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NZ philanthropy has survived the global financial crisis

New Zealand philanthropy has survived the global financial crisis

Philanthropy in New Zealand has so far survived the global financial crisis (GFC), with more than three quarters of respondents in the first national survey of grantmakers saying they have either not changed the amount of money they award, or they have slightly increased it.

The survey, Grantmaking in New Zealand: Giving That Works, is a collaboration between Philanthropy New Zealand and Dr Richard Greatbanks of the Otago Business School at the University of Otago. A total of 40 New Zealand grantmaking organisations completed the survey; Dr Greatbanks then carried out in-depth interviews with 12 of them.

He says the results show that despite the GFC, most New Zealand grantmakers have been able to maintain their grant-award levels over the last three financial years. However, he warns that could still change as long-term investments reach maturity and are reinvested at lower interest rates.

“Many foundations may yet see reductions in the real funds available for grantmaking purposes.”

Dr Greatbanks says his in-depth interviews also revealed that a few grantmakers were seriously affected by the GFC.

“A couple of organisations told me that it had a major impact on them, with one saying it had been crippled by the crisis.”

Philanthropy New Zealand chief executive Liz Gibbs says it is reassuring to know that the GFC has not seriously affected philanthropy in New Zealand.

“While a few of our members have had difficulties, most of them have weathered the storm, which is great news for the thousands of New Zealanders who benefit from the work our members help fund.”

The survey is based on a similar survey carried out every few years by US organisation Grantmakers for Effective Organisations (GEO). Dr Greatbanks says it provides a useful “snapshot” of grantmaking in New Zealand that will help inform national discussions about philanthropy.

“It provides some rich data about what grantmakers are doing – and what they’re not doing,” he says. “It’s also a useful reference point for the future, particularly if we repeat the survey in a few years time.”

One issue it has highlighted is the fact that the philanthropy sector in New Zealand is dominated by a few very large grantmakers. The 40 organisations that took part in the survey have philanthropic assets of $5 billion; however, 75 percent of those assets are owned by just six organisations.

Dr Greatbanks says this imbalance has important implications for the future development of philanthropy in New Zealand.

“It raises the question of how people who are involved in philanthropy support the smaller philanthropic organisations. What are their needs, and how do we make sure they have a voice nationally?”


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