Growing Local Generosity with Community Foundations of New Zealand

Community Foundations of New Zealand (CFNZ) is the umbrella body for community foundations across Aotearoa/New Zealand. There are now 17 regional community foundations across the country: six of them were established in the past six years, many with the help of Tindall Foundation donations (that is a 35% increase, which is set to grow further over the coming five years).

The Tindall Foundation (TTF) was a founding partner of CFNZ and has been part-funding operations since 2017. Prior to that, TTF effectively played the role of supporting the establishment of individual Community Foundations. Transferring that role to CFNZ in 2017 has helped to strengthen the Community Foundation network and build internal capacity and capability.

Community Foundations are local, independent organisations that run a model of place-based philanthropy. It’s a tried-and-tested model that has been growing across the world for over a hundred years and permits anyone’s generosity to have ongoing impact in the community, giving permanently to the causes that they care about.

What is the aim?

TTF has among its principal aims to grow generosity in Aotearoa. The establishment of a national network of Community Foundations has achieved that. CFNZ and TTF share a vision of local generosity growing across New Zealand, and strive to provide a structure in which anyone can be philanthropic and effect change in their local community.

How does it work?

Community Foundations build long-term, reliable funding streams for their local communities by investing donors’ funds and growing them over time. These funds are invested in perpetuity, meaning the generosity will continue to deliver benefits to that community — forever. The potential for growth is unlimited, as we are starting to see here (and international experience bears out), while the start-up phase for Community Foundations is typically slow and steady, growth will be exponential over time.

What has been achieved?

CFNZ has developed a strong brand that places giving at the heart of communities, and is developing a structure to support members’ capability and capacity to grow. TTF funding over the past three years has helped CFNZ support the launch four new community foundations, attaining today 85% coverage of New Zealand. With a few gaps still on the map, CFNZ’s strategic goal is to achieve full coverage across Aotearoa in the next five years. The growth of funds returning to communities will increase impact over time.

  • The networks’ endowed funds under management have grown from $55 million to $150 million in just four years.
  • Further anticipated funds for the future (bequests) have grown to an estimated $350 million — this is rising exponentially each year.
  • Grants paid out in the past year alone are over $25 million.
  • There have been 1330 grants made in one year.
  • Grants from endowed (invested) funds this past year alone total $4.6 million.

CFNZ’s Executive Director Eleanor Cater is proud of the leadership Community Foundations are showing in the sector for transformative giving. “You don’t have to be wealthy to be generous” is a quote from Bill Holland, one of the founders of the Acorn Foundation in the Western Bay of Plenty and Eleanor also firmly believes everyone has a place in philanthropy: it’s not just for the rich and famous. She believes there is huge potential for our country, by shifting thinking to encourage everyone to think generosity.

“The Tindall Foundation’s support has enabled generosity to flourish in communities and, while we have $150m under management across the network today there is also a pipeline of anticipated funds estimated to be over $350m.  Over the time The Tindall Foundation has supported the growth of Community Foundations we have together built a structure enabling half a billion dollars to be invested for future community benefit,” said Eleanor Cater.

What has been learnt?

Community Foundations are increasing the amount of funding being given out to those in need, and investing in opportunities. Many of the foundations have been at the forefront of COVID-19 relief and are channelling dollars to where they are needed most during these challenging times. The work is making a difference, both to areas of specific donor interest and in terms of overall community need.

  • In 2017, the Nikau Foundation, Wellington’s Community Foundation, became trustee for the $38 million of funds of the Borrin Foundation. This was a significant milestone in the life of Nikau Foundation, and demonstrated the high level of trust and confidence it receives from the Wellington community.
  • In 2019, Tauranga’s Acorn Foundation, the largest Community Foundation in New Zealand, distributed over $1 million to local community organisations and initiatives.
  • Advance Ashburton in Mid-Canterbury represents one of New Zealand’s smaller communities, yet still manages almost $11 million in funds, and anticipates over $35 million in future bequests. Last year it distributed almost $600,000 to a wide range of community recipients. As evidence of its wider impact, in 2004 Advance Ashburton played a key role in retaining Ashburton Hospital as a local health facility. In 2016, it helped the hospital to become a centre of excellence in rural health for New Zealand, thanks to the establishment of a new Rural Health Academic Centre.

Community Foundations fit well within TTF’s principles: not only growing generosity, but also understanding that local solutions are usually best, because locals know their communities. That’s also why TTF utilises many of them as Local Donation Managers.

CFNZ is mindful of building permanent community assets and the benefits of a not-for-profit model in achieving this. Partnering with TTF has helped CFNZ build credibility with donors and partners for Community Foundations — helping to open doors and form further partnerships, both locally and nationally.

“The Tindall Foundation’s relationship with CFNZ has always gone well beyond being ‘just a funder’. From mentoring through to helping us build capacity, advocating and influencing, The Tindall Foundation’s support has always been strong and their importance placed on long-term, high-trust relationships, with shared goals, is key to success.” — Eleanor Cater

Hopes and dreams

Community Foundations are still very young in New Zealand, which means that there is huge potential for the model for the future. With steady growth, imagine what they will be able to do in communities in a century’s time. The most mature Community Foundations around the world have grown to a significant size, providing leadership and transformation in communities. The model is proving to be just as successful here, and its exponential growth year on year is great news for our communities.

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