Major Australian donors, including the Fairfax family, Deanne Weir, John Grill and Bill Moss, recently gathered at the Generosity Forum.

Some of the biggest names in Australian giving recently gathered at Sydney’s Swissôtel for the annual philanthropic summit, the Generosity Forum, with a range of leading donors and industry experts sharing their insights at the conference.

The event attracted more than 170 delegates, including funders, advisors, social entrepreneurs, collective giving group members, community foundation representatives, trust/foundation administrators and nonprofit executives.

The annual summit, which is presented by F&P, aims to keep the philanthropic community up to date with how the giving landscape is shifting, including new developments, learnings from case studies and a dash of inspiration.

Leading philanthropists open the conference

The Generosity Forum kicked off with a keynote presentation by businessman-turned-philanthropist Bill Moss AO and his daughter Natalie Cooney, who were introduced by Equity Trustees’ General Manager of Charitable Trusts and Philanthropy, Jodi Kennedy.

Moss shared the powerful story of how his personal struggle with the disease facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) led him to create a charity that funds groundbreaking research into curing the genetic muscle-wasting illness.

In conversation with Jeremy Bradshaw, the Founder and Publisher of F&P, Moss and Cooney detailed their experience with the award-winning progressive charity they founded – the FSHD Global Research Foundation – including key lessons and their approach to philanthropy.

This was followed by a second keynote that provided insights on giving from one of the leading families in Australian business and philanthropy, the Fairfaxes.

In a conversation with Future Generation CEO Louise Walsh, John B. and Nick Fairfax discussed the role giving has played in bringing together two generations of the iconic family, as well as what they have learnt about the practice of philanthropy.

“We look for good people, that’s essential. You can’t be honest with yourself if you don’t commit funds to people you can trust in,” John B. Fairfax said.

Philanthropic pioneers present

Following morning tea, sponsored by Australian Ethical, the conference broke into a series of smaller sessions covering various aspects of Australian giving.

During one of these sessions, AskRIGHT Chairman Dr Daniel McDiarmid unveiled the findings from a groundbreaking new study into Australia’s public ancillary funds.

The role philanthropy should  play in building nonprofit sector capacity was discussed by panel of experts including Equity Trustees’ Grant Hooper, Mat Tinkler from Save the Children, and Cerebral Palsy Alliance Chair Professor Nadia Badawi.

How the big data revolution is profoundly reshaping philanthropy and the community sector in Australia was examined by WeirAnderson Foundation Director Deanne Weir, Seer Data & Analytics CEO Kristi Mansfield, and community change agent Anna Powell.

But perhaps the biggest highlight of morning was conversation, facilitated by Schools Plus CEO Rosemary Conn, on the groundbreaking Pioneers in Philanthropy initiative.

The brainchild of David Gonski, this education initiative is a collaboration between some of Australia’s most highly-regarded business leaders and philanthropists to challenge the status quo in school funding.

Education philanthropists John Grill and Rosie Williams explained why the Pioneers model appealed to them, how they work collaboratively with other donors, what they have learnt from the initiative, how it is evolving, and their hopes for its future.

They were joined by Smithfield Public School Relieving Principal Jodi Harris, who detailed how the initiative benefited her school in southwestern Sydney through the funding of a ‘Schools as Community Hubs’ program.

“Having donors involved in school projects is a new initiative that has opened our eyes. It allows us to see other avenues we can use to build our industry,” Harris said.

“I find it extremely satisfying to be part of the process from the beginning. This allows me to see where the money is going and learn what works for the different schools and communities,” Grill said. “The best KPI is visiting a school and actually seeing the difference your donation is making.”

Afternoon sessions

Delegates heard a range of new insights from Dr Dave Kennedy about The Atlantic Philanthropies (AP), which gave $549 million in grants to grow biomedical research, higher education, social equity and nonprofit capacity.

There were also sessions focusing on local giving (through the Sydney Community Foundation), arts funding, and the application of tech start-up techniques to grantmaking (Atlassian Foundation).

The Generosity Forum closed with panel discussions on religious philanthropy, which featured insights from Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist giving traditions, as well as the rise of Asian philanthropy in Australia, which featured an insightful discussion on cross-cultural sensitivities and issues in giving.

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