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Aussie philanthropists faced steep barriers to international giving. That is now changing.
Australians are among the world’s most generous people. In a year gone haywire punctuated by the bushfire crisis and a pandemic, Australians ranked among the top five givers (behind only Ireland, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada). And giving is still on the rise: in 2018, Australians donated about $3.75 billion to various causes, up eight percent from the previous year.
However, most of those funds (and impact) appear to be staying within Australia. Just 5% of Aussies said they only support or prefer to support overseas charities. In the aftermath of COVID-19 and the bushfires, 76% of Australians in 2021 said they are more intentional now about supporting nonprofits or charities that operate locally.
Despite these trends, Australia is well positioned to be a philanthropic leader on the global stage, especially to its neighbors in Asia. Until recently, charitable gifts needed to have their purpose and beneficiaries in Australia in order to get tax receipts. Recent reforms now allow Australians to make tax-deductible donations that benefit overseas charities.
This new opportunity comes with several caveats. Recipients must meet the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission’s (ACNC) interpretation of a “public benevolent institution”, similar to equivalency determination in the US. Moreover, overseas giving must be used for poverty alleviation—a requirement not present in other locales.
Of course, potential donors also face all the usual hurdles of cross-border philanthropy. Many potential recipient countries lack charity regulators or have hazy money laundering laws, compounding the reputational risks. Potential donors can get easily frustrated with the complexities of conducting due diligence and risk assessments. And while there are countless organizations doing important work, others are less impactful.
Desktop research can only do so much to overcome these concerns. Even if projects are good, the unknowns are enough to make potential donors hesitate. For cross-border philanthropy to go mainstream, Australian donors need access to local knowledge about the countries and organizations they’re supporting.
To meet that need, new charitable organizations are forming to bridge the gap. Give2Asia, a US-based charity with a 20-year track record, recently launched a new Australian entity. Give2Asia Australia Ltd.—which recently received charitable registration status from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission—will enable local philanthropists to fund poverty alleviation projects in more than 20 countries.
Of course, opening the door to cross-border giving is just the first step. As Peter Singer, the Australia-born moral philosopher, once wrote: “Charity begins at home, the saying goes, and for many people, charity also stops at home, or not very far from it.”
Australian donors now have the open to directly support poverty alleviation projects around the globe. Now it is up to the philanthropic community to mobilize their generosity and put it to good use.