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The Funding Network fires up NZ philanthropy

The Funding Network fires up NZ philanthropy

“Dragons’ Den for charities” to launch here

As a London art dealer, trading the works of Picasso and Munch, Dr Fred Mulder made a dollar or two. But he realised early on stashing his riches away for himself wasn’t an especially satisfying way to live.

So, in 2002, he launched The Funding Network (TFN) in Britain. Described as ‘Dragons’ Den for charities’, the not-for-profit organisation allows social entrepreneurs to pitch for funds at live crowd-funding events. Next month, Dr Mulder will be here for the launch of the concept in NZ.

Given his own impressive track record, Dr Mulder is great at encouraging others to loosen their purse strings, with The Funding Network flourishing in every country it has reached. Across Britain, Canada, South Africa, Bulgaria, Romania, the United States and Australia, more than 150 events have been held, 750 charities supported and in excess of NZD $13 million raised.

New Zealand’s first TFN event will be held at Auckland’s Q Theatre on Tuesday, September 9. Broadcaster Carol Hirschfeld will MC and, along with representatives from TFN UK and Australia, Dr Mulder will be here – he doesn’t miss many TFN events and pledges at all of them.

“The Funding Network aims to democratise philanthropy by providing an attractive and accessible entry point for new givers,” says Dr Mulder. “The TFN model caters to a group we describe as the ‘mass affluent’; those whose giving may not put them in the same league as a Bill Gates, but who nonetheless have the capacity to make meaningful financial and in-kind contributions to issues they care about. They also get to experience the fulfilment and enrichment that comes from this.”

TFN’s model recognises success in this space isn’t just about finances; it’s about community.

“The environment we create inspires people to raise more as a group than they could as individuals,” says Dr Mulder. “It also encourages people to give more than just money. Our guests hear about new solutions to community issues, they ask questions, and then they pledge support to social entrepreneurs who have big ideas but limited resources.”

Following nominations by TFN members, four Kiwi groups have been selected for the Auckland showcase. They include a unique approach to empowering vulnerable young mums, Auckland’s only mobile environmental classroom, a programme bringing the medicine of laughter to hospitals, and an arts-based initiative for teaching those excluded from mainstream schooling.

The groups are currently being mentored and receiving pitch training, in preparation for six minutes each on stage on September 9 where they’ll field six minutes of questions before the pledging session starts. A year later, each organisation will report back to donors on the impact of the funding they received.

While this is the first time TFN has been in New Zealand, Dr Mulder has a strong connection to the country. After the Rainbow Warrior was sunk in Auckland Harbour in 1985, he suggested Greenpeace use advertising as a means of attracting new members. He took the risk of underwriting the advertising campaign, which he insisted be placed on the front pages of newspapers alongside news about Greenpeace. The ads were extremely successful and Dr Mulder has since helped other groups, such as the anti-apartheid movement, fund similar campaigns. In the UK, he was awarded a CBE in 2012 for his service to philanthropy.

Helping launch The Funding Network in New Zealand are two Kiwis who had the same idea at the same time. Earlier this year, businessman Nick Edgar and the CEO of Auckland Communities Foundation Hilary Sumpter independently enquired to the UK about establishing a New Zealand group. They formed a steering committee with the aim of bringing TFN to Auckland.

“We’re delighted to be at this stage,” says Edgar. “We believe The Funding Network can have a big impact in New Zealand as it provides a terrific platform for individuals, foundations and corporations to give collectively.”

Sumpter believes working with TFN can help widen the fundraising landscape in New Zealand. “Our aim is to use TFN to broaden the culture and practice of giving by making it accessible, engaging, collaborative, fun and rewarding for all,” she says. “Pledges at TFN events can start at $100 and we’re aiming to raise at least $10,000 for each organisation that pitches.”

The Macquarie Group Foundation helped establish TFN in Australia and, alongside Macquarie Private Wealth NZ, is a key supporter of the Auckland event. “We have seen the impact TFN has had in Australia and we want New Zealand to share that experience,” says Laurence Fitzpatrick, Head of Macquarie Private Wealth NZ. “TFN brings together the elements innovative charities need to succeed. It offers social entrepreneurs the rare opportunity to showcase their work, secure funding and mentoring, and expand their donor base and networks. It’s a special mix and one we’re proud to be part of.”


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