The ‘Double Giving’ agenda and philanthropic giving to the arts

The Productivity Commission is due to release its final report in May, ending a process that has widely engaged the philanthropic community. Tasked with identifying and assessing opportunities and obstacles to increasing philanthropic giving, the public inquiry by the Commission is a key part of developing the Australian Government’s roadmap to realise its ambitious aim of doubling philanthropic giving by 2030.


The 398-page draft report, Future Foundations for Giving, is a big read. There are some specific references to the arts but in general the Commission is looking broadly at the levers the Australian Government has to encourage and incentivise a healthier culture of philanthropic giving nationally. This includes recommendations such as:

  • removing the $2 threshold for tax deductible donations
  • reforming the Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) system to create a simpler, refocused system that creates fairer and more consistent outcomes for donors, charities and the community
  • introducing a suite of reforms to strengthen the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission;
  • improving data and public information on corporate giving, bequests and volunteering.

With $204 million donated to organisations advancing culture in 2021 [1], arts philanthropy is an important contributor to the ‘double giving’ agenda. The Commission in their draft report recognises arts philanthropy as a vital way Australians contribute to social cohesion and support the wellbeing and resilience of the community.


Matched funding complimented by capability building support


The Commission showed an interest in government policies that support giving. A successful and active example of incentivised charitable giving is Creative Australia’s Plus1 and MATCH Lab programs. With donations matched dollar for dollar by public funds, these programs are proven to have a significant effect on achieving fundraising goals for small to medium arts organisations and independent artists and collectives, respectively.

Since 2016–17, the Plus1 program has attracted 12,212 individual donors, 280 business partners, and 86 trusts and foundations providing funding for 233 arts organisations. Almost 94% of Plus1 participants met their fundraising target and 98% of campaigns have been successful in attracting new donors [2].

Both Plus1 and Match Lab differentiate themselves from many funding programs through their emphasis on long-term skills development. Participants are encouraged to meet and discuss their campaign with a local Creative Australia State Manager Development and Partnerships, and MATCH Lab participants attend a two-day Raising Money for Your Art professional development and fundraising clinic, in addition to accessing one-on-one coaching and advice from their relevant State Manager.

A major barrier to growing arts philanthropy is the capability and capacity to fundraise. Our Giving Attitude 2.5 report published in 2023 found a lack of skills, expertise, resources or personnel was the main challenge the sector faced in raising private sector support [3]. This remains an ongoing challenge and one that Creative Australia’s State Manager Development and Partnerships coaching and advice service and the Private Investment Capability programs actively work to address.


Cultural shifts, national giving days and collective giving


There is a need to support a cultural shift to a more giving mindset to boost philanthropic giving. A national giving campaign has the capacity to help lead this cultural shift.

While the potential impact of a government-funded philanthropic public campaign is yet to be documented or measured through a pilot, Australia’s cultural and creative industries have compelling evidence on the scale and success of giving day campaigns. There are some strong examples of arts organisations such as the National Theatre, Belvoir St. Theatre, Flipside Circus, the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art and the Adelaide Fringe Festival that have all run highly successful giving days in recent years. The most highly successful example being Belvoir St. Theatre’s October 2023 campaign that raised an impressive $1.5 million (against a target of $1 million) to renovate the theatre’s foyer and add more toilets to the venue. 772 donors contributed to the campaign which were quadruple matched by donors of the theatre. This unique matched giving scheme leveraged Belvoir St. Theatre’s existing philanthropic givers to incentivise new donors to give to the cause as each new donation was matched by three other donors [4].

Public promotion of the impact of donors ‘giving together’ to support specific causes may also prove progressive. Arts Impact WA (based in Perth) is the first large collective giving group formed to specifically support arts and culture. The group is underwritten by 17 local Private Ancillary Funds (PAFs) who have pledged to support the group for the first three years. Since forming in 2022, Arts Impact WA has leveraged and distributed $480,000 to independent artists and small arts organisations. There is an opportunity to accelerate giving in Australia and inspire long-term giving to the arts through similar group initiatives.

Whilst tax and regulatory reform are important, campaigns and approaches that instigate cultural shifts and create a groundswell of widespread community culture of philanthropy are likely to prove essential to meeting the double giving goal.


Amplifying impact and exploring new funding models


In addition to matched funding and capacity building programs, Creative Australia is committed to exploring and piloting new funding models that leverage philanthropic giving and amplify its impact. This includes exploring impact investment models through pairing commercial investment initiatives with an expectation of financial and social return. Creative Australia is also working with donors and foundations to determine the role of catalytic philanthropy and concessional investment as models of giving that support commercial investment in the arts.

There is great potential to leverage philanthropic seed-funding as a pathway to commercial investment in the arts. This would allow the sector to open new funding opportunities that are initiated by philanthropic gifts, paired with government funding, and end in a blended finance model that protects the sustainability of the sector through diversifying revenue sources. There is significant capacity for Australia to learn from the work of the Nesta Art & Cultural Finance Fund (UK) and the Social Finance Fund (Canada) in the development of models that embrace new approaches to creative industries investment. Such approaches explore the role of government and philanthropy in providing catalytic or concessional capital to support these investments.

Creative Australia, as a government agency, is working with the cultural and creative industries to determine metrics for measuring the social impact of arts and culture to set benchmarks for potential impact investors. This work in impact measurement is accompanied by the exploration of opportunities to invest in pilot funds or undertake loss guarantee so that philanthropy is incentivised to participate in new investment models that combine benevolent giving with the expectation of social/financial return.


What’s next


Commissioners Alex Robson, Julie Abramson and Krystian Seibert will hand their final report of the public inquiry to the Australian Government on May 11, 2024. The report must then be tabled in Parliament within 25 sitting days of the Government receiving it. It will be up to the Government what recommendations it acts on, noting that it has a limited range of official responses it can take (supporting the recommendation, supporting a recommendation in principle and noting a recommendation).

Irrespective of the Government responses, there is no doubt that policy-making and the discourse within the philanthropic community has been well-served by the process stimulated by the inquiry. It has also provided a crucial opportunity for Creative Australia and a range of stakeholders in the cultural and creative industries to advocate and share the public value of arts with the wider community.

See the Creative Australia’s initial submission to inquiry and response to the draft report.



1. Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission 2023, Australian Charities Report: 9th edition.

2. Creative Partnerships Australia 2023, Plus1 Program Evaluation Report.

3. Creative Partnerships Australia 2023, Giving Attitude 2.5.

4. See Belvoir St. Theatre’s campaign results.


Hannah Kothe

State Manager Development and Partnerships (SA/NT)