Philanthropy: a passion to preserve

Generous donations, whether of time, money or expertise, assist the crucial work of conserving and investing in Sydney Living Museums’ unique properties and collections.

Philanthropy is the planned and structured giving of time, information, goods and services, influence and voice as well as money to improve the wellbeing of humanity and the community.

Philanthropy Australia

Since the establishment of the Historic Houses Trust of NSW in 1980, the organisation now known as Sydney Living Museums has been supported by many different people, all with a passion to assist our conservation and heritage work. Financial gifts have enabled us to acquire objects of national significance, grow our collections, invest in research and develop innovative education programs. We also have an outstanding army of volunteers who donate their time and talent to ensuring that the more than 600,000 people who visit SLM’s houses and museums every year have a fascinating, rewarding experience.

Generous donors also support SLM’s exhibitions and publications. Recent examples are assistance for the Harry Seidler: Painting Toward Architecture exhibition at the Museum of Sydney in 2014–15 and Florilegium: Sydney’s Painted Garden at the Museum of Sydney in 2016, along with the donors who supported the publication of Darling mother, darling son: the letters of Leslie Walford and Dora Byrne, 1929–1972, published in 2017.

The SLM Foundation and the Governors’ Circle

The SLM Foundation was established in 2001 to create opportunities for philanthropic giving directly to SLM. The Foundation Board of Directors, currently chaired by Edward Simpson, son of the late Caroline Simpson oam, are prime examples of philanthropists. Generous donors in their own right, they also connect with others in their network to broaden public understanding of the work we do. The SLM Foundation has supported many of our most significant projects, most recently the restoration of the Vaucluse House drawing room. This 19th-century property is hugely important in the development of Sydney, and the philanthropic support demonstrated in financial gifts, as well as the gift of time and knowledge, has enabled SLM to uncover new stories and layers of history.

We are also very fortunate to have our Governors’ Circle members. Each year they support SLM and continue to lead by example with their gifts. They’re key supporters of SLM and always ready to share their enthusiasm and expertis

Why give to SLM?

SLM is one of the foremost agencies in Australia with the specific role of conserving, managing and interpreting house museums. If we don’t do this crucial work, who will? A closer look at history tells us that if it weren’t for the love of heritage displayed by so many people, many of our important

buildings and places would have been lost. The activism that led to the creation of the Historic Houses Trust of NSW was inspired by a passion to preserve, protect and manage our portfolio for the enjoyment of current and future generations.

As a government body, SLM receives public funding, but must compete with other important state funding priorities. The cultural sector has to look to additional sources of support to continue to provide public access to museums and historic houses. Philanthropy – both from individuals, and through foundations and partnerships – is therefore becoming increasingly important for all arts and cultural institutions.

Annual Giving Appeal and legacy giving

In June 2017, we instigated our first Annual Giving Appeal. The success of this appeal demonstrates the connection with our members, who gave generously. The support of our members, both financially and as ambassadors for SLM, makes a huge difference to our organisation.

Bequests are an increasingly popular choice for donors who want to ensure that their legacy will continue to benefit SLM into the future. In 2013, Ruth Pope, a teacher, researcher and passionate traveller, left a generous and unrestricted bequest that continues to have an enormous impact. The Ruth Pope Bequest enabled SLM to employ our first Coordinator of Aboriginal Interpretation Programs; plan our Aboriginal Community Engagement Partnership; research and write for publications that interpret and extend our heritage mission; develop new curriculum-linked education programs for secondary school students; and establish an annual staff scholarship that builds international engagement and professional exchange.

Involving our donors

Technology now makes it easier to give, and has led to new developments in philanthropy, such as crowd funding. Australians are giving more, with younger generations keen to be involved. Gone are the days of sending a cheque and getting a receipt and no further communication. Now we can involve our donors in our work by showing them what their gifts have achieved and discussing with them new areas for giving. We can also thank them much more personally.

Of course we can’t all give at the levels of Bill and Melinda Gates or Andrew Forrest AO, but we can support the causes we’re passionate about. For me that’s heritage and history (along with the Fred Hollows Foundation and anything to do with education). At SLM we value all of the philanthropists who give their money, time or talent to make a difference. Every member, volunteer, donor and staff member creates a collective pride in what we have all achieved. I’m very proud to be part of it.

To support SLM’s work, please visit If you’re interested in learning more about donating to SLM, please contact Joy England, Head of Development & Fundraising, at or on 02 8239 2433.

Fob watch on heavy gold chain.
William Charles Wentworth’s pocket watch, William Bucknell, 1823, 18-carat gold. Sydney Living Museums. Acquired with the assistance of the Friends of Vaucluse House, 1984. Photo © Rob Little/RLDI
Two women looking at exhibition.
Visitors to the Artist & the Botanical Collector exhibition at the Museum of Sydney. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums
Red silk window ties, trimmings and tassels.
Passementeries on display in the refurbished drawing room at Vaucluse House during thankyou event for donors. Photo © Kai Leishman for Sydney Living Museums
Three different patterns stacked.
Linoleum designs, from Staines linoleum: inlaid, carpet inlaid, granie, printed linoleum, and printed cork carpet, / manufactured by the Linoleum Manufacturing Company, Ltd, 1902. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums

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