Philanthropy has helped sustain universities since the Middle Ages, but the form university philanthropy takes is undergoing rapid transformation.
The philanthropic model of wealthy individuals or organisations handing over the cheque and then moving on has been superseded by something more dynamic and inclusive. The definition has broadened.
Philanthropy is now viewed as a way of creating communities of people with a shared goal of bringing positive, practical change to the world.
This is not to say that raising money from private donors has faded as a goal. The ambitions of universities today extend well beyond the ability or desire of governments to fund them, which makes private donors more vital than ever.
Many of the boldest research programs, most meaningful scholarship awards and most innovative spaces on campus have been made possible by the inspired and agile thinking of donors.
Change It. For Good.
This is why Monash University has launched a new public fundraising campaign: Change It. For Good.
The Chancellor of Monash, Dr Simon McKeon, said the new campaign had three “high-level goals”.
These include raising a half-billion dollars though 50,000 donors, while also doubling the number of bequests made to the University. He acknowledged that the campaign sounded ambitious, but added that what Monash was aiming for was “not standing-start stuff”.
“In the past five years we’ve had a remarkable experience in this area,” he said. “We’ve raised nearly $300 million, which has involved more than 22,000 active donors. And this is before we’ve launched a public campaign.
“Those donations have already saved and transformed countless lives, and so what we want to do here is to build on that momentum.
"We’re not here to create some big bureaucratic head office that’s going to tell everybody what they’re going to do with the money coming in, but to support and grow all the entrepreneurial stuff that’s already going on.”
Marcus Ward, Chief Philanthropy Officer at Monash, explained that the Change It. For Good. campaign was conceived as an extension of the existing Monash campaign: If You Don’t Like It, Change It.
“We want to change it for good in terms of benefit and impact,” he said. “We want to harness a movement of support for permanent and positive change.”
The campaign emphasises the ideas behind the new philanthropy.
It's about viewing Monash as a facilitator for change, an institution that can draw on its strengths and its reputation for social justice, its pioneering spirit and its willingness to “get its hands dirty” in order to make a practical and lasting impact.
“This is not about giving to Monash but giving through Monash,’ said Ward. “It’s about harnessing a whole range of things across the University so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
He outlined four pillars through which Monash demonstrates an ability to create permanent, lasting and positive change:
Education for all
This encompasses Monash’s commitment to inclusive education regardless of gender or social or economic background. A program of scholarships gives talented students from diverse backgrounds and disadvantaged communities the chance to study at Monash, providing a pathway into tertiary education that would not otherwise be possible. Lives are changed.
Two international scholarship students from Hong Kong, Kristy Lin and Chor Kui Cheung, recently addressed the Monash 2018 Global Leaders' Summit about the change the scholarship program had made in their lives.
Their scholarships were part of a philanthropic initiative by the Hong Kong Monash alumni group. Joseph Chan, CEO of AsiaPay Limited, explained why the alumni offered the scholarships.
“Graduating from Monash was a gift for my life that shaped what I am doing today,” he said. “The alumni decided to put together a scholarship program to give Hong Kong students the privilege of a quality education.
“It was a stringent process. The students had to demonstrate academic achievement but we also had panel interviews to find out what a scholarship would mean to his or her life and the kind of impacts that, after study, would be brought back to the community they came from and to Monash.”
Kristy Lin and Chor Kui Cheung told the summit they would have had no chance of studying at Monash without the scholarship and so were focused on the ways their education would be able to make a difference to their communities after they graduate.
Chor Kui, studying psychology, is concentrating on organisational psychology and ways that the “stressed-out, hectic” pace of the Hong Kong workplace could be organised to become more relaxed and collaborative. Kristy, studying law, is planning to do pro bono work in her community on her return to Hong Kong.
“I’ve been really impressed by how much Monash values cultural diversity,” said Kristy. “The alumni network has been really supportive and really want to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds. International intelligence and awareness are really important now if you really want to make a change, and they’ve made that available to me.”
Global solutions and saving lives
Every research project at Monash University is driven by one desire: to make a difference in the world. This takes a vast variety of forms, from advancing human rights or engineering action on climate change, to tackling the neurology of addiction or revolutionising water infrastructure and sanitation in urban slums in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.
“We very proudly look at our breakthrough research across the faculties of pharmacy and medicine, and the thousands of lives that have been saved and improved through breakthroughs there,” Ward said.
“But then the dean of law called me and said: ‘We’re fighting the death penalty, so we’re saving lives too.’ And then the other faculties piled in behind him, and I realised there was no defined parameters for what Monash can do – the essence of this runs across the entire University.”
One of the best examples of how Monash University is saving lives on a global scale is the World Mosquito Program. The project, pioneered by researchers at Monash, is working to protect the global community from mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya.
Two of the Global Leaders, Lesley and Roger Gillespie, owners of Bakers Delight, have been key financial supporters of the mosquito research, and spoke to the summit about how and why they supported the WMP.
“The community supports your business – they come to you and shop with you when they could go somewhere else – so when it comes to giving back to the community, you should say yes,” said Lesley Gillespie. “With us, it started off as supplying bread for sausage sizzles, but fortunately we’ve grown to where our family foundation can supply funds through Monash to the WMP and the fantastic work it does.”
“The personal involvement and satisfaction in thinking we’re contributing in a small way to help get rid of a disease that infects a million people every day is a real privilege,” said Roger Gillespie. “We love to be involved with the things we’re contributing to, and that's been the case here at Monash. They’ve encouraged our involvement, beyond just giving the money.”
This fourth pillar is about how Monash can impact the community around the campus in a positive way – through helping vulnerable and disadvantaged Victorians receive free legal advice through community legal clinics, or with the creation of a cultural precinct in the area via performing arts facilities used by the wider community. The campus, then, is not an island visited only by students and staff, but a valuable part of local community life.
“With Change It. For Good., we’re the first university in Australia to say that, alongside the dollar goal, we have another goal that’s really important to us,” said Marcus Ward.
“We’re setting our goal in the campaign to get 50,000 donors because we value the act of giving as much as the size of the gift.
"We want to create a community, and so in whatever way a person can contribute, we value. We’re in an ideal position to help solve complex problems. We’re not here to say give us all your money. We want donors to be part of a family that can work together to find the solutions.”