It is a real pleasure to join you at this Skyline Education Foundation Chair’s Reception to celebrate the Skyline students and scholars, the schools and educational partners and the generous donors and sponsors who enable it all.
I’m very lucky, I work in a world of givers and change-agents, where everyone is striving to deliver positive change for people, communities and the environment. Like you, I get to see the beauty and impact of philanthropy on the world we live in, and the power of philanthropy to bring us together to create positive social change.
You probably know that philanthropy means ‘love of mankind’ – that authentic and fundamental humanity that connects us all. More pragmatically, at Philanthropy Australia, we define philanthropy as “the planned and structured giving of funds, through grants and social impact investments, to improve the wellbeing of humanity and the community”. What sets philanthropy apart from more spontaneous and reflexive giving, is that it is giving by design, with thoughtful intent and is most often coupled with the giving of expertise, capacity building, and of voice and influence.
The purpose of my organisation, Philanthropy Australia is very simple – we are here to help create more and better philanthropy. We are a peak, membership body for individuals, entities and organisations that are engaged or want to be engaged in philanthropy. As Aristotle said,
“To give away money is an easy matter and in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter.”
As the professional association for philanthropy, if you like, our job is to help people see it is in their power and to make it as effective, engaging, impactful and rewarding as possible (if not always easy!). When we pause and look around, we find so many examples of philanthropy having a profound impact and making a difference. Philanthropy to support education, through scholarships like Skyline, is one of the most effective and fortunately common ways, to help drive positive change.
Nelson Mandela said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Many scholarship programs have measured their impact and success based on a ‘social return on investment’ framework. This measures what ‘value’ is created for every dollar invested. Good scholarship programs can create over $4 dollars-worth of value, or social return, for every $1 invested.
Skyline has measured its net return on investment to be as much as 2000%, based on the cost of supporting one student through VCE.
So you can see why our goal of growing philanthropy has a pretty sound rational basis. I stress, however, that philanthropy as a proportion of all social investment is tiny. If you look at one dollar of social change currency, philanthropy is only 1 cent in that dollar. (Other forms of giving represent about 7 cents, about 52 cents comes from the charities and non-profits themselves, earning their own income, and the remaining 40 cents from government).
Another sobering observation would be that the need for philanthropy is as great as ever – inequity, disadvantage, injustice, threats to the environment, to civic society, to culture – we face them all with increasing intensity. In this context, the role of the philanthropic dollar, compared to a government or corporate dollar, is a stand out.
It is the only dollar in the mix which is really free, really able to play the part of the risk taker, the experimenter, the social venture capital – to seek out the break-through ideas and solutions we so desperately need, and to back the potential and the development of our future leaders and change-makers, like the young people in the Skyline program.
I just want to finish with some quotes. The first one is from James Baldwin, an African American poet and social critic, he said: “We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it.”
So, to the students and scholars here, you are committed, you have persisted and like Malcom X, you know that your “education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
To the schools and education providers here, you know, like Kofi Annan, that “education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”
And to the donors and philanthropists here, thank you, because you all know, as Nelson Henderson did, that “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”
That’s the beauty and power of philanthropy.