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University honours champion of effective philanthropy

University honours champion of effective philanthropy

University of Auckland Distinguished Alumni Award recipient and Philanthropy executive Jennifer Gill, started life as a teacher, attracted by the powerful influence the profession has on children’s lives.

Taking those skills into the field of philanthropy means she has now helped influence the lives of thousands more New Zealanders – adults as well.

Currently she’s CEO of Foundation North – formerly the ASB Community Trust. After 20 years as a board member of Philanthropy New Zealand, Jennifer is regarded as a champion of effective philanthropy, playing a leading role in the development of the sector.

One of her most notable achievements during her six-year tenure as Chair of Philanthropy New Zealand was a successful campaign to improve tax treatment of charitable donations. This greatly enhanced tax incentives and removed barriers to giving for individuals, businesses and Māori organisations.

Her significant contributions were particularly recognised in 2017, where she was the recipient of several prestigious accolades. She was named as a Kiwibank Local Hero, she won the inaugural Perpetual Guardian NZ Lifetime Achievement Award in philanthropy, and she was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to philanthropy.

Through her role at Foundation North, she is responsible for an investment portfolio valued at $1.3billion and for oversight of the distribution of grants of more than $40 million annually to community projects in the Auckland and Northland regions.

Jennifer is also an Independent Advisor to the Centre for Social Impact New Zealand and has been a member of the Asia Pacific Philanthropy Consortium. She is Director of the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation.

Jennifer completed a DipTchg in 1974 at what was then the Auckland Teachers College after completing a BA at Victoria University. She had intended to become a social worker but her first job working for Presbyterian Support Northern in the Leslie Children’s Home in Meadowbank changed her mind.

“Working with those children I became fascinated by how children learn and I could see that great teachers could have such a powerful influence in the direction of children’s lives.

“Both my parents, my grandmother and a great grandfather were teachers, so it was always an option but not one that I seriously considered until I worked with children in my first year out of university.”

Leaving teaching in 1976, Jennifer was offered a role in the Auckland headquarters of CORSO (Council of Organisations for Relief Service Overseas), that was at that time New Zealand’s largest overseas aid agency.

After CORSO, three babies, and a stint at the YWCA of Wellington, she went on to become the Executive Officer of Sir Roy McKenzie’s personal foundation. She was a founding board member of Philanthropy New Zealand, retiring in 2014.

Despite her extensive career as a philanthropy executive, she still remembers and uses her teacher training skills in her life.

“I use them every day. Both in terms of management and leadership and knowledge of the community of South Auckland.”

Even with her many successes Jennifer is modest about becoming a DAA.

“I feel humbled to be chosen out of so many and to see my name alongside so many inspiring New Zealanders,” she says.

Jennifer plans to share the awards evening with her Mother, husband Harry and two of her children, Jack and Alice, alongside current and former colleagues.

More than 400 guests are expected to attend the Distinguished Alumni Awards dinner in a pavilion on the lawn of Old Government House on March 9 at the University’s City Campus. The winners will take part in the “Bright Lights” panel discussion event at the Grand Millennium Auckland the evening before.

The awards are issued every year to selected graduates for their outstanding contributions to their professions, their communities, New Zealand and internationally.


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