When I set up my own private foundation in 2010, it turned out to be quite difficult and expensive.  Private ancillary funds (PAFs) had only been introduced in 2001 as a tax-efficient philanthropic structure (then called prescribed private funds).  Not many people were aware of the philanthropic options available to them, and no-one was doing it well.  I realised there was a problem that needed fixing, and that’s what I set out to do.

We set up the Private Ancillary Fund Service as part of Social Ventures Australia in 2011 and became incorporated as Australian Philanthropic Services in 2012, with a genuine commitment to reducing obstacles to philanthropy.  Unfortunately, sometimes the best ideas remain on the shelf because they are not marketed effectively, and I was disappointed that the government did not come to the table to do just that.  However, thanks to philanthropic funding we were able to get APS off the ground regardless, and our success has proven that there is a demand for a service that is low cost, not-for-profit and independent.

Five years on, APS has grown to become the largest provider of private ancillary fund services in Australia.  But the real buzz at the end of the day is the impact our clients are having on the community. Last year APS clients collectively gave away over $35 million to the community – a pretty amazing outcome, and it’s only going to keep growing over time.

While private ancillary funds can provide an opportunity to be more strategic about your giving, for others it’s more about involving the family.  That’s certainly the case for our own private foundation, and I’m very much hoping to involve the children as they get older.  Our children have had a portion of funds to allocate to charities of their choice, and our youngest son has travelled with us on a field trip to one of our charity partners.  I like to be hands-on with my giving, because that gives me a sense of the realities they face as well as the difference we can make.

One of my ‘giving highlights’ has been the financial support we’ve provided to APS from our private foundation.  APS’s goal is to promote philanthropy itself, and in a relatively short time, it’s been pretty successful at that.  We’re now helping nearly 300 families give their money to charity, and we’re close to achieving break-even, which will ensure the long-term sustainability of the organisation.

Another highlight for me and my wife, Natasha, has been supporting students from rural NSW through the Royal Agricultural Society, which APS had introduced us to early on in our philanthropic journey.  The exit of talent from these rural communities is a big problem, and for the last six years we’ve supported a number of students to complete their tertiary education and then take those skills back to their communities.  Every year, we get to meet these students at a function at the Royal Easter Show.  I am continually amazed at how hard they work to make their studies possible – many of them keep down two jobs while completing their degree!

When I set up APS, my intention was to make philanthropy simpler, easier and more mainstream – and that’s exactly what we are doing every day.

My aspiration is that one day private ancillary funds will be as well-known as self-managed super funds, and planned giving will form a standard part of all financial planning conversations.