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Gifts, bequests, philanthropy and the QCF

One of my most pleasurable roles since retiring as President of Queensland’s Court of Appeal, is that of Chair of the Board of Governors of the Queensland Community Foundation (QCF), the perpetual charitable trust established by former Premier the Honourable Mike Ahern AO in 1997.

It is one of Queensland’s best kept secrets and I invite you to share it with your firms and your clients.

From seed funding of just $300,000, the QCF trust has grown its corpus to more than $115 million. Its interest income provides generous annual grants to Queensland charities and not for profits – so far, over $30 million dollars. And it will continue to do this for generations to come.

Under the stewardship of the Public Trustee as trustee, and advised by a skilled and entirely voluntary Board of Governors, QCF has become the state’s largest public perpetual charitable trust. Its current strategy is to both maintain the corpus of the foundation in real terms so it can continue its role into the future, and to maximise the income available for charitable distribution each year.

QCF provides unique benefits to donors and to the Queensland community. First, thanks to generous sponsorship from the Public Trustee, Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC) and Anglo American, every cent of every tax-deductible dollar donated goes into the capital fund to provide income to Queensland charities forever.

Second, its umbrella nature of operating through sub-funds provides great flexibility for philanthropists. We have regional sub-funds so far in Toowoomba, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, the Gulf and North Queensland.

These regional funds appeal to donors with a ‘give where you live’ philosophy, as all trust income will go only to those in need in their local community. In a state as large and decentralised as Queensland, this is often an important consideration and a great way of ensuring distribution of intergenerational wealth to the regions.

Those with a passion for a particular cause or charity can donate to an existing specific charitable sub-fund – you can see the extensive current options on our website. You can also talk to us about establishing a new one. And you don’t have to be dead to contribute to QCF.

You, your firm or your clients can become living donors by setting up a personally named sub-fund and make your own recommendations each year about charitable distributions. This is a great way to develop the spirit of giving and a philanthropic culture within your firm or family. For example, our wonderful sponsors, QIC, have recently established the QIC sub-fund with employees contributing and deciding which charity to support each year.

There are no start-up costs and none of those ongoing regulatory requirements which burden those setting up their own foundations. Over years, these sub-funds provide charitable grants well beyond their original corpus and they keep on doing this forever.

The LawRight Civil Justice Fund is one QCF sub-fund which should be of particular interest to every lawyer and one deserving of support from the legal profession. Imagine if, over time, bequests and gifts to this sub-fund allowed LawRight to continue its important work helping impecunious, vulnerable Queenslanders access their legal rights, independent of government funding.

Third, you may prefer to make a tax-deductible donation of as little as $2 to our largest sub-fund, our General Fund, which has grown to $13 million and has so far donated more than $8 million to Queensland charities right across this state from Coolangatta to the Cape. The Board of Governors ensures that the annual charitable distribution is made in areas where the need is then greatest.

This year the General Fund gave 28 grants addressing domestic violence, homelessness and mental health, causes greatly impacted by the current pandemic. An additional 35 General Fund grants went to important regional projects at grassroots levels right across the state. And next year, continuing our concern for the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, the grants’ theme will be ‘Building Community Resilience’.


Winning entry of this year’s QCF Focus on Kindness Photo Challenge.

Fourth, we are not just about giving to QCF. We encourage all manner of philanthropy in Queensland, recognising the importance of nurturing the spirit of giving in our community. We do this in ‘Philanthropy Week’, launched each year by the Speaker, the Honourable Curtis Pitt, at Parliament House; through our annual Philanthropy Awards presented at a stellar celebratory lunch; and for those with a creative bent, through our Philanthropy in Focus photographic challenge.

This year saw our 11th Philanthropy Awards. Each year the nominations increase, as more and more Queenslanders celebrate those who give to others in whatever way they can. QCF recognises that philanthropy is another gift that keeps on giving as helping others not only benefits those you help and your community; it also improves your own sense of wellbeing.

Congratulations to lawyers McCullough Robertson who won the 2021 Corporate Philanthropist of the Year Award for their generous pro bono work, as well as their hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to QUT for scholarships and to other wonderful Queensland charities.


McCullough Robertson COO Kim Trajer accepting the firm’s win from Samay Zhouand, the Public Trustee of Queensland and CEO, at QCF’s Philanthropy Awards.

Next year, ‘Philanthropy Week’ will be in June. Take the time to nominate your favourite philanthropist. Use your iPhone to enter ‘Philanthropy in Focus’. And please book a table and join us at the splendid awards lunch on 10 June at elegant Brisbane City Hall, always a joyful and uplifting event.

Finally, for will writers whose clients want to leave a bequest to QCF or another charity, the golden rule is to accurately identify the exact name of the recipient. This can avoid an expensive court application later. It is prudent to directly check with the charity so that bequeathed funds go where they are intended.

It is also helpful to clarify whether the donor wants the charity to know about the bequest before death. The charity might like to thank the living donor and even involve them in their work.

I urge you to consider the wonderful Queensland Community Foundation when you or a client are next thinking of a charitable donation or bequest. It really is an easy way to establish a little bit of immortality right here in Queensland – the gift that keeps on giving – forever.

For more information, contact QCF via email or phone: 07 3360 3854.

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