The recent announcement of a $10m donation by the Hansen Trust (Jane Hansen and Paul Little) to the Arts Faculty at the University of Melbourne highlights the importance that such large gifts play in strengthening the financial base of Australian Universities.
The value of University philanthropy in Australia now totals around $500m annually. The growth in giving is evidenced by the fact that less than two decades ago, many Australian Universities did not even have formal development offices.
Interestingly, at a global level, higher education is the most supported sector when it comes to giving from individuals, foundations and companies according to the annual Coutts Million Dollar Donor Report, 2014. Of the around US$25b donated on a global basis (covering identifiable gifts of more than US$1m), US$9b is directed to the higher education sector, which is well above that given to arts, culture, health or other public benefit institutions.
Philanthropy, like most sectors, is changing rapidly. It is also highly competitive. As Australian Universities seek to improve their attractiveness to possible donor partners and differentiate themselves they could look to some of the trends identified in the US and Europe. These include:
The future for University philanthropy is bright and the payoff to institutions, students and society substantial. A growing focus by Australian Universities on external engagement activities will no doubt result in increasing interest by potential donors – large and small.
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