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Give a little, get a lot

When you retire you may have a wealth of things on your to-do list, but if one of your aspirations is to personally help others there are ways to do it that don’t require you to be a billionaire.


Lots of people think about volunteering their time to support a favourite cause, but they leave financial support until after they’ve passed away. However, donating your money as well as your time in retirement can be a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the joy of giving.

Often people donate money in an ad-hoc way when a cause appeals. But there is a lot of satisfaction to be gained from planning and prioritising your giving.

Krystian Seibert, industry fellow, Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne University of Technology, sheds some light on the state of giving in Australia. “Total giving to Australian charities in 2016 was $10.5 billion. Most of that is on the smaller end of the scale. The bulk comes from monthly donations people make to a favourite charity, or one-off donations in response to a Christmas or disaster appeal,” he says.

“About $1.5 billion is what’s called ‘structured philanthropy’. This is philanthropy at the larger end of the scale, which tends to be planned and strategic, and generally involves using some sort of dedicated legal structure to facilitate it, such as a philanthropic foundation.”

Where there’s a will

Even though Australia is about to see the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in our history in the next two decades, with $2.4 trillion expected to pass from Baby Boomers to the next generation, Seibert says: “Giving through bequests made in wills is currently low.”

She points to a 2012 study that found only 7.6 per cent of wills had a charitable bequest, and they accounted for only 2.7 per cent of the total value of estates.

Of course, planned giving doesn’t always require setting up a legal structure. Philanthropy Australia suggests some of the things you should consider include how much you intend to give; the timeframe for your giving; and the level of engagement you want as a donor.

There are situations where you may not need to set up a philanthropic structure, such as a public or private ancillary fund or a charitable foundation, according to Philanthropy Australia. For instance, if you are giving a one-off amount; giving for a short period; or if you plan to give a relatively small amount – less than $10,000.

You may be able to give without setting up a separate structure if tax deductibility isn’t required or if it’s easier for you to give a tax deductible donation directly to a charitable organisation you wish to support.

Remember, however, that it makes sense to talk things over with your financial planner, accountant or other professional adviser if you plan to give large sums of money.

For those who want to experience the joy of giving with other like-minded people, collective giving can be a terrific way to get started with relatively small amounts.

Giving circles, such as Impact100 WA and similar ones based in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, typically involve 100 people donating $1,000 each year to make a collective grant of $100,000 to a charitable organisation. Members vote on which organisation to support from a shortlist of possibilities.

The Impact100 giving circles are structured through foundations such as the Sydney Community Foundation and the Australian Communities Foundation. Donations are tax deductible and the funds are held by the foundation.

Collective giving can also take the form of the event-based Funding Network, where individuals, businesses and foundations come together for a pitch-style event.

Overall, if giving back is something you’re interested in doing, there are plenty of options – and you don’t have to be rich to do so.