New Zealand giving


Olivia Lacey


New Zealanders are a generous lot – recent international figures from the Charities Aid Foundation rank New Zealand fourth in the World Index of Giving. Philanthropy in Aotearoa New Zealand includes individuals, trusts, businesses and foundations as well as around 27,000 registered charities. From a population of close to 5 million people, the Philanthropy New Zealand Giving NZ 2014 report shows an annual financial giving value as $2.788 billion.

In this article, we’re providing an overview of a handful of projects and discussions happening in the New Zealand philanthropic space. It’s a big topic but we hope this introduces New Zealand beyond the All Blacks and the Lord of the Rings!

In the face of complex intergenerational social and environmental challenges (think: poverty, climate change, educational achievement, violence, and inclusion) a slice of New Zealand grantmaking is becoming more strategic, with a focus on transformation, tackling causes and catalysing social change. As philanthropics grapple with the scale and complexity of these ‘wicked’ problems, opportunities to work more collaboratively with each other, and more inclusively with the communities they support, are increasingly seen as essential to positive impact and outcomes.

This co-operation includes philanthropy working more intentionally and assertively with government. Both sectors have realised the value of better understanding each other’s role and creating more transparent relationships based on sharing information about strategy, priorities and funding decisions.

An example of this funder collaboration and changing relationship with government is a recent foster care advocacy initiative—where instead of adults speaking for children, the young people will be the voice—Voyce – Whakarongo Mai.  Four Philanthropy New Zealand members have worked together to create this new agency that will become an essential partner with government’s new Ministry, Oranga Tamariki, focussed on the needs of children at risk.

Voyce brings foster children together, online and face-to-face, to connect and share experiences, but it will also be a conduit for children in care to advise and directly influence the services they get from the Ministry. John McCarthy of the Tindall Foundation – a funder of the project along with the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation, Foundation North, and the Todd Foundation – says similar child-focused organisations abroad – Australia’s Create Foundation and Who Cares? Scotland – have already shown the benefit of a “strong consumer voice” within foster care.

Wellington City, NZ.

New social enterprise models are emerging in New Zealand, and with them new ways of thinking about how best to create and resource social good. With traditional charitable ways of working and income sources (including philanthropy), slowly being complemented by new business models that trade to deliver social benefit, some parts of the philanthropic sector are focussing on how they might contribute.

A number of grantmakers are thinking about how they might use their investment portfolios to support social enterprise, and consideration of social loans and the role of social impact investment in New Zealand is on the up. The concept of ‘doing good, while doing well’ still has room to grow. In a recent Philanthropy News article, John Prendergast, CEO, Community Trust of Southland says that investors haven’t quite built up the appetite for it and there are only a few social enterprises who have created an investable product.

Philanthropy New Zealand and a number of key members are working in this space with the Government’s Social Investment Unit. Two topics dominate these discussions: mining data about social impact, what’s working, and the net benefits to New Zealand Inc. of social interventions to guide future investment; and using a clearer picture of market failure in the provision of capital for the not-for-profit sector to inform new approaches.

This links us to the conversation around how we are measuring the effectiveness of all this good work in New Zealand. Lani Evans from Thankyou Payroll believes the impact measurement discussion in New Zealand has some unique questions to address. How do we ensure that the things we’re measuring are based on genuinely shared values – values that are relevant to Tangata Whenua (Māori people), as well as to predominantly Pakeha (New Zealand Europeans) philanthropic organisations? How do we move beyond evaluation and broaden our frame of reference to include measurements that look at the ripple effects of our work and the unintended consequences, both good and bad?

There’s still much for us to learn, but the emergence of organisations like the Centre for Social Impact, are helping accelerate the sector’s ability to understand and implement good practice. The community foundation Momentum Waikato, uses the Canadian developed Vital Signs methodology to help understand community aspirations, benchmark indicators of community health and ultimately track philanthropic impact on key social indicators.

As philanthropy moves closer to community, many trusts and foundations are considering how well their governance structures reflect the communities they seek to serve. Diversity around the board tables of philanthropy remains a concern. ‘Currently, there is much variation in this process,’ says J R McKenzie Trust’s Executive Director Iain Hines. ‘Some family trusts have deeds that stipulate a range of appointing bodies, while in other cases it’s the family who decides.  Some energy trusts hold public elections; community trust board members are appointed by the Minister of Finance.

‘So it is perhaps not surprising that there is also variation in how, and even whether, philanthropic organisations seek to ensure appropriate diversity on their boards.  Some are mindful of the need for diversity as they replace trustees; others appear less so. While there has been some improvement over recent decades, my report card summary would be, ‘Could do better’, says Hines.

As the philanthropic sector’s interest in learning more about game-changing strategies, innovative ways to maximise our impact, and engage in discussions on innovation and best practices, we’ll be exploring global and local innovation in depth this May at Philanthropy New Zealand’s biennial conference Philanthropy Summit 2017: Innovate for Impact.

This event brings together thought leaders from across the globe for New Zealand’s largest gathering of professionals in the philanthropic sector. Speakers include Dr Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah (CIVICUS), Katy Love (Wikimedia Foundation), Mark Randazzo (EDGE Funders Alliance) and Akaya Windwood (Rockwood Leadership Institute), Allan English (English Family Foundation), Donna Flavell, and Waikato Tainui iwi.

We’ve touched on a just few areas and discussions in philanthropy in New Zealand and if you would like more information or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via

Olivia Lacey is Marketing and Communications Advisor at Philanthropy New Zealand.

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