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The impact of philanthropy in the environment sector

31 March 2019

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Produced by the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies at QUT, this report examines findings about environmental philanthropy identified through the broad Giving Australia 2016 report. 

The report provides useful insights and interesting reflections by environmental philanthropists. Funded by the Lord Mayors Charitable Foundation. 

Thinking of philanthropy as ‘a love of humankind’ leaves a space for those philanthropists whose giving supports all living things, regardless of whether their existence immediately benefits humanity or not.

These biospheric values may differentiate donors who give to the environment from those who support other cause areas, and research generally has not explored this difference. Drawing on data from Giving Australia 2016, our working paper explores what this national study suggests about the current state of environmental philanthropy in Australia.

In a time of mixed but steady advances for the Australian philanthropic sector as a whole, the findings highlight the incremental but sustained growth in giving time, money and expertise to environmental organisations and causes. The global picture of environmental giving is changing, with new major donors from countries such as China and the United States (US) making national and international commitments to conservation and environmental sustainability programs, both in the field and in community conservation education.

The qualitative findings indicate environmental giving is about commitment, urgency and
concentration. Emotional engagement, dedication and determination of environmental philanthropists come through so clearly in the quotes from participants in interviews and focus groups underlining how diverse philanthropy is and how strongly powered by our early experiences and value sets. Findings suggest Australia’s environmental givers often see collective approaches as especially rewarding and a learning tool. Key individuals and organisations patently bring prominence and focus to this sector.

Philanthropy can be generated at any scale, ranging from small donations from concerned citizens to major contributions from wealthy individuals, corporations and foundations. This working paper addresses the need to understand better who across this spectrum gives to environmental issues and organisations, and why. Like most causes, more giving of all kinds is possible and vital.

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