More than 80 leadership figures from over 30 universities attended an inaugural symposium hosted by Universities Australia and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
The event was designed to extend philanthropy capacity and capability among Australian university leaders.
Speakers included Education Minister Simon Birmingham, Vice-Chancellors, Directors of Development and international leaders in university philanthropy.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said Australia had a stronger record than many people knew for building philanthropy in higher education.
She noted the recently released The Charitable Giving to Universities in Australia and New Zealand Survey had found a 26% increase since 2014, with our universities raising almost $539 million in 2015.
“So we are making headway here and should be proud of what we have achieved,” Ms Robinson said.
“It may also surprise people to learn that the median philanthropic income raised by Australian universities is actually higher than the median for UK universities.”
CASE CEO and President Sue Cunningham said today’s event had shared expertise and identified opportunities to take the sector’s philanthropy efforts to the next level.
“There’s real excitement about the potential to build philanthropy capacity in Australia’s universities even further,” Ms Cunningham said.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham told the event that while Government was the prime funder of university education and research, philanthropy could be a significant complement to extend the work of our world-class universities.
Senator Birmingham said the Government would give “full consideration” to the recommendations of the Philanthropy in Australian Higher Education Working Party report released in March this year.
The symposium heard the aim should be to build “a culture of philanthropy” – rather than “a culture of asking” – and engage donors in things they cared deeply about.
University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis told the event it was important to ask champions to help lead university fundraising campaigns. “Alumni want to see that other alumni are involved,” he observed.
Central Queensland University Vice-Chancellor Professor Scott Bowman said being clear about the role and mission of the university shaped smarter philanthropy.
Regional universities should make a strength of the higher participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and the involvement of their students in programs in developing nations including India and Nepal, he said.
Macquarie University Vice-Chancellor Professor Bruce Dowton said universities could do well to look up the vision of their founders in honing their philanthropy pitch. The original conception for Macquarie sixty years ago was to found a “university on freehold land, beside a technology corridor; a Stanford of the South Pacific,” he said.
Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Dawkins said his university had a similar story, with its mission of offering opportunity to students in Melbourne’s west almost identical to the original mission 100 years ago to be “a door of opportunity”.
Monash University Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner urged: “Grow slowly, worry about the relationships, focus on the culture.”
The CEO of Westpac’s Bicentennial Foundation Susan Bannigan told the event that when the bank wanted to invest in Australia’s future, it could think of no better investment than in education. It had offered 200 scholarships by its 200 year from the $100 million endowment.
The next steps, as agreed by Universities Australia and CASE, are:
(1) To encourage Australian universities to participate in the annual benchmarking survey;
(2) Work together the to professionalise the advancement workforce; and
(3) To explore opportunities for further events and workshops for sharing information, ideas and best practice.