While I’m having lunches with strangers, Antonia Ruffell is having coffees with tech start-up founders.

Antonia, the 382nd person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is CEO of StartGiving, a not-for-profit that encourages and supports successful tech founders to establish their own charitable foundations.

Antonia is an active networker partly because it’s a requirement of her job, but also because she admires start-up founders and relishes the opportunity to learn from them.

Many of these founders have a social conscience and want to help solve serious problems, which is why they can have a keen interest in philanthropy. 

So why don’t these successful businesspeople just donate directly to charity, rather than go to the trouble of establishing their own foundation?

Two reasons, Antonia says. First, donating via a foundation can have tax benefits. Second, if you rapidly accumulate a large sum of money (perhaps as a result of selling your business), it can be hard to know what to do with it; but if you put that money into a foundation, you then have years to decide how to allocate it. 

Antonia has more than two decades’ experience in the not-for-profit sector, but it was an accidental career path. After studying English literature in her native England, Antonia secured a marketing job in what happened to be a youth charity, The Prince’s Trust, which was founded by the future King Charles III.

After moving to Sydney in her late twenties, Antonia continued working in the not-for-profit sector, apart from a brief stint in banking – which, if nothing else, confirmed how much she valued building a career that had a deeper purpose.

Philanthropic work gives Antonia two forms of joy: she enjoys playing a part in helping people who are less fortunate and she enjoys seeing the happiness that funders get from helping those people.