Wendy Lewis OAM is well known as an inspiring community leader and was acknowledged in this year’s Australia Day Awards with a Medal of the Order of Australia for her contribution to 'service to the not-for-profit sector and to education'.
Wendy’s long and established career in education and non-profit continues her commitment to creating positive social change in communities across Melbourne including in education as Chair of the Knox School, for women and girls as Chair of the Invergowrie Foundation, and in philanthropy as Executive Officer at the Collier Charitable Fund.
Wendy is also a founding member of Melbourne’s Women’s Fund, one of Australia’s most successful giving circles, a charitable fund account in the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Fund, and is also a PhD candidate at Queensland University of Technology’s Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Not-for-profit Studies.
Wendy is also a long-term donor through a charitable fund account and has been a valued coach in the Foundation’s Youth in Philanthropy program for the past nine years.
There is also a very special and historic connection between Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and Collier Charitable Fund. The Foundation became a beneficiary of the Collier Charitable Fund in 1954 under the Wills of Alice, Annette and Edith Collier.
Wendy knows well how important the positive impact that philanthropy, fundraising and volunteering can have on the wider community. Wendy’s inspiration to start her own charitable fund account with the Foundation came from a trip to attend a Girl Scouts convention in Houston, USA.
“At the time I was Chief Executive Officer of Girl Guides Victoria, and in the US, Girl Scouts are honoured with Gold Awards for their achievements in starting charitable projects for causes that they are interested in and then fundraising to support the cause. These amazing young women of16 and 17 were developing very inspiring projects and being recognised by Girl Scouts with their Gold Awards.
“While I was attending the convention, I was thinking about how we could incorporate this type of activity and award into Guiding in Victoria”.
While conducting research into fundraising and philanthropy Wendy discovered Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and charitable fund accounts.
“I was already giving to charitable causes and privately supporting Girl Guide initiatives, but the idea of establishing a charitable fund account in which I could personally support Girl Guides and also encourage others to through donations to a charitable fund account, was very appealing.”
Wendy established her Guiding Light Charitable Fund in 2013 which continues to support Girl Guides’ important community projects while providing a revenue stream to support the extra special community projects initiated by the girls and young women of Girl Guides.
The Guiding Light Charitable Fund is part of nurturing the next generation of donors and volunteers, which also supports the mission of Girl Guides.
“At the time the Guiding Light Charitable Fund provided educational opportunities to learn more about how philanthropy could contribute to the community.
“Philanthropy is about talent, time and treasure, and so the Guiding Light Charitable Fund enables them to pursue fundraising to make another type of contribution to the community.”
Wendy says that setting up her charitable fund account was a very simple process.
“Having the structure of the Foundation to support you, and collectively being part of a group of subfunds (charitable fund accounts) is reassuring. You don’t have to worry about administering it or of it becoming all too hard, this allows you to focus on your charitable interests.
“Charitable fund accounts are a more structured and targeted approach to giving than regular one-off donations, so you do put a little more thought into your giving and the organisations you would like to support.
“Donors don't have to worry about any compliance or governance or the administration. You just set it up, you make your charitable contributions and then you provide your advice to the Foundation once a year.”
Wendy has been a lifelong donor and has been supporting charities since she started her first fulltime job at 17. “As my salary grew over the years, I also started to donate more. As an accountant, I realised it was far better to support charities by making tax-deductible donations than paying more tax.”
Wendy says she started a spreadsheet for her donations and noticed a theme emerging from the charities she was supporting.
“Education, supporting women and girls, scholarships, animal welfare and pet therapy are some of the areas I am passionate about. and it’s a continued theme in my charitable fund account. My giving has become less of a ‘scatter gun’ approach and has become more targeted over the years.”
Wendy says she would like to encourage more people to establish charitable fund accounts. “I'd certainly be recommending a charitable fund account because I think it's a way to get people involved in philanthropy and learning about giving, and the impact you can have through giving.
“Charitable fund accounts are also much easier to manage than setting up your private ancillary fund in which you are burdened with the administration and having to research who to support. I am often contacted to provide advice about who to support.”
“For the average person who wants to make a start in philanthropy, charitable fund accounts are a great option. You don’t have to have a lot of money to get started. Through the Foundation you are exposed to so many issues and opportunities to support a range of charitable organisations and not just the usual larger charities.
“Once people start educating themselves about the issues in the community then they start to get excited about how they can contribute and make a difference.
Wendy has both a personal and professional relationship with the Foundation. “I work with the Foundation on many levels, as a donor, a YiP coach, and a member of Melbourne Women’s Fund, and then as Executive Officer managing the Collier sister’s bequest with the Foundation as a beneficiary.
“Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and the Collier Charitable Fund are part of a philanthropic community. The Foundation is caring and has impact. And its connectedness to the community and being able to understand the issues effecting Melbourne is important for donors to be able to have access to this information and focus on their giving.
Wendy says that she has both a personal and professional understanding about the needs of Melbourne and that the Foundation’s values also align closely.
“The focus of the Foundation aligns with my values and I’ve come to realise that they also align with Collier’s as well. The Foundation has also provided me a learning opportunity to understand the issues of today both personally and professionally.
“I value my relationship with the Foundation and the people involved. I think it's important to have organisations like this as role models for the community sector.”
“I am very fortunate to be the Executive Officer of Collier Charitable Fund and this role has enabled me to build my relationship with the Foundation and has enabled me to build my contribution to the community through philanthropy.”