Annual Reports in Brief

Financial report in brief – 2015/16

As the Foundation continues to wind down, in line with Chairman David Thomas’s long-held intention to conclude its activities by 2018, grants paid in 2015/16 represented 30% of the corpus held at the beginning of the year.

Mr Thomas said: “I have always advocated that philanthropists should be careful not to exploit the tax benefits enjoyed by Private Ancillary Funds and believe it is incumbent on them to ensure efficient management of a foundation’s corpus and distributions.
“I am proud that The Thomas Foundation has distributed over $28.35 million in grants over the 18 years of operation to 30 June 20 2016 – or 91% of the Foundation’s corpus – and that average annual distributions have readily exceeded the minimum distributions required by the Australian Tax Office,” Mr Thomas said.

The Foundation’s objective is to report when it winds up that total grants paid exceed funds allocated to it by David and Barbara Thomas. That is, investment income earned on the corpus over the years has more than covered the operating costs of the Foundation and has ultimately leveraged additional grant making.
“I am very proud of the high levels of efficiency that have been achieved in the operation of the Foundation with corporate & administration costs maintained at 2% of total expenditure,” Mr Thomas said. “The total operating costs of the Foundation including corporate & administration, research, consulting, and travel still only represent 5% of total expenditure.”

“These efficiencies are largely due to the pro bono contributions of the Directors in the governance and management of the Foundation, and I sincerely thank Rowland Hill and John Elmgreen for this. As well the Foundation has benefitted from outstanding administrative and governance support from Julie Moore.”
In the year to 30 June 1016 the Foundation made 18 grants totalling $2.54 million.

Grants included $500,000to WWF and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) for the Fight for The Reef Campaign; a total of $562,00to AMCS for coastal marine park campaigns in the Kimberley and Northern Territory; $225,000 to the Hammondcare Foundation; $230,000 to The Nature Conservancy for its Ecological Sciences program; $200,000 to the University of New South Wales for its Healthy Brain Ageing Research; and $200,000 to the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

Once again we have been enormously satisfied by the returns achieved by our investments, Mr Thomas said.

“A Reachtel poll of 2600 people in August showed more than eight out of 10 people agreed that saving the Great Barrier Reef should be given absolute priority. When we initiated the Fight for the Reef campaign four years ago fewer than four in 10 people were aware of threats to the Reef,” Mr Thomas said. “Over the past four years we’ve seen significant Government policy change around dumping dredge spoil in Great Barrier Reef waters , protection for vulnerable estuaries and fishing regulations. But more needs to be done.”

Annual report in brief, 2014/15

Total grants of $4.6m were distributed over the 2015 year, representing 38 per cent of the Foundation’s net assets – easily exceeding the Australian Taxation Office’s requirement for each Private Ancilliary Fund to distribute a minimum of 5 per cent of its corpus.

The grants were made to seven organisations and covered 13 projects in the environment, conservation, health and arts sectors.

There was continuing support for the Fight For The Reef campaign, the Great Southern Seascapes program, the establishment of marine parks in coastal waters of the Kimberley and the Northern Territory, the Environmental Defenders’ Office in Queensland, the University of New South Wales Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, HammondCare and the National Gallery of Australia.

Corporate and administrative costs* were contained to 1 per cent to total expenditure and operating costs** to 2 per cent. Net investment earnings well exceeded operating costs.

“Our giving continues to be informed and strategic and, most importantly, to be cost-effective,” the Foundation’s chairman David Thomas said of the year’s activities. “I am well pleased with outcomes and continue to have more satisfaction in gifting my wealth than I did from making it.”

The Foundation met all its statutory reporting requirements to ASIC, the ACNC and the ATO.

*Administrative, operating, investment fees and grants
** Research, professional development, travel and consulting

Annual report in brief 2013/14

The Foundation’s grants distributed in 2014 represented 28% of net assets held at the beginning of the year and readily exceeded the Australian Tax Office’s requirement that PAFs distribute at least 5% of net assets annually.
Grants supporting 19 projects were made to 11 organisations during the year, totalling $4.1m.

The Fight for the Reef campaign, a Port Phillip Bay pilot for the Great Southern Seascapes program, campaigns for marine parks in the Northern Territory and The Kimberley, the University of NSW Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, HammondCare, the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, Barossa Foundation, the Asylum Seekers’ Centre and the Environmental Defenders’ Office were among projects and organisations supported.

Administrative costs were again held to a low 2% of net assets. Project development costs as a proportion of net assets were lower still.

The Foundation’s asset base was boosted by a further gift from David and Barbara Thomas in addition to investment income of more than $1.2m. The gift established a sub-fund to facilitate the chairman’s discretionary support for minor projects.
Grants made over the Foundation’s 16 year existence now total $21m. By the time the Foundation is wound up in 2018 it expects to have granted more than $35m. Leverage will bring the total benefit to more than $55m.

Annual report in brief 2012/13

Twelve grants totalling $1.97m were made to 10 organisations for 12 projects by The Thomas Foundation in 2012/13.

The Fight For The Reef (FFTR) campaign was the biggest investment, with grants of $870,000 to the World Wide Fund for Nature Australia (WWF), $129,000 to the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and $105,000 to the Environmental Defenders’ Office Queensland (EDO).

Initiated by the Foundation, a coalition of the WWF and AMCS, with legal support from the EDO, guided development and implementation of community awareness and political advocacy campaigns focussed on emerging concerns for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). This coalition encouraged other environmental NGOs to adopt common political objectives rather that differing or competing objectives. Some observers see this as an example of how future major environmental campaigns should be run.

Oration

Momentum was brought to the campaign in March by marine environmentalist and author Professor Callum Roberts, from York University in the UK. Professor Roberts, the 4th David Thomas Conservation Orator, is author of The Unnatural History of the Sea and The Ocean of Life. Professor Roberts brought attention not only to the looming GBR crisis, but also raised awareness to the worsening plight of the world’s oceans.

Other grants were:

  • Hammond Care $250,000
  • University of NSW Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing $200,000
  • Environmental Defenders’ Office Queensland $105,000
  • National Gallery of Australia $100,000
  • The Nature Conservancy (Australia) Barbara Thomas Fellowships $100,000
  • The Nature Conservancy conference on coastal and marine restoration $60,000
  • University of Queensland Student Conference of Conservation Research $50,000
  • Australian Environmental Grantmakers’ Network $33,334
  • National Trust of Australia (Tasmania) fly-fishing museum $15,000

Fellowships

Barbara Thomas Fellowships were granted to four people:

  • Eloise Kendy, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s North America freshwater program who assessed how TNC could contribute to freshwater conservation in Australia;);
  • Anne Zuparko Marketing Specialist; The Nature Conservancy, Austin, Texas who developed Environmental Crowd-sourced Movement aimed at helping Australian businesses become more socially responsible using digital marketing and new media technology;
  • Jeff Benz and Anna Simmonds of TNC’s Worldwide Office who are developing a policy paper, based on US experience, that identifies taxation and other impediments inhibiting the broadening of Australia’s philanthropic sector.

Health grants

While more than two-thirds of the grants in 2012/13 were to environmental activities, including the marine environment, the Foundation continues to support projects in other areas including the health sector.

Beginning this year, the Foundation has made a $2.5m commitment over five years to Hammond Care’s participation in the National Health and Medical Research Council’s project – ‘Dealing with Cognitive and Related Functional Decline in the Elderly’. The mid-point of a $1m five-year commitment to the University of NSW’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing is approaching.

Distributions high

Grants distributed in 2012/13 accounted for 14 per cent of the Foundation’s net assets, matching the annual average distribution over the past decade.

Costs low

Corporate and administrative costs were again held to a low 3 per cent of total expenses, while operating costs (research, development and travel) were held to 4 per cent of expenses. This tight containment of costs continues to be a hallmark of the Foundation’s activities.

Other annual reports in brief can be accessed below:

2007/08 Annual report
2008/09 Annual report
2009/10 Annual report
2010/11 Annual report
2011/12 Annual report
2012/13 Annual report

Roland Hill and David Thomas

Rowland Hill and David Thomas AM