The responsibility of philanthropy



4 April 2016


University of Sydney

The US Studies Centre and Philanthropy Australia hosted a special event focusing on foundations and philanthropic giving with presentations from two of America's leading voices on the topic.

The event, co-hosted by Sydney Ideas, included a presentation on "The Responsibility of Philanthropy" by Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, followed by the launch of US Foundation Funding for Australia, a new report examining grantmaking by US foundations that focus on Australia. The report was presented by Bradford K. Smith, the president of the Foundation Center of New York.

The Responsibility of Philanthropy

In a wide-ranging presentation, Heintz addressed the question of philanthropy’s responsibility to communities and to society. Heintz touched on the approach of the Rockefeller Brother’s Fund and his own experiences to outline his thoughts on why philanthropy that works for the common good needs to be open and transparent, needs to be accountable to the organisations whom it funds and those it seeks to help, and needs to directly engage and share power with the communities in which it operates. Philanthropy, he said, cannot rely simply on the presumption that it will always automatically be seen as inherently good, but must think about the broader consequences of its decisions and actions.

In his presentation, Smith detailed the past, current, and future trends and organisations involved in US foundation giving in Australia and demonstrated the values of openness and availability of philanthropic data and information for advancing the social sector through more effective philanthropy. The report was prepared by the Foundation Center with the support of the US Studies Centre and Philanthropy Australia.


  • Stephen Heintz
    President, Rockefeller Brothers Fund

    Stephen Heintz was a visitor at the US Studies Centre in April 2016. Heintz is the President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and serves on the boards of the EastWest Institute, the Rockefeller Archive Center, and The American Prospect. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

  • Bradford Smith
    President, Foundation Centre

    Bradford K. Smith visited the US Studies Centre in 2014 and 2016. Smith is President of the Foundation Centre, a leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide. The Centre maintains the most comprehensive database on US and, increasingly, global grantmakers–a robust, accessible knowledge bank for the sector. Prior to this, he was President of the Oak Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland and developed and led the Ford Foundation's Peace and Social Justice Program.