Generosity is a family tradition Stuart and Genevieve Fraser are sharing with their children and their friends. Jo Garner discovers how they hope to help make the world a better place through giving.
Giving has always been a way of life for Stuart and Genevieve Fraser. They are as proactive as they are passionate about following the example of generosity set by their families, in particular Stuart’s father Huan, who established the Queensland-based Private Ancillary Fund (PAF) called the Fraser Foundation, which they now manage.
Every year the Fraser Foundation makes around three grants to each of the five organisations it supports, mostly through multi-year commitments. The Frasers trace their goals as young philanthropists – both are 39 years old – to their upbringing on remote outback properties where their parents instilled in them the importance of never turning a blind eye to people in need.
The dynamic duo tells F&P about their philanthropic interests, how they see the future of their family PAF and philanthropy in Australia.
How did the Fraser Foundation come to be?
Stuart: Dad was a grazier but he always held a strong interest in public service. He became a shire councillor and later was appointed minister for industry, small business and technology in 1989. His experience in politics highlighted a need for accessible finance options for small to medium businesses and the family business, Winscourt Investments, was established to help meet that need.
In 2006, dad decided to establish the Fraser Foundation. He believed everyone has an obligation to public service and also served on charitable boards.
Sadly, he died quite suddenly in February, 2010, so I now manage the business, and Genevieve and I run the PAF and our other giving interests.
What defines the areas the Fraser Foundation invests in?
Genevieve: We invest in projects we know intimately, as well as those Stuart’s dad was passionate about, to honour his legacy. Huan was a committed Catholic. He always felt strongly about supporting the clergy, and the PAF still commits funding to that today through the Archdiocese in Brisbane.
Stuart and I also look for organisations that deliver projects which address critical issues at the grassroots level. Growing up in the outback, and living and working alongside indigenous and non-indigenous people, we lean towards causes addressing basic social needs. The organisations we support through our time, expertise and grants include Centacare, 80/20 Vision (Zimbabwe), OzHarvest (food rescue) and the Walkabout Foundation (indigenous micro-enterprise).
What role do you believe philanthropy plays in society?
Genevieve: This is where I get on my soapbox: I think it is wrong for people to expect government to solve all society’s problems. The big issues require creative thinking and commitment beyond the political cycle.
There is a role for people who have the capacity to invest in social venture capital to say, “let’s give it a go.” Not all investments are going to be successful, just like other start-ups, but philanthropy is better suited to those pilot projects than government funding.
Our parents taught both of us from an early age that you can sit on the sidelines and criticise, but how will you influence change? So let’s not play a passive role. Get involved.
As young philanthropists what do you see ahead for philanthropy in Australia?
Stuart: Philanthropy is not just for people in their twilight years. Every stage in your life allows you to give to your community, whether it be time, expertise, networks or money. We enjoy those causes that understand our generation’s need to see it, feel it and touch it. It helps when you can witness real change – no matter how small to start with.
There is a challenge for second-generation philanthropists to identify the differences in values between them and those who originally established the foundation. We have had to find a balance between honouring the original philanthropic intent and also supporting causes we are passionate about.
Genevieve: Philanthropy Australia’s move into Brisbane means we now have a small but growing network of other philanthropists to work alongside. This has made it easier for us to get friends to think about giving by involving them with other people our age interested in philanthropy.
I think the future of philanthropy will involve grant seekers better engaging with the next generation of givers. Charities will be competing to actively engage donors and keep them feeling connected to the cause. Social media has also created a critical need to tell your story in a compelling way or get lost amongst the crowd of ‘asks’.
What is the future of the Fraser Foundation?
Stuart: In addition to exploring co-funding and multi-year commitments, so we can be more strategic in pursuing real outcomes, we want to explore giving more to overseas communities in need in the future. While we are still working we will continue to make annual contributions to our PAF’s corpus.
As parents we are introducing the concept of giving to our two children who are five and six. This means explaining, even if only at a basic level, what it means to sacrifice some of the things you want (ice cream!) for things that other people need (food/shelter).
Genevieve: We hope this will make them act compassionately and lead them to get involved in giving. This honours their grandad’s wishes and resonates with our family values.
Jo Garner is the director of Strategic Grants and a regular conference presenter on the grant seeking process. She has worked with dozens of charities across Australia helping raise millions of dollars in philanthropic and government grant funding.