As the AMP Foundation celebrates 30 years in business, its new CEO explains why philanthropists need to speak up and lead.
How do you quantify three decades of philanthropic support?
For the AMP Foundationthe numbers are in: the foundation has given away more than $100 million in its 30 years of operation, supporting those who create financial resilience within the community.
But new chief executive Nicola Stokes looks forward to a future with greater impact and closer working relationships with community partners.
Speaking to Pro Bono News on the sidelines of the Philanthropy Australia 2022 national conference, Stokes said the conference is an important event in the way it brings together “some of the most extraordinary minds in the philanthropic sector”.
“It is quite a gift to come together in a room with like-minded people with an extraordinary focus this year on humanity, on people, place, planet and identifying issues…in [the] community and then focus on an outcome,” she said.
30 years of giving back
Stokes is proud of the impact the AMP Foundation has had during her time and the role she has played in the community, and she looks forward to taking the funder further.
“We are one of the largest corporate foundations in the country and have given nearly $110 million during this time to a variety of charitable, non-profit organizations…driving social impact” , she explained.
Although she has yet to officially take up her new role, Stokes said part of her interest in taking on the role has to do with the evolving concept of social impact, with a “surge of energy” around impact measurement.
“From an AMP Fofrom a foundation perspective, the focus shifts from philanthropic giving to philanthropic investment,” Stokes explained.
“I kind of want to absorb what’s going on in the industry right now. It’s at a very pivotal time, I think, especially with our economy and the way the world is going…and what COVID has done to a lot of our social fabric.
The AMP Foundation focuses on financial well-being, supporting non-profit organizations that help Australians build their financial security.
Stokes is a strong advocate for this and believes that certainty about his financial situation creates resilience.
She said the organization will continue to focus on investments with the goal of creating financial well-being, but hopes to work with people and businesses to help develop their proposition in a similar way to the seed funding.
“What we’re looking for are organizations or individuals who can articulate the outcome they’re trying to achieve, because I think that’s really important. So understanding the grain of the idea, why their idea came to them, and what impact effective execution of that idea will have. And then we can help them fill in from A to Z,” she explained.
Entrepreneurs would then be able to leverage the skills of the people in the AMP, while the AMP would help integrate impact measurement into financing.
That impact could be qualitative or quantitative, financial or non-financial, Stokes added.
The AMP Foundation was an early adopter of impact investing and also invested in Australia’s first two social impact bonds.
The Foundation is now taking the bold step of using some of its corpus to also have an impact, alongside traditional philanthropic giving.
The big shift is now moving from philanthropic giving to philanthropic investing, which Stokes says is “cultural travel.”
“It’s definitely a different mindset. You provide different support. It’s not just about saying “here’s the money to buy this thing or to do this thing, and now tell us, did you do it?” It’s a much closer relationship to helping the individual or company actually achieve what they’re trying to achieve,” she explained.
Stokes sees philanthropy as one of the main pillars that can have an impact within society, even before governments.
“I don’t think we should expect the government, or I don’t think we should expect them to do the things that we think are good for today’s society at a societal or community level.
“I think that’s the key role of philanthropy, finding its place within this set of five entities, but also leading the way.”
Stokes also believes that we should be proud of our philanthropists and celebrate them loud and clear.
Like others, Stokes believes there is a cultural tendency in Australia not to talk about philanthropic achievements.
She also thinks funders need to learn that it’s okay to fail.
“If you think about the for-profit sector, they fail all the time. They know that to get the best service delivery, you have to test, fail, learn. We have to do the same,” Stokes said.