Local philanthropy is proving to be a powerful catalyst for building community vitality.

Competition for the charitable dollar is fierce these days. We are bombarded through the mailbox, the inbox, the telephone and almost every other communications medium with solicitations from all manner of national and international causes. However, there is a certain resistance to the ‘corporatisation’ of charities and a distinct level of scepticism about just what proportion of funds gets put to work where it’s needed most.

KiwiCan programme, Flaxmere Primary

At the same time there is also a realisation that charity does, indeed, need to begin at home. No longer the land of milk and honey, New Zealand suffers from poverty, social problems, natural disasters and environmental threats just as much as any country, and Hawke’s Bay is right up there in terms of hardship and challenge.

Meeting the need for a credible and wide-reaching local charitable conduit is the Hawke’s Bay Foundation, a community foundation based on the underlying principle that responsibility for the wellbeing and vitality of our community begins right here.

Given that there are already various funding sources for meeting social needs – central government, councils, corporate sponsors and even pokies – the Foundation sees itself in a unique philanthropic role as it is all about capital preservation. Donations received are invested, with only the ongoing income distributed.

Hawke’s Bay Foundation Chairman, Rebecca Turner, reiterates that this truly makes it a gift that keeps on giving. “That is why we are different from other organisations that just give out money and then it’s gone. We preserve and protect our capital base.”

Rebecca cites the example of Tauranga’s Acorn Foundation. Established in 2003, after three years they had $1 million in invested funds. By 2011, they had distributed $1 million to local causes and grown their reserves to $6.2 million, invested to generate more funds for annual distribution, as well as $70 million in anticipated funds and growing.

“This just goes to show how much you can give out over a period of time and still have more than you started with,” says Rebecca. “It is an ongoing gift from the community to the community. It is independent of political influence but will be cooperative, collaborative and will coordinate with those other players to avoid duplication.”

This may mean that it takes time for the Foundation to be giving out large distributions, but Rebecca is quick to point out that it is more about long term and sustainable funding than quick fixes.
“This is a very different type of fundraising compared to sausage sizzles, raffles, and art or wine auctions. With a protected capital base the Foundation can keep on giving and recipients can rely on getting a consistent amount every year.”

Napier-based solicitor, Andrew Wares, is involved with the Foundation because he thinks there is a need for a credible and coordinated charity in Hawke’s Bay that offers the community a better way to make gifts, and thereby encourages philanthropy.

Andrew likes the fact that the Foundation allows donors to make a living gift or, more likely, set up a bequest in their will via a simple process with their lawyer. They can operate a named endowment fund or remain anonymous, and can contribute to a general fund or specify charities to benefit from their giving.

“The donor can be confident that their chosen charity will continue to benefit from their gift for years to come. Many charitable organisations do not allow this sort of ‘pass through’ funding.”

Established some years ago as the Community Foundation Hawke’s Bay, early successes included appointment as the local representative for well-known national trusts, the Tindall Foundation and the Aotearoa Foundation. On their behalf, the Hawke’s Bay Foundation handles applications and to date has distributed over $250,000 to a variety of local organisations.

In Hawke’s Bay the Tindall Foundation has a focus on social programmes, such a food banks, youth development and support for the needy, while the Aotearoa Foundation is more concerned with environmental projects.

New trustees

In late 2011 a new group of trustees formed to revitalise and re-launch as the Hawke’s Bay Foundation. In addition to Rebecca Turner and Andrew Wares, the trustees are Brian Martin, James Williams and Tim Nowell-Usticke. They bring a collective wealth of experience and are passionate about building a well-endowed Foundation capable of delivering real results. All act in a voluntary capacity and have personally committed to the Foundation.

In addition to being a professional director and fellow of the College of Chartered Accountants, Brian Martin served as a trustee on the Eastern and Central Community Trust and was closely involved in developing the trust’s investment policies.

“We are very aware of the need to manage funds ethically, responsibly and conservatively,” Brian explains. “We aim to have high quality, low cost management so that the community can have confidence that the Foundation will look after their money.”

Both James Williams and Tim Nowell-Usticke are locals who feel they have been treated well by Hawke’s Bay as a place to live and do business. Tim believes other families will also recognise the value of giving back.

“We are here to build a fund whose sole purpose is to help our amazing Hawke’s Bay charities and causes who so badly need money. The Foundation will be a tremendous assurance to them and when the region has been good to you it is good to give back, helping to build a stronger and more vital community.”

The Foundation expects to fund a wide range of large and small region-wide projects, and community input will be encouraged to tell the Foundation what is needed and where. This follows the principle of assessing the community’s ‘vital signs’ to gauge how it is doing in areas such as youth, the elderly, and other social groups and issues.

Community foundations are the world’s fastest growing form of philanthropy. Some of the most successful include the Vancouver Foundation, Hong Kong Community Chest and the New York Foundation. Here in New Zealand, the Hawke’s Bay Foundation is one of 11 throughout the country.
James Williams says the success of community foundations demonstrates that people want to give back and support causes that are close to home, and often close to the heart.

“I hope Hawke’s Bay will follow in the footsteps of the Vancouver and Acorn Foundations and attract a significant pool of funds that can be used to improve our community. The Foundation offers the opportunity for ordinary people to be philanthropists,” he explains.

Long term, the Foundation has the aim of building their investment reserves to $10 million in ten years. Brian Martin acknowledges they are at the beginning of a long road, but with wide community support this is readily achievable.

“It’s important that we build the financial resources of the Foundation in order to start generating income and to provide positive impetus for growth,” he explains. “To do this, we have been fortunate to receive seven cornerstone donations that put us well on the way to our first million.”

Although the initial goal is to secure cornerstone donors, they by no means want to deter anyone from giving any amount they feel they would like to contribute, however large or small.

“It’s all about everyday people seeing how they can be involved,” Brian says. An inspiring example is the initial donation made to the Vancouver Foundation in 1943, when a woman named Alice McKay gave $1,000. Their fund has now grown to nearly $750 million.”

Rebecca Turner sums up the philosophy behind this type of philanthropy by quoting an old Chinese proverb: “One generation plants the trees, another gets the shade.”

“That really encapsulates the simplicity of the initiative,” she says. “You look ahead, plant a seed that grows for future generations to benefit from, and leave a gift that helps build a community better than what it is now.”

The trustees are looking to the community for support. Donations, bequests and any offers of involvement will be welcome, so please call 06 870 4648 or email info@hawkesbayfoundation.org.nz

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