When Sir John Swanson passed away in 1924, just months after he launched The Lord Mayor’s Fund for Metropolitan Hospitals and Charities, he left the city a significant legacy – Swanson’s final gift to the Fund was a bequest of £500, a considerable sum back then.
In its annual report that year, the Fund acknowledged Sir John Swanson, noting that ‘It was almost entirely to his vision, his unflagging energy and persistent advocacy of the scene, that The Lord Mayor’s Fund became an accomplished fact.’
Sir John’s gift was invested. and in 1930 a permanent endowment was established to receive gifts in Wills which would be held in trust to support hospitals and charities in perpetuity. The succeeding Lord Mayor Sir William Brunton also left a gift in his Will to the Fund, a further 1000 pounds was added to the endowment.
Today, as the Foundation celebrates its centenary year, these first bequests continue to grow and work for the people of Melbourne. (link to Swanson story)
The Foundation’s history is rich with examples of this kind of generosity. Since the 1930s, when the Foundation launched its Endowment Fund to receive bequests, many other names have joined Swanson and Brunton. These bequests support the Foundation as a thriving philanthropic organisation allowing it to diversify and broaden its impact.
In 2002, Eldon and Anne Foote established the Eldon and Anne Foote Trust initially a charitable fund account with the Foundation, donating $10 million towards nine areas of interest. Eldon was very involved with the Foundation’s work in the last years of his life, engaging closely to understand the work undertaken. When Eldon passed away in 2004, he bequeathed $140 million for the community, creating an enormous lasting legacy for projects within the arts, athletics, education, the environment, health and medical research, heritage, recreation, and social causes sectors.
‘Eldon believed that if we have been fortunate enough to do well in business, if you have the money, you have an obligation to help promote talent within the community,’ his wife, Anne, said in a 2015 interview.
The Foundation’s CEO, Dr Catherine Brown OAM said, support for youth and social enterprise projects is inspired by Eldon’s career and interests. ‘These are areas where Eldon’s entrepreneurial spirit especially shines through,’ she says.
“Gifts in Wills are more than just a cheque. The Foundation is engages with our donors during their lifetimes so that we understand their interests and motivations and honour their interests through our work in areas that donors are particularly passionate about.
“Arthur Martin provided a multi million gift in his Will, which continues to support community health projects, including a new learning centre at the Eye and Ear Hospital and FoodPrint, an ongoing research project at the University of Melbourne which aims to make fresh food access more equitable for Melbourne’s growing population.”
But the Foundation’s supporters aren’t all high-net-worth, high-profile philanthropists. Catherine says the generosity of working people, including doctors, lawyers, teachers and nurses, as well as people in commerce, tech, trades, retail, sales and hospitality has had a major impact. Individuals without great wealth have left their homes to the Foundation – in effect, a six- or seven-figure donation.
‘That could be a million dollars,’ says Catherine. ‘It is such important generosity. They’re not wealthy people, they’re just very community-minded. They understand the need, and they have an eye on the future, on the next generations.’
The Foundation also acknowledges the extraordinary gifts from many professional and educated women, including both historic and recent gifts, including the Collier bequest that established the Collier Charitable Fund in 1955.
During their lifetimes, sisters Alice, Edith and Annette Collier donated extensively to charities; at the time they insisted on anonymity. Annually the Foundation receives a gift from the Collier Charitable Fund which honours the directions of the Collier sisters Wills. Their generosity was only widely known after their deaths. Since 1954, their £1.25-million bequest held in the Collier Charitable Fund has yielded over $105 million in grants for the Greater Melbourne community. This is an example of Melbourne’s strong philanthropic history.
Today, those planning to donate to the Foundation in their wills are invited into the Swanson Society. Launched in 2015, the Swanson Society is an opportunity for prospective donors to meet like-minded people and get insight into the impact that their donations are having today and into the future. For the Foundation, it’s an opportunity to celebrate these donors in their lifetimes.
‘These are truly an inspiring group of donors,,’ says Catherine. ‘They are usually either successful businesspeople or established professionals. But most of all, they are very thoughtful people who have demonstrated deep generosity through leaving a bequest. They understand that the need for philanthropy never goes away.’
Learn more about the Swanson Society and giving option with Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation