Tabitha Lovett, General Manager of Philanthropy at Equity Trustees, says women have historically taken a significant role in the establishment of philanthropic foundations.
“Just under half of the philanthropic trusts managed by Equity Trustees were established by women, although often named in memory of their parents or husbands rather than their own name,” she said.
“This year, the 450 charitable trusts managed by Equity Trustees with more than $1.8 billion in funds under management, will distribute more than $80 million to charities following the directions and wishes of the trusts’ founders.”
That includes private ancillary funds (PAFs), public ancillary funds – also known as Community Foundations (including the Equity Trustees Charitable Foundation) – and Testamentary or ‘Will’ trusts.
Equity Trustees Limited (ASX: EQT) provides a range of financial services to corporate and private clients including Wealth and Asset Management, Estate Planning and Administration, Philanthropy, Superannuation, Aged Care Advice and Placement.
“One of the larger trusts we manage, the Phyllis Connor Memorial Trust, which was established by long-standing Equity Trustees’ client, Miss Phyllis Connor, provides significant funding to charities supporting women and girls in Victoria,” said Tabitha.
“Established in 2010 through her Will, Miss Connor’s trust currently distributes over $1 million each year including funding scholarships at an independent girls’ school in Victoria. This year, the Connor Trust also awarded a $50,000 grant to the Australian Women Donors Network which advocates for greater investment in women and girls while promoting the use of gender sensitive principles in grant making.”
Education is a popular focus for many charitable foundations, says Tabitha.
“It is often the case that the causes and philanthropic objectives articulated by benefactors for their charitable trusts reflect community norms at the time which, as the years pass, can become outdated. An interesting example is the Dafydd Lewis Trust which was established by Mr Lewis through his Will in the 1940s to provide university scholarships for young men.”
“The Scholarship Trustees recognising the equal importance of giving talented female students the opportunity to attend university, established the Mary Jane Lewis Scholarship Foundation 10 years ago (named after Dafydd’s wife) with support from previous Dafydd Lewis scholars and a group of passionate philanthropists.”
“The Mary Jane Lewis Scholarship Foundation provides scholarships of $10,000 a year for three years for young women to undertake an undergraduate degree. The recipients are selected by an inspiring group of Scholarship Trustees who share a passion for the education and advancement of exceptional young Victorian women.”
“Many bright young women have benefited from these scholarships which provide mentoring as well as financial support. Due to family circumstances and financial hardship, achieving their goal to attend university would have been difficult, however with the support of the Mary Jane Lewis Foundation they have gone on to forge successful professional careers.”
Another significant trust managed by Equity Trustees was established by Lady Winifred MacKenzie in 1972, to honour her husband Sir Colin Mackenzie, a leading orthopedic surgeon and comparative anatomist, whose pioneering work in rehabilitation for polio survivors meant that nearly 70% of polio victims during the Melbourne epidemic of 1937-1939 fully recovered.
In 1920, Sir Colin also established what is now known as the Healesville Sanctuary, which has become one of Australia’s most important native animal conservation zoos.
“Income generated by Lady MacKenzie’s Trust is now made available for science fellowships and support for the Sanctuary to continue Sir Colin’s work and further scientific knowledge in the area of comparative anatomy and preservation of threatened species as part of the Sanctuary’s programs.”
Tabitha says it is easier to establish a perpetual charitable trust than people think and it does not need to be expensive or complicated.
“You don’t have to be wealthy to set up a charitable trust. It is possible through a public ancillary foundation such as the Equity Trustees Charitable Foundation to establish a perpetual charitable fund with $20,000, which you can contribute to over time.”
“Misconceptions about establishment, operation and flexibility of such trusts often deter people. There is also a perception that charitable trusts are just for the very wealthy which isn’t the case.”
“Ultimately, establishing a perpetual charitable fund during a philanthropist’s life can better achieve their philanthropic objectives in a more engaged and lasting manner and will ensure a greater impact on their chosen charity or cause compared with one-off donations.”