The Christchurch Foundation: An earthquake story

Amy Carter. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Amy Carter. Photo: Geoff Sloan
A review into the annual contribution of up to $600,000 from ratepayers to the Christchurch Foundation is currently under way. Some see the funding as an inappropriate use of public money, others see it as an investment into the city’s future. Louis Day finds out more about the foundation.

Christchurch Foundation chief executive Amy Carter describes the organisation’s inception as “an earthquake story.”

After millions of dollars were sent to Christchurch from across the globe in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake sequence, it became apparent there was a need for a more “strategic approach to philanthropy.”

A mayoral fund and Government initiative were launched to take on the outpouring of support, but neither were developed with a long-term view.

This led to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority investigating various charitable models that could look to attract and mediate philanthropic donations to Christchurch centred causes.

It eventually left the responsibility to set up such an entity with Christchurch City Council. In 2016, the city council approved the establishment of the Christchurch Foundation and the following year it became a registered charity, intended to act as a vehicle for philanthropy into the city.

The city council agreed to contribute up to $600,000 a year towards the foundation for six years, subject to a review which is now being conducted by an independent supplier. The review will give the city council the ability to terminate, alter or continue with the current agreement.

Councillors are expected to make a decision before Christmas.

Readers of The Star have expressed their concern with the city council’s contribution to the foundation, seeing it as an inappropriate use of ratepayer money.

However, Mayor Lianne Dalziel, who is also a member of the foundation’s board, believed ratepayers should be “incredibly proud” of the contribution they have made to the foundation.

“People can look at dollar and cents and say that is a lot of money if they don’t know what the return is, but the return will keep coming for many generations,” she said.

Carter also believed the contribution from ratepayers was a “smart investment in the future of Christchurch.”

She thought the contributions of ratepayers would play a big role in helping to fulfil the foundation’s ambitions to support local causes for at least a century.

The foundation is working towards being fully financially independent from the city council by 2023 and has suggested a gradual reduction in operational funding from the council until then, Carter said.

She said Christchurch’s response to the March 15 terror attacks really put the city on the map and had launched the foundation 10 years ahead of schedule in terms of building connections across the globe, assisting in its endeavour for financial independence from the city council.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Christchurch Foundation chief executive Amy Carter congratulate Jo...
Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Christchurch Foundation chief executive Amy Carter congratulate Jo Bailey after being crowned as one of the recipients of the 2020 Women’s Fund. Photo: Supplied
Last year, the foundation held an event in London marking the launch of its United Kingdom branch, it is currently working through setting one up in the United States. It is hoped these branches will attract further donations from overseas.

“We hosted an event up there [London], beginning to build our database of ex-pats. But we also spoke with people like The Rockefeller Foundation, we met with the Premier League and the Cricket League looking for opportunities for collaboration and March 15 opened those doors for us,” she said.

“It [March 15] slingshot us forward 10 years in terms of building relationships which is really important for gifting. You don’t hit someone up for $1 million when you are having a cup of tea with them, so it is a long game, not a short game, you have to build trust. That is what has been so impressive with the council’s commitment when they look to set us up is that they saw that.”

The funding from the city council funds the foundation’s operational costs, including the salaries of staff.

While Carter was unwilling to disclose her current salary, the most recent annual report from the foundation shows that she was paid $214,078 during the 2018/2019 financial year.

However, her salary will become public when the foundation’s annual report for the previous financial year is released in the next few months.

Strategic Pay chief executive John McGill said the salaries of charity chief executives across the country can range widely from well below to well above $100,000 a year.

Carter said she had since taken a voluntary reduction to her salary which was now “significantly less” than the figure recorded within the foundation’s most recent annual report.

The report also showed she received a bonus of $35,000 over the 2018/2019 financial year, something Carter said was no longer happening.

“I have removed the bonus component because it seemed to upset people whereas the intention of having a bonus was to put KPIs on me that meant I had to be performing and therefore mitigating costs for the foundation.

“The reality is, yes I receive a good wage but, it is a lot less than what I would be earning if I was in the commercial world or in fact working for one of the big charities in a senior leadership role.

“I don’t want to sound tripe because I know I am incredibly honoured. But not everyone could do this job.

“I have a unique set of skill sets and while I am certainly not irreplaceable by any way of means you need someone pretty senior with some good runs on the board to negotiate deals with some of New Zealand’s biggest entities and to hold their own in conversation with global foundations and various sophisticated donors.

“It is not a $50,000 a year job, that is just the reality.”

The Christchurch Foundation has pledged $2.75 million towards the operational costs of Turanga...
The Christchurch Foundation has pledged $2.75 million towards the operational costs of Turanga library. So far $700,000 has been handed over with the rest still to be paid out. Photo: Supplied
The foundation also took a 10 per cent reduction in the donation it receives from the council this year in response to the pandemic.

However, instead of focusing on the money being given to the foundation from the city council, Carter thought it was important for ratepayers to ask themselves if the foundation provided them with a good return on investment. She thought it did.

The first gift the foundation facilitated towards the city was $2.75 million towards the operational costs of the Turanga library. So far $7000,000 has been handed over with the rest still to be paid out. The money was generated from donations made by TSB, Southbase and Spark.

The foundation also received 18,000 different donations within the first 24 hours of the devastating March 15 terror attacks taking place. Overall, more than $12 million has been raised in response to the shootings so far.

More than $9 million has been distributed in total with $3,570,000 being given to the next of kin of victims, $1 million to the bullet injured, $1.2 million to children and widows of victims, $415,000 dished out from the medical support fund, $470,000 handed out from the community support fund and an additional $615,000 has been administered to those financially burdened by the attacks through the hardship fund.

An education fund has also been set up, a long-term legacy which will support 108 children with tertiary education and training.

Al Noor Mosque Imam Gamal Fouda said the foundation had played a “crucial” role in helping the Muslim community recover from last year’s attacks.

Former city councillor Raf Manji played a leading role in the foundation’s response to the attacks, spearheading its engagement with the Muslim community over a three month period which shaped its distribution model.

More recently, the foundation has worked alongside Meridian energy in moving towards creating a tui corridor throughout Christchurch.

A corridor of tui tucker plants, a tui favourite, will be planted across Christchurch to encourage the bird back into the city.

Carter said Meridian Energy came to the foundation wanting to contribute to the environmental aspect of the city, so she came up with the idea of a tui corridor.

“That was my idea, I pitched it to them [Meridian], they went yeah, we would love to do it so we planted 3000 trees on city council land on Friday [last week].”

This is an example of the foundation’s “project funding” approach.

The second approach it employs in facilitating acts of philanthropy in the city is a strategy Carter labelled as “pass-through giving.”

“Like the gift to Turanga, we bring the money in and pass it straight on to the beneficiary of the donor’s choice. We have also done that for other things in the city like SCAPE [public art] and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.”

The third approach is endowment funding. This involves donors giving capital to the charity which it then invests and distributes the profits of to the donor’s cause of choice.

This multi-faceted approach from the charity has caught the eye of Susan Dolton, who will be studying the charity as part of a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship grant into the research of strategies in disaster grant-making.

In collaboration with the Christchurch Foundation and Sustainable Coastlines, Meridian Energy...
In collaboration with the Christchurch Foundation and Sustainable Coastlines, Meridian Energy hosted its first planting day last month at the Christchurch Adventure Park as it looks to create a Tui corridor through the city. Photo: Supplied

 

 

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