Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 31, 2009

Philanthropy for the ANZ LitLover

Yesterday I read in one of the weekend newspapers that charities are beginning to feel the effects of the recession.  In Every Gift Makes a Difference, Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, Australia’s most prominent patron of the arts, made the point that it is the arts which are most vulnerable when economies are made:

Corporate sponsorship evaporates, ticket sales fall and donors who give via their family foundations or prescribed private funds usually have a smaller investment income to spend. Development, sponsorship and marketing specialists also are often the first ones to go if there are staff cuts.

Life You Can SaveI’ve already blogged at my Travels with Tim and Lisa blog about the importance of donating on a regular basis to charities such as Oxfam and Care Australia.  Peter Singer’s latest book, The Life You Can Save, suggests that we need to change the culture of giving so that all of us in wealthy countries donate a modest portion of our incomes to reduce extreme poverty in the world, and I have taken the pledge to give 1.5% of my income in that way (through Oxfam).  Click here if you want to do the same.

While I consider that giving to effective charities to end world poverty should always be our highest priority,  I’d like to suggest that if you are in a position to do so, please also consider supporting a charity or foundation that supports books and reading.  Dame Elisabeth made the point that ‘every gift makes a difference’ so you don’t need to be wealthy. 

Here are some suggestions:

Send a cheque or a book to a school.  Schools ravaged by bushfire or flood need replacement books, and schools in disadvantaged areas have very small budgets. 

Join your state library foundation and contribute to major acquisitions.  It’s not very expensive and you can attend social functions and meet other booklovers.  Tim and I belong to the State Library of Victoria Foundation, and attend their annual dinner (and have won some nice prizes in the raffle!)

Support a specific purchasing fund for significant books, like the SLV Foundation’s Appeal to buy the Ballarat Goldfields Diary.  Ballarat Goldfields Diary

Support the Indigenous Literacy Project and make a real difference to the life chances of indigenous Australians.

  • Donate to the Brotherhood of St Lawrence’s  HIPPY project which is a literacy project supporting disadvantaged kids to read at home.

Give to the Australian Society of Authors Benevolent Fund. We all know that most Australian authors live on a pittance, and the benevolent fund, started by Nancy Keesing, is there to help out authors in need with small grants, sometimes when there’s not even enough money for a funeral…I always round off my annual subscription to the ASA with a donation to this fund.

Donate to the Australian Society of Authors Trust Fund.  I donate a percentage of any money I receive from CAL and ELR for my books to the Trust because I like the idea that I am helping in a very small way to fund authors to write their books in the ASA Emerging Writers Grants  and Mentorships program.  (Besides, if not for the ASA I wouldn’t get this money anyway.)

Or donate to the Fred Hollows Foundation.   You can’t read if you can’t see.  The Hollows Foundation restores the miracle of sight through its eye centres in countries such as Cambodia, Pakistan, Nepal, Eritrea, China and South Africa.

Peter Singer says that a culture of giving emerges when people declare their philanthropy publicly.  My $10 here and $25 there doesn’t seem like much, but if everybody did it, and it became the norm – it would be a fine thing, wouldn’t it?

The BarPS And if you like art as in paintings, you could donate to the Masterpeices for Melbourne John Brack Appeal.  Even if you’re not from Melbourne, this painting is one you will surely want to see when you visit the NGV!


  1. Good points Lisa. Must admit most of our donating is of the humanitarian kind rather than the cultural kind. We are members of the various cultural institution programs and see that in terms of providing support rather than what we can get out of it (though we do get things out of it as well of course!) . However, a couple of years ago we started donating to Musica Viva Australia as they do wonderful schools programs as well as a wide range of other cultural extension programs. It seemed like time to spread our charity dollar a bit wider.


    • Yes, music too – a very worthy place to put a few stray dollars. We used to fund a music bursary for a promising drummer at a local high school in memory of Peter Arnold, who was drummer in the Cotton Club Orchestra (Tim’s band) and best man at our wedding, but the school was so hopeless about it, we ceased funding it the year before last. Lisa


  2. Oh dear, Lisa, nothing to do with this post but I was looking yet again at your lovely header/banner and noticed that Alex Miller is out of order! How could you! Or is this your little bit of imperfection to appease God!?


    • It took me a while to work out what you meant – it’s only by accident that they’re in alphabetical order! Isn’t that amazing, I guess my librarian brain does it almost accidentally! Lisa


  3. Great article. I support the Reverse Book Club


  4. What a wonderful idea!
    BTW Tom, I noticed on your blog that you said you’d been able to back up your old blog, which came in handy when it was hacked into.
    How did you do that?


  5. Interesting post Lisa. I haven’t read this book yet (but of course it’s wavering about in the TBR). Does Peter Singer recommend the 1%, or not put a figure on it? My charitable donations have hovered around $1,200 or so for the past few years. This year I’ve been trying to build it up. Although of course I’m dreadfully slack at keeping track of what I do, I really don’t have any idea where I’m up to, it makes it harder. I’ve done a couple of big donations this year with the bush fires, and other things. I too am a supporter of Fred Hollows, I used to make occasional donations but last month got around to giving them a regular monthly donation. It’s nice to think that one person a month gets their vision back because of it. With the end of financial year coming up I’m planning on a donation to the Lifehouse on behalf of Chris O’Brien (who was a tutor of mine at uni), and a regular one to Oxfam that I do in memorium for a friend.


  6. Hi Louise
    Yes, Singer actually recommends 1%, up to a certain income, and then increases the percentage. I guess his point is that once you’re over a certain income level you can afford to do much more.
    I agree wholeheartedly about the regular monthly donation – I never really understood why charities were so keen to do this, (other than getting the dosh, of course) but it’s because it saves them so much time and money in campaigning, because they know they can count on you. They can also predict their income and undertake long term projects.
    I like the idea of In Memoriium too. What better way to remember a friend?


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