Community Foundations and the NZ funding landscape

Eleanor Cater
Membership Services Director
Community Foundations of NZ
27 March 2023

We often get asked how community funding in Aotearoa NZ works, and it’s easy to see why, it’s complex*. Much of it is regionally based, with a funding landscape comprised of local community trusts and energy trusts (both of which are unique to Aotearoa), private family foundations (such as The Tindall Foundation, Todd Foundation and JR Mckenzie Trust), corporate foundations (such as Te Rourou One Aotearoa Foundation and The Spark Foundation), commercial operators (such as Perpetual Guardian and Public Trust), statutory trusts including gaming trusts (such as The Lion Foundation, Pub Charity and NZCT, distributing proceeds from gaming machines), as well as local and central Government (including the Lotteries Grants Board and Community Organisation Grants Scheme).

Each of these funders have a different focus, many are regionally focused, and most have specific visions or strategies to achieve change across Aotearoa NZ. They each occupy a specific regional or strategic niche and, increasingly, they collaborate with one another to achieve common aims.

We also have a growing network of 17 local Community Foundations, which are based on a successful model of place-based philanthropy. So, where do they fit in?

Essentially, Community Foundations provide the infrastructure for individuals, organisations and businesses to give, to become involved in community funding, to see their vision through for their community. Geographically focused, they provide the means for everyone to be a philanthropist and to hone their giving so that it can be effective and long lasting.

"Community Foundations connect local philanthropy with local needs, using a model that is long-term and sustainable".

    Community Foundations pool community funds, invest them and distribute the income into communities, working in partnership with donors and steering funding to where it is needed most (using local insight, data and research to inform that process). They act as connectors on the ground, connecting generous Kiwis with opportunities to do something transformative for their communities - whether it be building long term funding streams, transformative projects or providing emergency funding. Community Foundations connect local philanthropy with local needs, using a model that is long-term and sustainable.

    Community Foundations help Kiwis to do something more strategic beyond traditional charity giving. They are uniquely placed to bring resources, doers, and innovative ideas together to tackle the challenges of our age and, because they work with people who are choosing to give now or have set up a fund to be responsive to local needs, they often don’t have the same constraints as other funders. It enables them to be nimble, working in partnership with local givers (and, as Cyclone Gabrielle’s recent devastation has demonstrated, the need to be nimble and responsive has never been more important).

    Our communities need all kinds of givers, including those who generously give their time and donations to immediate needs and those who are thinking more strategically about shifting the dial, thinking long term and being creative with their giving. For givers of all kinds, the local Community Foundation may well be a place that they discover the means for giving in a fulfilling way, giving long term, and giving well.

    * Read more about the NZ funding sector, how is it structured and how it works, in our earlier blog post by Kate Frykberg: A brief guide to the philanthropic sector

    This article does not contain a definitive list of funders, and does not include iwi-led organisations or those with a specific focus on Te Ao Māori.

    Date Posted: 27 Mar 2023

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