News Foundation Ahead on Our Path to Operational Funding Independence
25 May 2021
Last week I met with the Christchurch City Council elected members and senior staff and asked for a reduction in the establishment grant for the 2022 and 2023 financial years. This is in addition the reduction we asked for and received in the 2021FY.
This is an important milestone for us as we move ahead of schedule towards operational funding independence.
The requested reduction to Council from what is currently in their draft long-term plan would be $430,000 saving over the two years.
2022 and 2023 are the two final years of the establishment grant agreement held between the two organisations.
It is important to note that the Christchurch City Council established the Christchurch Foundation, and committed to establishment funding of it. This was because it was recognised that an entity purely focused on growing philanthropy (attracting new funds) for the benefit of the city was required.
The intention of the Establishment Funding was to ensure that we could get up and running as quickly as possible, making a positive contribution sooner, and to ensure that best practice could be put in place from the beginning.
The Trustees and I have no doubt that this vision and generosity has contributed to the situation that we find ourselves in and we thank the Council for its support to date.
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What has the CCC funding to date enabled?
Greater Christchurch now has a Foundation with tested and secure systems, software and expertise that can assist donors, with small or large amounts of funds, to give towards making our city better.
We are an entity that has proven it can scale at the drop of the hat to respond to disasters and opportunities.
The Christchurch City Council’s grant has helped create an entity that is seen to be leading nationally and globally. Corporate partners programmes, modeled on ours are now live-in organisations across New Zealand, as well as overseas. Tel Aviv replicated our emergency response model to respond to Covid 19. There is a Winston Churchill Scholarship project underway in the UK that points to us as best practice in philanthropic response to acts of terror.
We are regularly asked to present in national and global forums and conferences about our work. This reflects well on the city.
The Foundation has also been able to establish systems that are actively supporting causes/ not for profits within the city to achieve and flourish. These include the ability to bring funds in from overseas through the establishment of our sister organisation in the United Kingdom.
What has been achieved in our first four years?
June 30 will mark the end of our fourth full year of operation. We have helped donors give $12.5M in funds and have distributed $10.3M into our economy up until the end of last FY (June 30 2020).
The 2021FY is looking strong again with over $2.5M in gifts received, and more funds expected in the final quarter.
In addition to the money, we’ve achieved the following;
- Our systems, policies and procedures are largely all in place, and have well and truly been tested.
- The Foundation is a known and trusted entity in NZ and overseas, with excellent advocates.
- We know what is important to our residents (through our Vital Signs research) and are now guiding our growing database of donors towards projects aligned to resident aspirations to make greater Ōtautahi Christchurch better.
- Our team are working local causes to assist with their strategies, providing advice, making introductions, and where we can, matching our donors to their projects.
- We have been able to decrease our reliance on Council establishment funding.
Are we operationally sustainable?
Operational funding is an ongoing issue that all charities face, however the trustees and I are confident in the ability of the Foundation to continue to grow its operational revenue (as required).
We have the collective experience and expertise to make these decisions in an informed manner. Detailed planning and a comprehensive budgeting process sit behind our reduced funding request of Council. We have shown this in detail with Council, workshopped it with them, and they inform us that they are comfortable with our planning.
The Council Establishment Funding to date has allowed us to invest early in the big-ticket items such as websites, brand, and software. Grant application and distribution systems, and the roll out of our refreshed global brand are the final areas of major investment. Planning for this is already underway.
Over the last few months, as a part of our annual budgeting and review process, we have reflected on our progress to date against our establishment milestones. We also have looked at our future programme of work.
There are several contributing factors to the proposed reduction in funding.
- Our model is lean and is now built in a way (fee for service) that allows us to scale up and down as appropriate and hire the right expertise on a project basis which mitigates risk.
- We are in the final stages of discussions with an additional fee for service “city partner” who is willing to contribute to the establishment costs of grant making software and alterations to our website to allow grants to applied for online.
- We have secured a new major pro bono creative partner (MadeKnown) who is providing significant design and marketing services for us, including the evolution of our global brand. This removes significant costs from our planned activities for the next few years.
- Since inception we have been studiously working to build our operational reserves. Our policy is to have three months of operational overhead costs on hand. We have made good progress towards this by continuously working to secure pro bono support of our activities, securing some small contributions (gifts) towards our operations, and applying a fee for service model that includes an element of profitability.
- Our donors and prospects are significantly better than we thought that they would be so early in our development. Opportunity always comes after disaster. Our work supporting donors to make a positive difference to the victims of the terror attacks has built strong relationships with individuals, foundations, and corporates across the globe. Many of these are of a level that we could only have dreamt of when the Foundation began.
Looking to the future
The Christchurch Foundation has a clear Charter, Supporting Strategic Plan and Operational Plan that outlines our activities. This is linked to the aspiration’s residents of greater Ōtautahi Christchurch have for our city.
We have developed a selection of philanthropic “products” for donors large and small to opt into. These are aligned to the city narrative and reinforce what is great about our city. They also provide us with profile and opportunities to engage.
We will continue to offer a bespoke service for donors with significant gifts.
The remainder of this year and into the 2022FY will see several new impactful programmes and projects become public, which will further grow profile and widen perceptions about what we do, and how we benefit the city.
On top of this we have a pipeline of “warm leads” to pursue to grow both our database and our existing donors’ generosity. I have worked in the not-for-profit sector for some on New Zealand’s largest charities. I have not had a pipeline of opportunities this strong to work with in any of those roles.
We are excited about the future and are thrilled to be working with you to make our city better.