Twelve Australian private foundations have made a commitment to greater transparency by participating in a new study that examines how and where their grants were distributed over a three-year period.

Where the Money Goes: Private wealth for public good’ is a joint project of the Centre for Social Impact at the University of New South Wales and the Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Investment and Philanthropy at Swinburne University of Technology. The study was also supported by the Myer and the Telstra Foundations.

The research investigated data from more than four thousand grants made to the Australian community between 2009 and 2011, totaling $207 million. Data was measured by cause, sector, and region – an analysis described by the University of New South Wales as a “first”.

Results found that the majority of grants were “small and fragmented”, with 80% consisting of less than $50,000 each.

Major cause areas to receive the most funding were:

  • 23.6%: Health, Wellbeing and Medical Research
  • 16.8%: Poverty and Disadvantage
  • 10.9%: Indigenous Programs
  • 10.7%: Arts, Culture and Humanities

At the other end of the spectrum, 1% of funding was directed to ‘Ageing Futures’.

The data also showed that since the Global Financial Crisis the total monetary value of grants made by foundations was down from an average of $6.69m per foundation in 2009, to $5.06m in 2011.

Lead author, Centre for Social Impact Philanthropy Fellow Gina Anderson, said that data collection informs the grantmaking of individual foundations, as well as the wider philanthropic and nonprofit sector.

“It can potentially enable foundations to avoid duplication in their granting [and] identify under-served communities and geographic regions … Additional benefits include the promotion of collaboration among funders, and information for inclusion in public policy making,” Anderson said.

In the Forward to the report, Director of Swinburne University of Technology’s Asia Pacific Centre for Social Investment & Philanthropy Professor John Fitzgerald described the participating foundations as “pioneers”.

“Evidence from outside Australia suggests that greater public access to core information on foundations and programs enhances public trust and improves performance,” he says.

“There is every reason to believe that this report, by expanding access to information on foundations and programs, will also enhance public trust and help lift the performance of the sector in Australia.”

READ THE REPORT HERE: ‘Where the Money Goes: Private wealth for public good’.

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