Giving is widespread and takes a range of forms in Australia. The Giving Australia project commissioned by the Australian Government in 2005 estimated that total giving of money, goods and services by individuals and businesses is almost $11 billion per year. According to the World Giving Index, in 2011 71 per cent of Australians had given money to an organisation in the past month, and 36 per cent had given time to an organisation.
Some large contributions to social investment and philanthropy in Australia come from charitable trusts and funds, and from wealthy individuals, families and businesses.
Increasingly when people give, they are actively involved with the donation or investment, seeking to maximise the impact of the funds.
There is sometimes confusion around the meaning of the terms social investment, philanthropy and social enterprise. This is likely to be partly due to the increasingly evolving nature of the field and the level of innovation as new players and mechanisms for giving emerge to take their place alongside more established organisations and philanthropic structures.
Some key definitions are provided below:
- Social investment: The provision and use of finance or other resources to generate social, or social as well as economic, returns.
- Philanthropy: Traditionally, philanthropy was generally understood as the transfer of money for social purposes, usually in grant form. Today the concept has broadened to include the transfer of money, goods, services or expertise.
- Social enterprise: An enterprise established using a business model to deliver services for the purpose of providing a social benefit, rather than to provide a private profit. Social enterprises can be either business entities (private or public companies) established for a social purpose, or not-for-profit organisations run on a “commercial” basis for a social purpose.