The Better Future Foundation

When Mangala and Fiona Martinus first established their private ancillary fund (PAF) in 2010, they hoped that their giving would have an impact on the lives of families living in poverty. But they never imagined that their philanthropic journey would also have a life-changing impact on their own family, and lead them to welcome two foster children into their home.

As experienced travellers, Mangala and Fiona had seen first hand the poverty in both Asia and Africa. These experiences planted the seeds for the couple’s decision to establish their PAF, the Better Future Foundation.

“We both appreciate how lucky we are,” explains Mangala. “It comes down to our values, I guess. We’re both of the view that you only need so much stuff.” Fiona adds, “we could certainly spend it all, no problem, but we have enough, and there’s so much need to share.”

For Mangala, establishing the PAF was also about structuring their giving and the long-term potential. “It was about how could we give more than we’d previously thought possible, and doing it in a way that allows us to build a pool of funds to give more later when we have the time to get more involved. It forces you to think long-term: How much money do we want in the PAF by year X, and what lifestyle and work changes do we make to get there?”

The Martinus family donates excess money into the PAF when they can, and they enjoy the discipline of having to distribute 5% by June 30 each year. Fiona explains: “It’s good you have to give a certain amount. It does make you aware throughout the year, and APS help to do that and to think about other opportunities available. It’s great having introductions into the smaller organisations that are closer to our value systems. It’s very personalised and enables you to make much more informed decisions.”

The Better Future Foundation’s grantmaking priorities reflect the family’s values. “The focus of our giving is about trying to break the poverty cycle, in communities both here and overseas,” explains Mangala. “We’ve given to Opportunity International from the start as we like the micro-finance concept, and also to Caritas and Adara Development. Education is an important issue, and we fund the Cararoo Foundation, via Rotary, to support children in a squatter village in the Philippines. Getting the kids to school is a priority, but also providing services like homework support and lunches.”

It’s important for the couple that the money goes as far as it can, and they have supported a number of small grassroots organisations through The Funding Network (TFN), at their live crowdfunding events. Mangala has also started to take their daughters to TFN events. “At a TFN event in March, I said to Mali ‘you have $2,000 to spend, you can decide who we give it to.’ It’s great to hear people speak passionately about their causes, I wanted her to experience that. Mali got quite emotional, and in the end she gave an equal amount to all four causes.  At TFN’s September event, Aisha surprised me with the thought she put into her grant decisions – what resonated with her was also different from my own perspective.”

The couple’s approach to philanthropy is about giving both money and time, and in recent years the family have extended that commitment and opened their doors to two foster children. “Mangala and I talked about having more kids but I always thought there are enough children in the world who need a home. So we started looking at fostering a child instead. There are over 43,000 children in out-of-home care in Australia so there’s a huge need to find long-term homes for these kids.”

The couple’s three birth children, now in their teens, were integral to the decision to extend their family. “We talked about it with them for two years before making the decision. We wanted them to be old enough to understand the challenges involved.”

Lily joined the family three years ago, and then Alfred arrived as an emergency placement at Christmas 2014. When the chance came to make Alfred’s placement permanent, all the children again had their say. “We asked them first, and the kids didn’t blink about the decision,” comments Fiona. Mangala adds, “one of our daughters, Kira, suggested moving her bedroom to the attic so we could give Alfred a room.”

Mangala and Fiona look forward to their children becoming even more involved with their philanthropy in years to come. And their advice for others thinking about establishing a PAF or sub-fund? Mangala reflects, “Don’t wait until you have enough money. You’ve just got to start, put a stake in the ground and just do it. There’s never going to be a perfect time. Like fostering, it’s even more fulfilling than you thought at the beginning.”