donation. Approaching giving on a more planned or structured basis can help you to make sure that your personal contributions have the maximum impact.

There are many options for planned giving, including:

  • using a payroll giving scheme
  • making donations through an intermediary
  • setting up your own charity
  • setting up a charitable foundation such as a private ancillary fund
  • making a bequest to a charity in a will
  • establishing a grant-making foundation in a will.

Using a payroll giving scheme or making donations through an intermediary can automate your giving, but you may have little flexibility or say in how your donations are used.

Establishing your own charity can be an expensive and time-consuming option, but a charitable foundation could be a more practical solution. Charitable foundations can be structured in three ways:

  • A private ancillary fund (PAF) with a corporate trustee is a deductible gift recipient (DGR), which means that donations to the fund are tax deductible. There are restrictions on how the fund operates and the gifts it can make.
  • A private charitable trust (PCT) is a slightly more flexible structure than a PAF and can be established and controlled by an individual, family or company. PCTs can be endorsed as an income tax exempt charity (ITEC), but there is no tax deduction available for people donating to the trust.
  • A public ancillary fund is a grant-making foundation established by trust deed. It can only exist for the purposes of providing grants to DGRs. It must be managed by members of a committee or board and the public must be invited to contribute to the fund, and must actually contribute to it.

An endowment fund is a popular alternative to establishing a charitable foundation. Not only can an endowment be started with smaller amounts, but the trustees can also manage the regulatory compliance, reporting, administration, annual accounts, auditing, investment and distribution of funds.

When you make a donation using an endowment fund, you essentially create your own endowment sub-account within an existing charitable foundation. Your donations are invested and each year the income is distributed to a range of charitable and non-profit organisations. You can also make recommendations to the trustee regarding the beneficiary of the grants from your endowment.

If you would like to be more proactive in your giving, or just want to know more about what it entails, please contact the Bongiorno team.


Commonwealth of Australia (2005), Giving Australia: Research on Philanthropy in Australia. Available from [cited 14 February 2013].

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