What does leadership in philanthropy look like from the point of view of a young, female philanthropist based in WA?

When I think about leadership in philanthropy, this is my vision: I want leaders to represent me and help me in my philanthropic journey to make a bigger impact. Leaders who make learning networks accessible, who are unafraid to lead innovative conversations that challenge stereotypes and build inclusivity. 

Like so many other young philanthropists, I am a willing contributor to this vision and seize every opportunity to bring my experience, skills and networks to the sector to build a bigger giving community for everyone.

Philanthropy is no longer just for people who have extraordinary wealth or status. We are increasingly global citizens and everyday people want an opportunity to be part of something that improves the world in which we live.

This dynamic view of philanthropy is what excites me most and we all have an opportunity to reshape the thinking about giving to encourage greater diversity of donors and beneficiaries.

Engaging everyday philanthropists

At 100 Women we work hard to showcase how everyday Australians can be involved in philanthropy, by combining our smaller donations to provide larger, more impactful grants. This is key to expanding opportunities not only for individuals, but also for those who seek funding to fulfill community projects.

In 2014, I don’t think any of us on our 100 Women Advisory Committee could have predicted how popular and important our face-to-face events would be. From small cafe meet-ups to philanthropy workshops for businesses and large-scale events, our events calendar was full and well received because people love to connect about philanthropy.

By the end of the year, we were worn out just trying to keep up with the demand for such events.Generosity_100-Women-leadership

This experience proved to us that there is a demand for these kinds of events from the Western Australian public, and within the sector we need more partnerships and greater collaboration between organisations of all sizes to build capability and impact.

Engagement is critical to expanding the vision of philanthropy yet there remains many barriers to learning and contributing to the sector.

At both state and national levels, many philanthropic organisations have prohibitively expensive membership fees, expensive educational events and closed invitation lists that keep newer or younger aspiring philanthropists disengaged and uninvolved.

Making education accessible

Getting from the west coast to the eastern states for conferences, workshops and seminars isn’t easy. As a Western Australian with an active business, young family and volunteering commitments, I’d love to see more philanthropic education options online such as online streaming of events, webinars and further developing online resources such as Generosity so that we can participate in conversations and hear from the experts.

Australia is a big country and we need to find ways that make philanthropy education accessible to everyone, no matter where they live.

The Nexus Youth Summit is a great example of philanthropy education that brings a new audience to the sector. With a commitment to accessibility, Nexus in its first year offered full scholarships for attendees and an option for all ticket holders to donate towards the expenses of these tickets.

Forging innovative mentoring and partnerships

Here in Perth, we have twelve of the most committed, talented and savvy volunteers working on the evolution of 100 Women. From the ground up they have developed our marketing, membership, grant process and finance strategies. The majority of them are hard working professionals under the age of 35 and some are new to philanthropy.

They are keen to connect with mentors in the philanthropic sector to share their knowledge and experiences for mutual benefit. We have reached out to make this happen but unfortunately have met with limited success.

How can we engage in peer mentoring, intergenerational mentoring or e-mentoring to strengthen the philanthropic sector, re-energise each other and stretch our thinking?

I’ve been fortunate enough to be connected to, and had some wonderful conversations with, established philanthropists on the east coast who have shared with me their journeys and ideas. I would love to see how the dynamism, innovation and passion of emerging philanthropic leaders could be coupled with the knowledge and expertise of well-known philanthropists and foundations.

Generosity_100-Women-MichelleInclusive cultures

We still have a long way to go when it comes to changing the face of philanthropy to be more inclusive.

Greater encouragement of well-known philanthropic foundations and industry organisations to engage more leaders who are under 40, female and from diverse cultural backgrounds, could be one way to make that happen.

Having more of these people on boards would open up opportunities to create a shared vision for the philanthropic sector, one that includes true diversity. It would foster innovative ideas, new partnerships and allow a wider set of voices to be heard.

Australians of all ages, backgrounds and experience, want a way to give back. We can all play a role in expanding the vision of philanthropy in this country by fostering innovative ideas, forging new partnerships and encouraging a broader range of people to be involved in philanthropy.



Alicia Curtis is cofounder and chair of one of Australia’s fastest growing giving groups, 100 Women. She has received dozens of local and international awards for her leadership training and community service and in 2014 she was named on the Financial Review/Westpac 100 Women of Influence list.

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