Kevin Bailey is a committed Catholic who has always been driven by a strong ethos for social justice. Here he tells Lise Taylor about his experiences as a philanthropist.
Back in the mid 1980s, I started working in the financial services sector. Prior to this I had served with the Australian SAS Regiment in the Army. It was here that I met some veterans of the 2/2nd and 2/4th Independent Companies who had fought in Timor Leste during WWII. They alerted me to the injustice the East Timorese had suffered and, consequently, I pledged to help the Timorese achieve self-determination.
I am a committed Catholic and within our church there is a strong ethos for social justice and what we call ‘corporate works of mercy’. As a result, my wife and I have had a history of volunteering and contributing where we can to help people less fortunate and, where possible, to make a difference in our community.
As I was building a successful financial planning business I was always involved in developing the profession by involvement with the Financial Planning Association of Australia and volunteering on numerous committees and activities. In addition to this we continued to be involved in church activities and worked to support the Timorese people.
At Timor Leste’s independence, I was humbled to be named its Honorary Consul General. By the time the Shadforth Financial Group was founded, I had already become involved in several aid and development organisations and helped to establish Shadforth’s Philanthropic Services Division.
I believe philanthropic planning is a critical aspect of financial planning, otherwise we can fall into the trap of accumulating money for the sake of just accumulating.
Planners have a responsibility to discuss values and purpose as a part of planning for individual goals. None of us are an island unto ourselves.
Following IOOF’s purchase of Shadforth Financial Group in 2014, I realised an opportunity to concentrate more of my time on my philanthropic interests, which I continue to pursue on a full-time basis.
What shaped your early views on philanthropy?
Many of us believe philanthropy is only for the super wealthy. In fact, each of us has a responsibility to be using our time, talent and treasure for the greater good and not just enriching ourselves.
This is part of what gives meaning and purpose to our lives. My wife and I have seven children and it is critical that we demonstrate a community consciousness to raise them to become contributing members of society.
My parents struggled financially all their lives but they always had an ethos of volunteering and supporting others. They lived lives of sacrifice but had a richness and a joy that had a big influence on me.
Who have been your role models?
One of the great benefits of being involved in philanthropic pursuits is meeting some extraordinary and generous people along the way. Harold Mitchell, who is the founder of Mitchell & Partners, had a big influence on me when I heard him speak about setting up a foundation. He inspired me to establish a PAF in 2004 and I added to this fund substantially when I sold down a majority of my shares in Shadforth in 2014 and built a corpus from which to distribute funds for many years to come.
US author Bob Buford, who wrote the book Half Time, also influenced me with his concept of how in the second half of our life we have the chance to move from success to significance in what we are doing. A big part of life is leaving a legacy and being a contributor. To do this, we must be intentional in what we do and the decisions we make
What causes do you like to support?
I am on the boards of several community-based organisations. My involvement reflects my passions and I am keen to support church-based organisations that share my values.
Parousia Media supports churches and schools in faith education and encourages people to become more involved in what they believe, as well as bringing resources to Australia and the South East Asian region. This takes up a lot of my energy.
I am on the board of Alpha and work with churches on being more relevant and to reach out to the wider community. I have just taken up the role of Chairman of the William Wilburforce Foundation, which will keep me very busy. We work with ex-offenders with an aim to stop recidivism. I am also involved in supporting the establishment of a new school in Victoria called Harkaway Hills College, which is focused on integrating academic excellence with developing the students’ characters and virtues.
In addition, I am on the board of Halftime Australia, helping others to become more involved in the community, and am a director of the Fatherhood Foundation and its work with Dads4Kids. My wife and I have been involved for 27 years with the Marriage Education Program in the Catholic Church.
I was recently appointed to the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership. The Partnership was formed to promote a culture of giving and volunteering in Australia. Members will advise the government on practical strategies to foster a culture of philanthropic giving, volunteering and investment in Australia in order to empower communities and build a stronger social fabric and more social capital.
I am a Director of Empart Inc (formerly Compassion for India), which works to transform communities in India and Nepal by training local people to develop churches in the local community. Through this, we are able to provide transformational care, training and education to the wider community.
I also like to be involved in community issues, with East Timor being close to my heart. I ran the Consulate in Melbourne for East Timor for 11 years after it gained its independence in 2002. I was a director of the Investment Advisory Board of the Petroleum Fund of Timor-Leste for nine
years until stepping down just recently. This was tremendously rewarding and a very practical way to ensure revenue from petroleum assets was well managed and able to develop the country.
I have been involved in organisations supporting East Timor and a number of developing countries in our region. I am currently on the Council of Opportunity International. I was on the Board of Action Aid International and I support some organisations through my PAF.
I find it is important not just to be involved financially but to be actively involved on the ground so I find I end up travelling a lot.
How could charities do better in engaging major donors?
The short answer is in building relationships… building strong relationships and nurturing them. Treat your donors as individuals, sharing your passion about your mission once you know them.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that those who ask for money get advice and those who ask for advice get money. It’s important to remember to value donors for something other than their cheque books. Many donors have so much to share with a charity other than money. If they feel you are interested in them more than just for their money, they will be more inclined to reciprocate by being more interested in how they can help your mission. If they give a small amount, continue building the relationship and they are more likely to feel valued and donate more over time.
What is your key philanthropic interest?
My major interest is to discover what we can do to transform our community and empower people to move from the concept of success to significance. We need to uncover our unique purpose and get about doing what we need to do to accomplish that. I also particularly like to support work in the areas of marriage and family.