Over many decades Angela Wheelton OAM DSJ and Paul Wheelton AM KSJ have made their personal philanthropy an important and central part of their lives. They are well-known for their kind and generous philanthropic support of many not-for-profit organisations and charity events across Melbourne as well as a managing an education fund for children in Bali.
Even though they are now preparing for retirement after successful corporate careers and running their own businesses, they are still as busy as ever with their own philanthropy pursuits, including being involved with charitable organisations such as Rotary, Women Moving Millions and are valued members of the Swanson Society.
Paul says that his charitable nature was part of his upbringing in a Christian family who believed in the work of charitable organisations to support the community. Paul says being charitable is part of his DNA.
“Both Angela and I come from humble beginnings and have always been involved in community activities in some way. When I started my business, I was working seven days a week. After a while I realised that I wasn’t active in the community as much as I used to be, and I wasn’t seeing where the need was any more.”
Paul says that one of the reasons he and Angela started a charitable fund account with Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation was to help them learn about the issues affecting Melbourne.
“When you are busy and working, you often don’t have the time to research where you would like to make a donation and check that the organisation is doing the right thing. We are also approached a lot to support various causes and charities, so it can be overwhelming.
“By being involved with the Foundation we know that they are researching and understanding the needs of Melbourne as well as conducting the governance checks, so it gives you confidence in supporting those causes and charities that are important to you.”
The concept of ‘leverage’ is something that Paul and Angela often discuss and agree that with leverage, you also have more impact, especially when people join forces or partner together.
“You may only have limited funds, but when you add it to others collectively as a group and partner together, you can have real impact and you get a much better outcome,” says Angela. They are both members of giving circles including Melbourne Women’s Fund and Impact 100 Melbourne.
Paul and Angela said that they have often had to be quite business-like in their approach in managing their philanthropy.
“We both have had business careers and we have applied a business lens to our philanthropy to bring about the impact that we want. It’s important to realise that you can’t keep giving money away without seeing an impact,” added Angela. “You can have some impact by yourself, but we’ve learned that we have much more impact when we partner with others, including working with the Foundation.”
Paul says that the real attraction of Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation is that it is perfect for anyone at any stage of their philanthropic journey, including for those who are just starting out.
“When you are starting on your journey of philanthropy, you don’t have all the resources. By having a charitable fund account, you don’t have to worry about all the governance or compliance issues because it is all looked after by the Foundation. It enables you to start at the small end of things and build up your giving and impact over time.”
Paul and Angela focus their giving on four areas of personal interest including children, education, women, and health; and it’s how they started their journey to supporting children while holidaying in Bali years ago.
Paul and Angela realised that boys were attending school and the girls were working in the fields rather than attending school and so the idea to start their Bali Children’s Fund emerged. They also found gaps in healthcare including dental health. With Angela’s background in dental care, this was the next obvious item to add to their portfolio of what they would support through their newly launched fund.
“It has been great to come back year after year and see the impact our philanthropy is having on the lives of so many children and young people. We have funded dentists and dental equipment in hospitals and small villages alongside other healthcare and education programs in schools for girls,” says Angela.
Paul agrees, “If I've done anything well in my life, it has actually been helping to support these kids that needed to be given an opportunity in life, but couldn't afford to have it without the support of many people.”
Positive collaborations, partnerships and leveraging resources have all been at some stage part of the success of the Wheelton’s philanthropy.
“We both love working with positive people and being part of the Foundation’s networks of donors which is full of positive, supportive and innovative people who are doing terrific things,” added Paul.