The importance of transparency when giving

15 June, 2017
Chum Darvall, former Deutsche Bank Australia CEO

Chum Darvall, former Deutsche Bank Australia CEO

Philanthropic giving is the process where an individual or organisation gives large donations to a charity. Here at MS Research Australia a significant amount of our funds come from philanthropic donations making it a major part of our organisational strength.

One of our key philanthropic donors is former Deutsche Bank Australia CEO, Chum Darvall AM. Chum holds Board memberships for a diverse range of organisations and is one of our key supporters. Last month, we interviewed Chum learning what he and other donors look for in a charity when becoming a supporter and why he chose MS Research Australia.

He explains ‘that when looking to become involved, donors should ideally be prepared to give consistently. This means before committing to a charitable organisation they should ask themselves, is this something I am prepared to make a contribution to over time?’ Chum says from his observations he is ‘too often seeing organisations or individuals making the mistake of becoming excited about a charity for a year or two and then losing interest’.

Citing his close relationship with a long-time friend Mike Hemingway who is living with MS (and is a Board member of MS Research Australia) as a major impetus for his giving. He highly recommends organisations to commission a simple third party report on any charity they are thinking of supporting. In our case, the report Chum commissioned looked at:

  • How integrated and non-duplicative we are in terms of researching potential causes, treatments and prevention of MS.
  • How our research strategy looked at research areas that are not only in the researcher’s interests, but primarily addressing the priorities identified by people affected by MS.
  • Our strong, international research connections, alliances and involvement, showing a collaborative and global focus. Something he feels that we are actually the “gold standard” when compared to other organisations.

It was also really important that MS Research Australia had done its own large-scale MS research audit, as it showed that our organisation is completely transparent on where we need to improve and that we are fully open to critical analysis. It also clearly shows where all the funds go. Additionally, Chum appreciated and was given comfort by our excellent Board and research governance. He explained, ‘the problem with many organisations is that they are not completely focused on their stated mission, and therefore they don’t get close to the outcomes they expect’. The fact that MS Research Australia showed him (and all donors) the processes we have in place to achieve our mission gave him confidence in our work and spurred him to put money aside to support us over a long duration of time.

In terms of charities wanting to attract and maintain philanthropic donors, Chum reiterates the importance of reporting back to donors with detailed and clear analysis. This gives donors an informed view of what the charity is achieving and the impact it is making with the funds provided. It also keeps the donors engaged in the charity’s activities. He suggests three effective ways of doing this, including: One-on-one interaction, creating a regular report and having an online information portal.

One-on-one interaction between major donors and the charity they are supporting can be achieved in many different ways which are incredibly effective, creating a positive and personal relationship. This may include having staff at your charity available to answer donor’s specific questions, holding events where donors can meet key members of the charity’s team, or stakeholders such as key researchers in the field.

Another way to strengthen the relationship between charities and their philanthropic donors is through the creation of an annual impact report, transparently outlining the organisations key impacts and achievements. This shows that your charity is disciplined and gives the donors confidence their funds are being effectively utilised.

Chum explains that without reporting back to philanthropic donors ‘you will be in danger of donors disconnecting with the process of giving over multiple years. Meaning, that your charity will fall lower and lower on their priority list and they will either forget to donate or find a more engaging charity to donate to’. He believes ‘that the size of the donation shouldn’t dictate the level of reporting. It is important for people who may only be able to donate smaller amounts to still have a very good idea of what they are giving to. This is because, every donation counts. Charities need to recognise that all donors are vital enablers, advocates and accelerators who may have wider connections that may also be willing to give, given the right circumstances’.

If you are interested in making a philanthropic donation to MS Research Australia or opening up a discussion please contact us on 1300 356 467.

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