A former Microsoft executive under Bill Gates, serial entrepreneur and, with wife Carolyn, founder of the Petre Foundation, Petre has long been one of the most outspoken philanthropists in Australia - and another who brings a venture capitalist’s rigorous analysis to the field.
"Even though we must celebrate the Andrew Forrests and Paul Ramseys we should also note for the most part our billionaires are missing in action, donating far less pro-rata than any model would suggest is appropriate."
Daniel Petre, Philanthropist
Petre tells BlueNotes managing editor Andrew Cornell philanthropy is not an option, it's a responsibility.
To read the first edition in the series, click here.
Andrew Cornell: Daniel, thanks for speaking with BlueNotes. Is philanthropy in Australia changing and, perhaps more importantly, does it need to change more?
Daniel Petre: Up until very recently the list of the top 20 donors annually in Australia included far more corporate philanthropic efforts and Charitable Foundations created by people long dead than Charitable Foundations created by those still living.
Yet there is some, small, change afoot. In 2014 it would seem that there has been a sea change in philanthropic giving. Twiggy Forrest has signed up to the Bill Gates inspired Giving Pledge (agreeing to donate more than 50 per cent of his wealth to philanthropy between now and his death), Paul Ramsey allocated the bulk of his $3 billion plus wealth to his foundation in his will, Graham Tuckwell has donated more than $50 million to ANU and John Grill over $20 million to the University of Sydney. Gifts or allocations to foundations of these amounts were unheard of only a few years ago.
At the same time there has been growth in Corporate Philanthropy. Westpac allocated $100 million to a scholarships program and Crown Casinos (as part of an overall commitment by the Packer family) has targeted $100 million in donations over the next ten years.
AC: But judging from some of your public comments, though, things must change more?
DP: One view is that any giving is good giving and clearly any charity, desperate for funding, is unlikely to take a stand on the overall state of Philanthropy in Australia. Yet even though we must celebrate the Andrew Forrests and Paul Ramseys we should also note that for the most part our billionaires are missing in action, donating far less pro-rata than any normalised model would suggest is appropriate.
Simplistically if a billionaire was to allocate only 20 per cent of their wealth to philanthropy this would establish a corpus of $200 million with annual giving being at least $10 million…If said billionaire mapped to the Giving pledge then for every billion they had around $25 million in donations PER YEAR would flow. So if you have $4 billion you should be giving $100 million PER YEAR.
It is painfully clear that other than Twiggy and Paul, none of our super wealthy have decided to give at the levels established by more than 125 billionaires globally who are giving at this level. So there is scope for improvement of our most wealthy.
AC: And what about on the corporate front?
DP: Equally while there is no doubt that there will be some who prosper as a function of corporate programs, it is odd to see a commercial institution decide to take some of what might rightly have been provided to shareholders as dividends and instead use the money to enhance their brand. It is Brand Marketing but done in a more nuanced way.
Further it would be interesting to understand the private donation patterns of the CEOs of the major corporations who are establishing grand corporate philanthropy programs. Are they themselves generous donors or do they hide behind their corporate giving…? “I gave at the office” but on a much larger scale.