So…I guess I’m one of those philanthropist wankers. (Part 4)

In part four of this special four part series, David Hardie looks ahead and thinks about what needs doing to take his philanthropy to the next stage.  You can and should check out parts one, two and three of David’s wonderfully honest story about his philanthropic journey.

A set of values is a good start but as I’ve been reading through the Annual Reports and websites of various Foundations I have noted that the vision and mission thing features prominently. Now I suspect it’s a result of sitting through a few too many strategic planning sessions in the government sector, but I’ve traditionally been a bit of a cynic when it comes to visions. So I initially decided that what would work for me was capturing how the Foundation would work – the things that would help define our approach to grantmaking. This may have been a ‘vision avoidance strategy’ but it kind of worked! I again just started writing down some words and phrases that are important to me, some of which are certainly borrowed from others and some that come from my own observations. Now I first wrote these down a few weeks back but reading them through again as I write this has made me realise that I’m still pretty happy with them. So here they are:

  • Open, honest communication in all its relationships
  • Listening with an open heart
  • Fun and laughter
  • Supporting good people with good ideas
  • Trust and mutual respect
  • Collaborating with and learning from others
  • Acknowledging and alleviating the power imbalance in the grantmaking relationship
  • Enabling grantees and communities to steer the work.

Now like a set of values, this is just a bunch of words and until they get tested by the complex realities of the grantmaking relationship, a bunch of words (albeit nice words!) is all they will be.

So that was where I got to over a few days and I was pretty happy with it. But when I revisited it after a break and after a bit more reading of some of my philanthropy journals, I did realise that there was something missing and that the ‘v and m thing’ did need to make an appearance.  So I sat back down and I eventually came up with this Slingsby Foundation vision and mission:

Our Vision:  A just and caring society that embraces difference.

Our Mission: To fund initiatives of the not for profit sector that strengthen the lives of those who are marginalised or experiencing disadvantage. We support organisations and projects that build on people’s strengths and help equip them with the capabilities to overcome disadvantage and lead happy, fulfilling lives.

And you know – I finally got to see what these things can do – they help set out what I’m aiming for and how I might go about helping to achieve this. I think they also will help the organisations and people that the Foundation will eventually support to get some insights into the type of Foundation that we want to be and why we might want to support them.

So that’s where I’m up to in June 2011. A little over ten years since my grandad passed away and approaching the year that will represent the 100th anniversary of his birth. And much to his surprise (and I suspect wry amusement), I’m finally interested in the share market. The Foundation has recently made its initial investments and I’m actually really enjoying the process of tracking them and learning about the vagaries of such things. Week one was looking great, week two not so great!

Of course it’s all about purpose and for me, the purpose of sound financial investment and wealth generation is related back to that vision and mission of the Foundation. And yes, a wider purpose of celebrating the life of someone (my grandad LindenLittle) whose hard work and commitment to excellence enables others to share the benefits of a life well led.

David Hardie recently worked as a Program Manager and Intern at the Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund. He is the Founder of the Slingsby Foundation and strongly believes that those Australians who are financially well-off should grow Australian philanthropy and help build the social fabric of the nation that has provided their wealth. 

So…I guess I’m one of those philanthropist wankers. (Part 3)

In part three of this special four part series, David Hardie looks at challenges faced when you want to take your philanthropy to that ‘next level’. You can learn more about David’s journey into philanthropy in parts one and two of his story.  The final instalment will be posted tomorrow, so make sure you pop back to check it out!

Stepping into the world of philanthropy, gradually feeling comfortable with my place in it and then establishing a private ancillary fund has led to the next big question. What do I do with it?

I’ve recently sat down and started to think about what this opportunity provides, what I’d like to achieve, who I want involved and what success and failure might look like. It’s been an interesting exercise and one that I’ve struggled with. Part of me wants to leap straight to developing really specific grantmaking priorities and program areas and just get on with it. I know that I want to support refugees and asylum seekers and to help tackle homophobia and that these are some of the issues that resonate with me. But I’ve also realised that while I might be ready to get on with it, there are others who I want to bring with me and that perhaps the most important thing in the initial few years is actually providing the space for their learning to take place. There’s also the reality of having very limited grantmaking capacity in the first few years!

I want this to be fun and for me, fun involves having my family and friends alongside me. So I’ve decided that a defining theme of the initial years of the Foundation will be its commitment to learning – for family and friends to gain experience in grantmaking practice and to learn about related issues. I want these learnings to shape the development of our longer term grantmaking strategies and processes. I want to make sure that I bring others with me and that it’s not just about my issues and my priority areas.

Nonetheless, I also really want to get some things down on paper now. I’ve always been a bit more of an implementer than a strategist but over the last year I’ve had the opportunity to listen, capture some learnings and really see the importance of having a strategy to guide your grantmaking. A key part of my learning and my own personal development in recent years has been taking the time to write stuff down – it’s amazing the power that the written word has when you really take the time to capture what’s going on. Over the last year there have been a few things that people have said that have resonated with me and that I didn’t want to lose. Stuff like this:

You need to find the people and the organisations you want to work with – not just the project or the issue

You should be risk welcoming

Never forget about the power dynamic between philanthropy and those that need the funding

Your decision making will often be subjective- accept this but keep analysing why you make the decisions you do

Most philanthropists try and do too many things

Don’t be scared to be eccentric and to support what others won’t – collaboration is fine but sometimes you just need to go it alone

Remember to keep asking the ‘so what?’ question

Guidelines and strategies are really important – and it’s also great to ignore them occasionally

It’s about heart and head – and heart is allowed to win.     

When I sat down with a blank piece of paper in front of me entitled Grantmaking Strategy these were some of the things that I started to think about.

I also started to think about the words that I wanted to be associated with the Slingsby Foundation and those words came to me very quickly – words like inclusion and diversity and justice and strength and compassion. I also knew that it would be a Foundation about people and that I wanted it to be values driven. So I started with this set of values:

Inclusion – Diversity – Strength – Compassion

I see these as the core or the heart of the Foundation and I’ve explicitly stated that they are to guide all Foundation activities. How will that play out in practice? No idea. But I certainly have learnt that when something doesn’t fit with a set of values you soon recognise that.

David Hardie recently worked as a Program Manager and Intern at the Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund. He is the Founder of the Slingsby Foundation and strongly believes that those Australians who are financially well-off should grow Australian philanthropy and help build the social fabric of the nation that has provided their wealth. 

So…I guess I’m one of those philanthropist wankers. (Part 2)

In part two of this special four part series, David Hardie takes us on his initial journey into philanthropy and explains how important personal connections are when starting to give. If you haven’t already, you should check out part one of David’s story, which gives you the low down on how he came to be a philanthropist.

The personal connection I formed with the Founder of the Sydney Community Foundation led me to make the decision to establish a sub-fund as part of the Foundation. This model appealed to me – it enabled me to have input into the areas the sub-fund might support but meant that I did not need to concern myself with the grantmaking and investment logistics – but knew that these were being well managed. That felt right and so in 2005 my sub-fund (named after my nephew Jack) was established and I started to allocate my annual proceeds from the family investment company into the sub-fund. The initial project that was supported through the sub-fund was one that had a deep personal connection for me. It was a project to support grandparents raising their grandchildren- being administered by the NSW Council on the Ageing. The connection was that this reflected my personal story as I had been raised by my grandparents from the age of seven. When I heard about the project it was a no-brainer that this would be my first sub-fund project!

The community foundation model has worked well for me – governance and investment decisions are sound and I’ve been able to have a level of input that has been appropriate for me at the time. I’ve also been able to diversify the areas I support. An area of growing interest for me over many years has been the challenges facing refugees and asylum seekers. I volunteered for a few years providing hands-on settlement support to newly arrived refugee families and also worked as a program coordinator for a project supporting refugee kids in schools (part of a massive career change but that’s another story!). Increasingly I have also despaired at the quality of political and public discourse on this issue. The most recent organisation supported by my SCF sub-fund has been the NSW Asylum Seekers Centre – a small organisation doing excellent work with very limited resources.

So my engagement in formal philanthropy has progressed in a slow but considered and increasingly structured manner over the last ten years. Alongside this I’ve also supported a couple of other initiatives – again they have a personal connection – and that does seem to be the consistent theme that drives my personal giving. The first was setting up an annual scholarship to fund a place for an individual from the not for profit sector to undertake the Sydney Leadership Program. That was a pivotal experience for me and one that I wanted others to share.  Secondly, I’ve provided three years of support to fund an annual student bursary (in the name of my niece Tara) in the recently established School for Social Entrepreneurs Australia. This came about because I was working alongside two amazing women who were involved in the initial establishment of SSE Australia back in 2008. I wanted to support their work and also wanted to help support the initial set-up of a program with huge potential.

That brings me to the here and now and the recent set up of a private ancillary fund. How did I get to this stage? Well, again it took a personal experience to show me the way. In 2010 I took up a role working at The Myer Foundation. When applying for this role it had become abundantly clear that I really wanted this experience (you know that rare moment when you can just feel that something is the right thing for you to be doing). Fortunately I got the job and apart from learning a lot about good grantmaking I also learnt about other formal forms of philanthropy such as private ancillary funds. Quite quickly I decided that this was the next step for me to take and so the Slingsby Foundation was founded in 2010. The name comes from the name of my grandad’s company – after all it only exists because of him. It’s a very small PAF at the moment but it will continue to grow during the remainder of my lifetime.

When I was signing the Trust Deed for the Foundation I did feel like it was the culmination of a journey that began with my grandad sitting me down with the financial section of the newspaper very patiently trying to share his knowledge with his disinterested grandson. It took almost 40 years from that time, but this Foundation will be a legacy of not just his work but also the very different work that I have undertaken during my life.  His and my skills are very different but this Foundation brings the best of both of us together. Now, it’s up to me to develop its strategy and I’ll share some of my early work in this area with you in parts three and four.

Before that, I should provide some final reflections on the key things that have helped me to finally embrace my inner philanthropist!

  • I’ve realised that there are lots of different ways you can take part and that all of them (personal donations, sub-funds, PAF’s etc) have an important role to play
  • Personal connections and relationships have been critical
  • My values have driven my actions
  • My level of interest, engagement and involvement has progressively increased as I’ve learnt about myself, my skills and developed my own confidence to participate in this field
  • I see this as my opportunity to lead good work in the world.

David Hardie recently worked as a Program Manager and Intern at the Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund. He is the Founder of the Slingsby Foundation and strongly believes that those Australians who are financially well-off should grow Australian philanthropy and help build the social fabric of the nation that has provided their wealth. 

So…I guess I’m one of those philanthropist wankers. (Part 1)

In part one of a special four part series, David Hardie explains how it is he came to be a philanthropist. You can follow part two of his journey tomorrow.

I’ve been an interested observer of the world of philanthropy for a few years now and in particular, the increasing efforts to encourage a greater sense of giving amongst wealthy Australians. I’ve nodded quietly to myself when reading the assessment that Australians just don’t like to go public about such things (the tall poppy syndrome and all that) and I’ve heartily laughed when noting a recent observation that many ordinary Australians equate the word philanthropist with wanker.

Although I suspect I’ll never fully embrace the philanthropist job title I also firmly believe in the importance of de-mystifying and challenging labels, especially through the power of personal stories.

So I thought why not use the Three Eggs musings to share some of my insights drawn from what has been a ten year, (umm, yep I’m going to use the dreaded ‘j’ word)…journey, to get me to my recent milestone of establishing a private ancillary fund. I’ll do it in four parts. The first two will provide some history on what has got me to this stage and in parts three and four I’ll share some thoughts on the strategy I’m putting in place for this PAF.

To deal with the obvious question first…where did the $ come from? The money is an inheritance from my beloved grandfather – an unassuming man who through sheer hard work and a great mind for smart investments managed to establish and build a small family investment company during his lifetime. We’re not talking massive wealth here – but it is more than I or my other family members need to lead the type of lives we want – again, pretty unassuming ones. I realised from a young age that one day there was a good chance that, as an ‘only grandchild’, I’d end up with responsibility for the company. To say that this didn’t particularly excite me was an understatement. Despite my grandad’s best efforts to get me engaged, I just could never get interested in this world. Money and finances have never been my thing, I’ve always liked words not numbers and I’ve never once (until very recently – but more on that in part four!) got a thrill from reading a balance sheet or shares portfolio, no matter how positive they might be. I also really liked my life and didn’t want the acquisition of wealth to change it. So the idea that one day I might be responsible for this seemed quite a burden. My grandad passed away in 2001 at the age of 88 and he was still overseeing his investment portfolio right till the end…proudly reflecting on what he had built ‘for his family’.

For quite awhile the family just let things continue on as they were (with the assistance of sound investment advisors). I just put all this to one side and continued on with my life as it was. I didn’t really consider that the wealth was mine and didn’t even want to think about it too much. So things stayed like that for a few years. With one exception. I established a memorial scholarship in my grandad’s name to provide an opportunity for a student from a disadvantaged background to undertake an undergraduate engineering degree. Having pursued a HR career and been responsible for a large public sector trainee and graduate recruitment program this was an area I knew something about. So I guess that this scholarship (which continues to this day) was my first act of traditional philanthropy.

Then, in 2004, I met someone who was in the process of setting up the Sydney Community Foundation and shared an intense and challenging time with her and 30 others on the eight month Sydney Leadership Program – a social leadership program that tends to turn your world upside down (in a good way!). I had undertaken this program because of a growing realisation that I was interested in social issues and that while money wasn’t my thing as such, that people certainly were – especially people who were marginalised in some way. I’d been volunteering as a telephone counsellor for a few years and slowly developing more self-awareness about what mattered to me, what my values were and had started to consider those simple questions like ‘what’s your purpose in life?’ And creating the space for those questions led to some clarity about what I should do next.

David Hardie recently worked as a Program Manager and Intern at the Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund. He is the Founder of the Slingsby Foundation and strongly believes that those Australians who are financially well-off should grow Australian philanthropy and help build the social fabric of the nation that has provided their wealth. 


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,213 other followers