What makes a charity investment ready?


Recently I was invited by Strategic Grants to present to a bunch of awesome charities on investment readiness and engaging funding partners. Judging by the number of questions at the session and afterwards, I thought I would put my thoughts to paper.

When preparing for this session, I contacted a few of my friendly colleagues in philanthropy for their insights. This included Christina from Todd Foundation, Bill from NEXT and Raewyn from Momentum Waikato (views are her own). We’re all pretty different, but a number of the themes line up. Thanks for your input guys. Tau kē koutou! You’re awesome!

All funders are different

First things first – all funders are different. They have different criteria, selection processes and strategies. And they don’t all like to be engaged in the same way. It’s important to understand these nuances. Usually the best place to find this info out is on the website. Spend a bit of time ferreting here and getting to know your potential funding partner – this could be the start of something beautiful.

Investment readiness

When reviewing funding applications there is a bunch of stuff that I look for to consider if a charity or social enterprise is investment ready

  • Does the organisation have a strong kaupapa (vision), strategy and operational plan (the importance of having a strong plan was backed by my awesome colleagues in philanthropy)
  • Is the application a match to strategy and criteria
  • Are outcomes clearly defined with markers of success or milestones
  • Does the organisation have strong governance and leadership including diversity (for significant grants I always look at leadership and board composition especially diversity). Christina from Todd builds on this, ‘does the Board reflect the communities served by the organisation.’
  • Does the organisation have a good reputation – if I don’t know the organisation and I think the application is good on paper, I’m straight on the phone to contacts to find out more
  • Is the organisation financially resilient and do they have a plan for financial sustainability and has this at least been considered. Also is the revenue model diverse (or is there a reliance for example on one or two income sources)
  • Is the organisation a collaborator
  • Does the organisation have tools to evaluate and reflect on their practice with a focus on continous improvement (philanthropic organisations also need to reflect on their practice – independent grantee perception interviews and surveys are important and an area I do a lot of work in)
  • Finally I think for me, once the due diligence is done, there’s a bit of an intuitive thing at play (this was backed by Raewyn’s experience as well). The few times I didn’t listen to my intuition were the times there were significant headaches with the partners supported!

Bill from NEXT shared on the importance for them of organisations leading transformational change in their strategic focus areas (education and environment); having a clear defintion of need and plan; good project management and leadership; wide impact; and a long term sustainability plan (financial and otherwise). Bill really emphasised the importance of having a strong plan.

Christina from Todd also spoke of the importance of collaboration during our korero (chat),‘Know who else is operating in the same space and aim to be on the path of collaboration. Funders often have a helicopter view, which means we see many opportunities for alignment and connection. Organisations which are committed to working together with others (for the benefit of the communities they’re serving) always stand out’.

Raewyn from Momentum shared about a whole range of factors being considered, ‘Sometimes it is about the project itself, sometimes it’s about talented leadership and sometimes it is about the passion and engagement of the community.’

She also shared about the importance of gut feel or just knowing when you see it, ‘I am reminded of a recent shopping expedition to buy some new shoes. The shop assistant asked me what I was looking for and I said, ‘I will let you know when I see it’. I think we just know and feel that a programme is ready when we see it.’ Raewyn also spoke of the 80/20 rule and the importance of backing great projects, ‘balancing heart and gut.’

Pain points

I was asked to share any ‘pain points’ or tips for charities engaging with funders. My two big tips here were around strategic alignment and respect.

Funding applications must be on strategy. For example if the focus of a fund is on vulnerable young people, applications must be aligned to this. If an application is off strategy, it can’t even be considered. I call this ‘square peg, round hole’. It’s a waste of time and resource for everyone. My tip here is this – understand the fund you are applying to and ensure it’s a match.

Christina summed it up during our korero nicely, ‘Check out the website and think are we really aligned – if you’re not sure make a phone call, sometimes a five minute conversation is all that is needed’.

My second pain point is more of a note on respect. Remember that humans who work in the philanthropy sector (and broader investors) are just that – humans. Treat them as you would like to be treated (as they should treat you!). If you are having an introductory meeting with a potential funding partner – with a view to potentially significant funding and partnership – use this to explore strategic and values alignment. You should be checking them out as much as they are checking you out. Consider this engagement as kind of like a courtship. Bring your values to the table. Think long-term. It’s just like the Mainland cheese ad says, ‘Good things take time.’

Value your current investors

I know this is obvious, however I get surprised at how often this is done poorly. There is a saying, ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.’ This is applicable to your current funding partners

  • Say thank you
  • Build relationships – at all levels if possible so if one person leaves you are not as exposed
  • Meet your investors face to face (if they are up for this, find out their communication preference), cups of tea are awesome in my experience, others may be happy with email updates
  • Share stories of change, anecdotes and photos demonstrating the impact the investment is having on the ground. These stories have the ‘goose bumps’ factor. It’s the emotional stuff that is most memorable
  • Front foot your reporting – if a report is due send it in on time every time (don’t wait for a request) and be straight up if things aren’t going to plan (sometimes this can lead to unintended positive outcomes, like the investor offering capacity building support)

Final tip – be intentional about your engagement and have a simple plan around this. And this is a two way thing. Or in Raewyn’s words, ‘the organisation and the funder both need to keep communications open and active, honest and brave.’

Annette Culpan has a background in philanthropy, business and the not-for-profit sector. She sits on the Board of Philanthropy New Zealand, the Grief Centre and is on the design group of the Social Enterprise World Forum. Annette has published an independent think piece on social enterprise. She had 9 years as the Manager of the Vodafone NZ Foundation, and is the Founder of Torokaha – an advisory service for philanthropic organisations, businesses and individuals who wish to give well – to maximise social and/ or environmental impact.

Professor John on Inequality


My latest blog is an interview with my inspiring Uncle – Professor John Ryan – a man of social conscience, unwavering values and great heart. Here he talks about system change, inequality and a ferret called Sue.

Professor John on Inequality is the second in a blog series interviewing change makers with a dream of a more equitable world. 

What was it like growing up in New Zealand in the 30’s and 40’s?

‘It was a very busy time with family. We always had stuff on – especially during the war. Life was tough then but it was much the same for everyone in New Zealand. When we got into the 50’s, I left school, went shearing, then into the railway and onto my career. There seemed to be more opportunities opening up. In the late 50’s I met Jan, we started our family and away we went. I loved teaching at the University in Auckland and then helping Wollongong get a University established.’

Tell me about going rabbiting with your dad in Pukeuri Junction?

‘In the wartime the rabbits could be sold for their skins. Up on the hills at the back of our place at Pukeuri we would go out with a ferret. We had a couple of ferrets and the best one was Sue. If there was a rabbit in the hole we would put Sue in, put a net over the hole and sit and wait. The first time we thought Sue wasn’t going to come out, so we took the nets off and then we heard this thumping. Then eight rabbits came out and we didn’t have any nets on to catch them! That was my first experience. A nice healthy rabbit, that’s fit, cooks up a bit like chicken. It helped with money through the war. We also did tying knots. We would get bales of binder twine delivered from the freezing works and cut them into lengths and tie the ends, so there was a loop of about eight inches. They were used to go through the shank of a lamb and hang it on the railing. Dad was pretty good at getting onto things to make extra money. We milked a couple of cows. We ran them on land rented alongside the railway.’

Who influenced you as a little fella?

‘Oh goodness, I would be trying to meet my dad’s expectations. They were very hard to meet. Mum was always there supporting, showing a lot of love. She didn’t put expectations out anything like Dad did. Dad was an incredible railway man who, particularly when I worked with him at Pukeuri, instilled important values like dedication, perseverance, and humour.’

What values were you surrounded with?  

‘We were a committed Catholic family. Respect for the neighbours, respect for the community. That came through strongly. Our faith was valued highly. I remember before we had bikes, walking three miles up the road to church in a little place called Richmond.’

Since you were young, how has New Zealand changed?

‘New Zealand was much more egalitarian. It has now become more divided. Also, we left New Zealand (for Australia) in ‘73 and came back in ‘88 and noticed a tremendous change following the introduction of the Waitangi Tribunal. Noticeable changes were Maori pride in their heritage and also in how Pakeha saw Maori. The goodwill and sense of justice that the Waitangi Tribunal introduced was really positive for the whole community.’

Was New Zealand truly egalitarian?

‘I felt it was. Looking back on it now, the difference between what a top doctor got and what a labourer got wasn’t anything like it is today for the specialists. In the 1890’s Snedden introduced a lot of far-reaching policies and they helped set New Zealand up as a more egalitarian society.’

So you would have been a fan of Michael Joseph Savage?

‘In our household he was almost a saint.’

Why has inequality become such an issue here?

‘Since the GFC over 30% of the increase in incomes has gone to the top 0.1%. Those people at the top, the banks and the hedge funds, have enjoyed tremendous growth. And at the same time, unemployment has been hard to beat. Growth has been sluggish. There are several causes for this. One is globalisation. In the 50’s and 60’s an American auto worker could afford to buy the white ware and goods they were producing and send their kids to university. To do that today he would need an income of over $70 an hour. With globalisation those jobs have been outsourced to where they can be done more cheaply – such as China, Asia. Think of the call centres, clothing manufacturing – Most of the work is now done overseas. Of course it has had benefits in making goods cheaper. It’s also meant a lot of the jobs that were here before and paid reasonable wages are gone. There are many workers being paid $10 an hour with no health or medical insurance. That is not enough to live on.

Inequality has become so glaring. The ostentatious consumption of the very rich. If you are a poor person in Auckland and you drive over the Harbour Bridge, you’re confronted with all those yachts and properties. Since the GFC it has worsened.

Inequality – It’s not just in New Zealand, it is in Australia and America. There are the low wages and it is much more difficult to get a good job. Students are all ending up with big debts. If you come from a wealthy family that is not an issue at all. Sooner or later you can pay up front or you can pay off your debt through inheritance. Debt can hang around for a very long time. That is important because as long as students have to pay on credit for their education, it is going to end up affecting the educational opportunity of quite a few. For the States, many students have accumulated big debt and now are confronted with taking on a low paid part time job. Or taking on more debt to get a Masters. But with no guarantee of work at the end.

Low minimum wages and low unemployment benefits. When the unemployment benefits are below the poverty line, the person’s family and friends get called on to assist and gradually all of them fall into poverty. The savings of the family go.

Another reason for the inequality is that young people have virtually been shut out of the housing market. Because of the high cost of going in. Interest rates are low of course, but the capital required and the risk if you take on too much – especially if you don’t have a secure job. Perhaps half a generation have been shut out of the housing market. Housing prices tend to increase. So there is capital gain for those who own their own homes. That has been largely accruing to the current home owners, many of them are elderly. There is an intergenerational thing – student debt and young people not being able to get into the housing market. That generation is far worse off than their parents.

 Governments are not building cheaper accommodation. Lots of buildings are going up, but very few smaller apartments available to rent long term that are reasonably priced. Out in the suburbs if a block becomes vacant, you have two big town houses built rather than four small units, as it’s not as profitable for the developers.

Why are you passionate about the gap between rich and poor?

‘Because I am worried about the opportunities for young people coming through and my grand children in particular. I am worried at the the lack of a good system that guarantees fair wages and encourages young people to achieve their potential. We want to encourage every person to achieve their potential. It’s a win for them (they are likely to be happier) and it’s a win for the community. They’ll be pushing up productivity and the community as a whole will be better off.’

What is the impact of accounting and business systems on society?

‘Accounting is like other things – It can be good and it can be bad. But accounting is an important part of capitalism. I support the capitalistic system but it needs regulation. Accounting should also be a means of regulating business. Accounting is really serving the moneyed interests, not the interests of the community, particularly in respect of stewardship reporting. Top lawyers and accountants are telling people how to avoid paying tax. I’ve got myself unpopular with professional bodies as I have said they are enabling tax avoidance and that is a basic cause of inequality. Kerry Packer in Australia had never paid more than $20,000 in tax.

Business systems in society can be good if they are enabling and increasing productivity. But when business is just open slather, the bigger companies can force out the smaller ones. In Australia we are looking to see if we need a Royal Commission into the banks and I think it is needed. But the government says, ‘No we don’t need one’.

The part of business I think is deplorable in the whole world, is providing and selling arms – especially to third world countries.

Another aspect of inequality is it goes through to health. Between 1990 and 2000 life expectancy for white women in the States improved by two years. But for poor women it was declining. For non-hispanic women without a college degree, their life expectancy between 1990 and 2000 fell back five years. That is incredible.

Also recently for white males without a college education in America aged between 40 and 60 – their life expectancy has fallen back significantly, largely through death from suicide and drugs. Out of work. Can’t see a future. Can’t provide for the family.’

What books do you recommend?

The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. And then The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz. They are evidence based. What Wilkinson and Pickett disclose is quite startling. On any measure of human well-being you want to take (life expectancy, deaths from cancer, heart disease, whatever, it doesn’t matter), the more equal society did better. And it wasn’t just the rich, everyone did better. I found that surprising.

Joseph Stiglitz, a previous President of the World Bank, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, adviser to President Clinton on economics, and then wrote his book on the evils of inequality. That book is also quite startling, full of statistics based on America. In a few years time we could be where they are. Which isn’t a place any economy would want to be.’

What’s the relationship between tax and poverty?

‘It’s not a direct relationship. Business gets in the middle there. If there was no tax avoidance, governments would be better equipped to ensure that basic benefits were adequate and that the minimum wage was paid. Obama, in the Federal Government in America, has increased the minimum wage for federal government employees.

Progressive income tax, can be the main means to redistribute wealth. We need a more progressive income tax so that those doing well are paying a fair rate of tax. For any earnings over $3 million or $4 million, I believe the top marginal income tax rate should be 75%. John Key in New Zealand took it down from 38% to 33%. So the rich get richer.

GST is what we call a regressive tax. It hits those at the bottom more. If you are poor you are spending all of your income. What the wealthy pay in GST is much less as a proportion of their income, than what the poor pay. Because the poor spend all their income on living. There used to be the idea that if you gave money to people making money, there would be a multiplier effect, the trickle down effect. But it doesn’t work. If you want to increase economic activity, increase all of the benefits by 50%. But people would say, ‘that’s just wasting money’, yet it would stimulate the economy and help to reduce inequality.

 If you were Prime Minister of New Zealand, what would you change?

‘First, I would put a lot of money into early education. Evidence shows that if you get kids early, picked up even in pre-school when their learning and social skills are lacking, you can bring them up to speed so they enjoy learning, and life more fully. And education should be free up to and including the first degree and diploma.

The second change would be to ensure that taxes were properly assessed and collected and I would have a truly progressive tax system, based on ability to pay. The more you earn, the tax rate goes up more than proportionately. The government should then have more than enough to meet all the basic services, otherwise the tax rates need adjusting.

My third change would be to have a strong, independent, professional civil service advising government, one that was able to appropriately administer the regulations and controls that are needed.’

Do any countries have the tax system right?

The overall tax take of many Scandinavian countries is in the mid 40’s and they have stronger alignment with equality. For example, Luxembourg 43.6%, Norway and Germany 44.3%, and the Netherlands 46.8%. A highly progressive income tax is needed if you are going to bring about a redistribution of wealth and incomes, unless you have estate or gift duties, or progressive taxes on capital gains.

Anything else you’d like to say?

‘I haven’t mentioned two cancers on the political system. The first is donations. Governments become compromised through political donations. I would prohibit them. And if you did have to have them, put a cap on them of $500 or $1000 per individual, with none from companies or overseas individuals or unions. The other cancer on the political system is the lobbyists. In America for every elected person in Congress, there are several lobbyists. For every change that comes up there are two or three firms trying to affect the result and usually those with the biggest pockets win. They need to be regulated, and their activities disclosed. It all compromises the politial system. The troubles we are having now with Trump in the US and BREXIT in Britain show complete disenchantment of people with the political system.’

Your family describe you as being ‘into fairness and equality’, having an ‘active interest in politics’, being principled, very compassionate, committed to family, athletic, academic, generous, loving, competitive and a ‘friend and father and surfer’ (and of course an awesome Uncle). How would you describe yourself?

‘Oh goodness gracious me. I hope first and foremost I am a committed family person. But a man is not an island. We live in a community. One that cares for the community and wants to see everyone be given a chance. A community where all people are valued, their voices are heard, all people are respected.’

Tell me about your sports and boogie boarding at 83?

‘I still play table tennis. It would be very nice if I could boogie board in summer. That is one of the joys I have had. Boogie boarding alongside the grandkids, laughing our heads off, bumping feet and a quizzical look as if to say, ‘You old goat what are you doing!’.

New Zealand born and Australian based retired Professor John Ryan is the second eldest of 11 children, father of four and grandfather to his treasured grandchildren. He was raised in a staunchly Irish Catholic family with his early childhood years marked by the depression and the impact of World War Two on the home front, and his early working life alongside his father on the railways. John lives with his wife Jan in Wollongong, Australia near to where their four children have settled with their respective families. Now retired, John maintains a keen interest in public affairs and more than a passing interest in accounting and the impact of economic policy on our society. A tall, slim and kind man, likely to be found wearing his flat-cap and Doc Martens.

Special thanks to Veronica Culpan for writing the closing paragraph :0) 

Eyes in Marae


Veeran Morar has a vision for Eyes in Marae. A project to eliminate treatable blindness in Aotearoa. His goal is to mobilise eye care and make it accessible to all.

Eyes in Marae is the first in a blog series interviewing change makers with a dream of a more equitable world.

What’s the kaupapa or vision behind Eyes in Marae?

‘To eliminate treatable blindness and make eye care accessible to everyone, regardless of their background.’

Why are you so passionate about treatable blindness?

 ‘When I was a boy I had some vision trouble. I couldn’t see a ball when I was playing hockey and I thought I was going blind. When you’re a young guy, you don’t know much about your health, so I thought, ‘okay that’s the end’. My mum took me to the optometrist, I put on my first set of glasses and I was amazed at how much more I could see. That is where my passion came from. I was 12 years old. I want that same thing for others.’

How much of an issue is treatable blindness in Aotearoa and what communities are most impacted?

‘The Clearfocus Survey done by the Blind Foundation found vision impairment is twice that in Māori, than non-Māori. And most people can be helped by something as simple as a pair of glasses. I wanted to do something about that. It’s quite easy for me to go and do eye tests offsite. You don’t need that many tools. I wanted to take eye care to the people, particularly children as they have their whole life ahead of them.’

The technology exists to remedy treatable blindness, why does it continue to be a problem?

‘Access to technology and access to resources as well – to fix people’s eyes for example with surgery*. We don’t have many places in New Zealand compared with demand. There are waiting lists. If you see an optometrist you have to pay. Eye care is not free. The cost of eye care is quite high.’

Where did the idea for ‘Eyes in Marae’ come from?

‘I thought if I go to Marae – a place where families gather and feel safe – then I could see not only the children, but the whole family. Everyone could get their eyes done in the same place in a safe environment. If you go to a hospital say, it can be quite daunting. At the Marae, people feel safe and therefore you can communicate a diagnosis people will understand much better. I wanted to help Māori, as there is twice the amount of blindness in that community. The Marae felt like a great place to start.’

You were involved in the ‘live the dream’ summer accellerator, tell me about that?

‘I came into live the dream not seeing myself as owning my own business. I came out of it thinking I want to start a business with a social purpose and I had the tools to get started. If I could go to work and eliminate treatable blindness and help the people I don’t see in clinics – that would get me up in the morning.’

What’s next for Eyes in Marae?

‘I’m in Australia at present, but when I get back – To get a team together. I would need a few optometrists and some support staff.’

What other support do you need?

‘I really would love anyone who shares the same passion as me, that would be willing to help out. Cos eye sight is pretty important – if you have poor eye sight, you lose quality of life. If others have the same passion, I would love to talk to them about it. I think the Eyes in Marae thing could really work. I need optometrists, I need people with business skills who have a social lean (that would be great) and contributions of optometry related products and equipment (like eye pressure devices and trial lenses).

Who is your changemaker hero at present?

‘That is an awesome question. Previously there was Gandhi. He is a massive political change maker. I really look up to him. More recently there is a guy called Ravi and he owns a social enterprise in New Zealand called Mr Foureyes – for every pair of glasses you buy he gives a pair to a child in need. Ravi is passionate about Eyes in Marae. Same with Hanna, she is the CEO of oDocs Eyecare (a tech social enterprise). She is a pretty passionate person and shares the same goals as I do. They are examples of Kiwis doing amazing work. There was Fred Hollows too, he was a cool guy, I didn’t get to meet him. He was a Kiwi ophthalmologist (eye doctor) who helped people overseas.

What advice would you give someone who has a dream to change the world?

‘I’d say go for it, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. There will be people who say you’re crazy. Any change in the world starts with one person. It starts with you.’

‘Any change in the world starts with one person. It starts with you.’ 


Heart of Marcus


Marcus Powell is a master hugger, warm soul and his mum is his hero. A few years back he founded Crescendo Trust of Aotearoa (CTOA) – a charitable trust which supports young people to achieve their dreams through music and creative expression. Here Marcus shares about his first bed in a filing cabinet, self forgiveness and the value of love.

Ringa raupo ‘hard working hands’ is a blog series interviewing Kiwis on the ground working hard in service to others. It comes from the whakataukī, ‘Moe atu nga ringa raupo,’ meaning to, ‘Marry a man with calloused hands’. Thanks heaps to Haimona Waititi for your advice on the naming of this column – kei runga noa atu koe! You are the man (and always kindly helping me out)!

What’s the kaupapa or vision behind CTOA?

‘I feel like the kaupapa behind it is my mum, my adopted mum. Whenever I came home from school, I would bring six or seven friends with me. Mum would always be there with sandwiches and the sodastream ready. My friends would be like, ‘Let’s go and see your mum’. She would play with them, tease them and never judge them. Mum taught me about true non-judgemental love and how that can impact community.

Before I started CTOA, I was mentoring young people at a music school. There was a young girl in the class who wasn’t taking part, so I sat with her to find out what was happening. She was getting bullied from her classmates and teacher. I found she had a beautiful singing voice and we wrote a song together, recorded it, did the art work and I said, ‘Wow look what you’ve done’. I showed the teacher and the teacher didn’t believe it. He said to the girl, ‘get up and sing’. She was shying away, so I said to her, ‘I’ll do it with you’. We did it and she ended up coming out of her shell. Then the dynamic changed with the other students and the teacher. There was a bond, a connection. Things shifted with the student perception, the teacher perception and her perception of what she could offer.

That was when I noticed I could hold space, hold aroha for someone, it felt really good. That’s when I started to learn about youth development. That’s why I went on to create CTOA.’

That’s why you do the work that you do?

‘I have a lot of love in my heart. I love people. I love young people. I love being able to show people that everything they need they have. I feel we have a lot to learn from our young people.’

How has your own journey influenced this work?

‘Tremendously. I guess I had a lot self belief patterns and self worth issues from being adopted. In my early teens I went off and did a lot of drug and alcohol stuff, there was gangs in there. There were moments where I was cutting myself, hurting myself physically, but not understanding why. I was reactive. I guess on that journey I hurt a lot of loved ones and it’s kind of a mixture of miracles and mistakes that brought me to this position. I was able to be in the dark night of the soul, at the lowest point, staring out and seeing a light shining in. When you hit rock bottom, you can only get back up. In those moments you reflect on your behaviour. Making the realisation this is not working any more. I’m hurting my loved ones and I’m hurting myself. That was a turning point.

On that journey, my mum was a rock. Even the times I hurt her emotionally, she would still smother me with love. That is the kind of role model that I want to be. She is such a rad lady. She is my hero.’

Why is trust and safety important in this mahi?

‘I can’t do good work until those young people trust me and there is a bond. You have to build trust. Safety, there are many different backgrounds for it. If I think about one young person in particular, when I think about her safety, this young girl, she has an amazing voice. A lot of people would like to use that talent for their own good. There is safety around that. Her family background is questionable, some of her friendships. I need to monitor her safety in her own life. When she comes up against obstacles, she tends to ask me first for advice. When you take on these relationships, you are becoming like a parent and a really good friend. Safety is really important.’

You talk about the importance of cultural and personal identity – can you share about that?

‘I guess around that age, 12 to 24, it’s such an influential age. It’s the age where you develop ego. I kind of see the cultural and personal identity as growing alongside your ego. It’s a matter of finding a healthy balance. Sometimes I think it’s good to get out there and be proud, show the world who you are – but having that cultural understanding can keep you grounded. I grew up in West Auckland and went to Massey High School. The classes I were in had so many races, religions and beliefs. It’s important to have understanding – not just cultural – it’s creating empathy. Put yourself in someone elses shoes and it gives you a broader view of the world.’

What influence have mentors had on your journey?

‘Loads. Well you and Sum! You were great through my Vodafone Foundation World of Difference Year and still are. That was a really good year discovering like minded people. You guys held space for me. That is something I will take with me for the rest of my life. I remember my first karate instructor he had that same sort of kaupapa – family, holding space, sharing love. I could have taken a path that meant being heavily involved in a gang. Listening to my mentor helped me down a healthier path.

My mum has been my biggest mentor. She is a fascinating woman. Always positive. Doesn’t shy away from showing her emotions. When she is upset she’ll be upset, I like that. If she’s angry she will tell you. And it’s not in a way that makes you back away. She makes every emotion understandable and okay. She is 91 now. She was in her 50’s when she adopted me.

My birth mum had so much trauma. There was no way as a 16 year old woman she could look after me. She was pretty messed up and addicted to drugs and alcohol – she was using while I was in the womb. When my birth mum came into the hospital to have me, there weren’t enough beds in the hospital – there was no room for me. The nurse who was there (who is now my adopted sister) emptied out a filing cabinet, filled it with pillows and that became my bed. Then while they were trying to find a foster family, she took me home on weekends. That went on for weeks and months. Then my mum was like ‘I will foster Marcus, I love him’. That went from months into years. They adopted me. That was it. It’s really cool.

It’s been so cool in the last year meeting my birth family, meeting my brothers for the first time, and hearing their stories growing up in the family. Seeing how contrasting our lives have been, but seeing similar behaviour patterns. I have a close relationship with my brothers now, they are really nice boys.

Regarding mentors, I also had some great teachers, through high school, when I studied at MAINZ, since I’ve been studying youth development. I feel mentoring is a two way thing.’

What does it mean to work from a heart space?

‘It’s an authentic place to begin. You start with love. It’s non-judgemental. It allows me to work from my authentic self. I always question, ‘Is this my authentic self here today, choosing this, is everything aligned with my heart’. I personally think it’s the most helpful way we can move forward with each other.’

How would you describe the young people you walk alongside?

‘Beautiful, gifted, friends. I love them all. It’s more than work – we are building a community together. It’s pretty magical.’

How have you seen young people with CTOA change?

‘There’s a young fella that we’ve been working with. His brother was a methamphetamine cook. He has an interesting perception of family. What it means to be a man, a brother, a father and how you treat women. He’s witnessed a lot of abuse. And after talking to his mum, it sounds like that is all she has had from men. It’s been a constant cycle.

When he came into our care about three years ago, he was holding a gun up against a guy and him and his older brother were walking him up the harbour bridge. This guy had stolen a fresh batch of methamphetamine. They were going to push him off the bridge. The police got there in time. His older brother went to jail, but this fella was too young. He went into CYF’s (Child Youth and Family). It took a while to gain his trust. At CTOA we are all about hugs and cuddles! Smother them with love. He still calls us freak show!

This young fella has an AMAZING gift for freestyle rapping. He can pick a topic and go for it. That’s an easy place for us to get in and do some work. In his raps he’d say how good he was at hussling weed, selling hundred dollar bags and stuff. We’ve been able to help him shift, so he raps about his life growing up. The emotional content is so much more captivating. It allows him to be very open, vulnerable and be okay with that. It’s drawn in new friends for him. Instead of hussling drugs he now hussles his creative expression. It’s not easy. I really believe that we can rewrite programmes. We are all programmed. Like a software programme. It’s only by being shown a different way that is not in your awareness.

Our problem is outside our hours, what he goes back to. It takes me back to my mum. Putting her through hell, but still I could always come home, there was always a bowl of cereal, a bed, unconditional love. I feel like that will work. Love.

We are transitioning young people all the time – through education or employment pathways – but those are the real stories of change. I feel like I grew up in it. I’ve walked that walk.’

What’s been your biggest learning?

‘My biggest learning would be the fact that I can look at myself in the mirror and say ‘it’s okay’. Look at myself and say, ‘I love you, all that time you were a dick and all that shit you caused everyone, I forgive you.’

What’s some of the creative stuff you’re working on at the moment?

‘With CTOA we’re doing lots of creative stuff. The heart of the work is creative expression. I’m really proud of our youth led events team, our youth led radio station – we’ve just been given permission from the fire services to put up an aerial at Corbans.

Our mentors are really starting to understand the mahi and they are coming up with their own creative ideas.’

Why are you so passionate about music?

‘It’s always been a creative outlet for me. I’ve got this tattoo in Latin that translates to, ‘Music soothes the savage beast’. In all the really emotional times, I could always find solitude in the guitar. A real sense of serenity.’

Your friends describe you as genuine, committed, visionary, inspiring, passionate, whole-hearted, nurturing, humble, warm and a really good hugger. How would you describe yourself?

‘Haha! Oh man. I’m loving, driven, compassionate. Haha. Tricky ay. I don’t know. There is all sorts of different parts of me. Funny at times. Grumpy at times. Dramatic. Emotional – but I love being emotional. Shy! Shy at times! Like now.’

What personal values do you value most?

‘I guess friends, family and relationships. To always be kind. Always be honest. When I say always be honest, in those moments when you feel a twist in your gut and everything is saying ‘don’t do this’. Listening to that intuition. You’re getting that feeling in your tummy for a reason. Go with it. Be honest with yourself. Trust your gut.

The biggest value, love. I like to always, when I’m making choices, always ask, ‘is this in alignment with my heart’.’


Social Enterprise Aotearoa Insights


Early in 2014, I visited India, to look at social enterprise organisations and intermediaries. The experience was inspiring and prompted reflection. How might I bring my unique experience, skills and networks to support social enterprise back home in New Zealand? This questioning was the seed for this paper – Social Enterprise Aotearoa Insights – an independent think piece exploring the potential of social enterprise in this beautiful country. I was invited to present this paper at the Auckland University Business School in 2016.

What was intended to be a relatively small research paper (and handful of interviews), evolved into 25 interviews with leaders nationally, exploring 14 questions and resulting in nine recommendations. This has been a more significant undertaking than I ever imagined and has stretched me beyond anything I have attempted before in a research context!

I am interested in sustainable approaches to tackle the issues of our time – leveraging the wisdom and values of indigenous models and other newer vehicles. Social enterprises utilise business models and tools to deliver social or environmental impact. I think of social enterprise as ‘business for good’. The vehicle is a more sustainable alternative to traditional charitable approaches, which are typically dependent on grant income.


We are facing some massive issues globally and in Aotearoa. Issues such as child poverty, inequality and climate change. If we are to see a shift – and we must see a shift – then we must behave differently. More sustainable approaches to tackle our significant challenges must be considered, invested in and implemented. We need to be brave and take action. That means bringing in the best of what is currently working and trying some new approaches. Being okay with failing some of the time. Capturing learning along the way. Celebrating success. And most importantly pushing forward for systemic change.

I believe in the richness of bringing together diverse minds and seeing what weaves together. Between mid 2014 and early 2015, I interviewed 25 CEO’s and leaders across philanthropy, social enterprise, intermediaries and government. These interviews explored the current state of social enterprise in Aotearoa; strengths; response from traditional business; acceptance of the Kiwi psyche; and what makes the context in Aotearoa unique. Further, the interviews explored the opportunities to strengthen social enterprise in this country; the untapped potential and realm of possibility; risks and threats; where support exists; gaps in support; and the investment opportunity.


The insights that emerged from these interviews are rich and reflect the individual and collective wisdom of those interviewed and the unique context here. I am grateful to every one of the leaders I spoke with and those who offered peer review. Everyone I interviewed was thoughtful and generous – your individual and collective wisdom is rich. The resulting insights and opportunities are exciting and significant!

In each section of Social Enterprise Aotearoa Insights, the most dominant themes with the highest number of mentions are presented first. Based on the insights from this paper, I have developed a series of recommendations. These recommendations are a starting point and may assist in positioning the social enterprise sector to more strongly thrive in our beautiful country of Aotearoa.

Ki te aroha me te whakawhetai,

Annette Culpan

AC basket tree

The Generosity of Jade & Eddy


Visit the www.curative.co.nz website and be welcomed with, ‘If you believe in making the world awesome, 
you’ve come to the right place’.

Eddy Royal and Jade Tang-Taylor are best friends. They are also the generous founders of Curative – a small creative agency that works exclusively on projects that help make the world a little bit better.

Ringa raupa ‘hard working hands’ is a blog series interviewing Kiwis on the ground working hard in service to others. Thanks heaps to Haimona Waititi for your advice on this – kei runga noa atu joe! You are the man! 

What’s the kaupapa or vision behind Curative?

EH ‘We want to do our best to make the world a little bit better and our way of doing that is using our creative skills. We believe that causes deserve to have voices that are just as big as corporates – but they don’t necessarily know how to do that. Our big vision is that the causes that we work with are just as well known as big brands. And that people badge themselves with those causes in the same way.’

How did you get started and was it scary?

EH ‘Jade and I met through yMedia. We ended up leading it and growing it. We partnered tertiary students with community groups and industry professionals for an an eight week challenge. The students would produce live work for the community group and they got real world experience on their portfolio. Jade and I ran yMedia for a couple of years and while we loved the youth development side of things, what was astonishing to us was how little the community sector was using the tools of creativity and marketing. That was an awakening. When the challenge ended, we would constantly be fielding emails and phone calls. We realised there was an opportunity for us to work in that space and so we started Curative. Thinking it would just be Jade and I forever!’

JT ‘We’ve really responded to the need in the community. It’s been pretty exciting. However, we’re quite risk averse – and to be an entrepreneur who is risk averse is an oxymoron… So we were quite calculated. We knew there was enough work for us to do and we had saved enough money so we didn’t need to draw an income for six months. We were ready for the worst, hoping for the best and actually working hard for the best too. So it wasn’t scary – once we made the decision – it was exciting. We have had, and continue to have so much fun together!’

What have you learned along the way?

JT’ We actually did a presentation about all of the things that we’ve learnt at Festival for the Future last year – you should look at the presentation here: “Lil Learnings for big thinkers.”’

EH ‘Yeah, we’ve learnt a lot along the way! I think one thing we have learned is you don’t have to be big to make big change. We feel like we are part of something that can make this world better. We’ve also learned really practical things – like communicating with each other is the single most important thing to make this business work. When we have time apart, that is when we start to get speed wobbles. We have active things in place to ensure we spend time together. We have lunch together once a week. Every Monday the whole team sits down and meditates together. Then we do an hour of everything that is in our work schedule at this time. It is systemised. Every morning we have a stand up Top 3 WIP (work in progress). It’s a great way to check in on the work side, see how is everyone feeling and what we can do to support. Connection and communication is crucial to keep things ticking along in a beautiful way.’

JT’ Another business thing we have learned (and we’re still learning) is how to truly value yourself. How to value yourself, your work and ensure you are charging fairly for everyone. It is easy in the community space to undervalue yourself, your time and your work, because of the cause and your commitment to the cause. Social businesses like ours can’t be sustainable long term unless we value ourselves properly.’

What’s some of the awesome stuff you’re working on at the moment?

EH ‘So many things! One of my favourite projects that we have just released is a resource to be used in schools called ‘Inside Out.’ It’s all about reducing bullying in schools towards queer and transgender youth. We worked with hundreds of people around this – in the sector, young people, and our project partners Dr John Fenaughty and Rainbow Youth. It’s created a rich, robust, beautiful piece of work that we think and hope will really resonate with people and change the way people think about how we form norms and beliefs (and whether that’s helpful). One of the drivers is queer and transgender young people are more likely to experience daily bullying in school.’

JT’ We’re also working with the Auckland Co.Design Lab; a two year proof of concept project where they’re utilising human centred co.design for collective impact, and to help solve complex issues, and wicked problems. So we helped them create a design system to share their way of working, and are in the midst of storytelling their main challenges to help motivate change.’

Each month you host CreativeMornings, what’s that all about?

JT ‘CreativeMornings is so cool. It’s a global, monthly lecture series. It started in New York about 7 years ago, we were the tenth chapter to join! There are currently over 100+ chapters around the world and 100,000 people in the wider global community.

We put on breakfast (thanks to our sponsors!) and invite an exceptional local creative leader to share their story, usually on the last Friday of the month. It’s a morning of inspiration, education and caffeination. We believe in nurturing the creative sector. And we just turned four! We have an amazing team of volunteers, led by our good friend and Curative colleague Kaan,  who all give their time generously to make it happen.’

Your pals describe you as generous, creative, compassionate, courageous, inspirational, clever, fresh, vibrant, ethical and #girlpower. How would you describe yourselves?

Said in unison: ‘The three B’s:

  1. Best friends
  2. Business partners and each others
  3. Bridesmaids.’


What does generosity mean to you?

EH ‘You know immediately when you meet someone who has a generosity of spirit. It’s not always about giving things – it’s often about creating space, really listening and hearing others stories. Making time. And of course it’s also about what you can give or contribute – whether that’s money, things, advice, compassion, encouragement, believing in someone, honesty. I think generosity is so much more than putting your hand in your pocket.’

Who is your change maker hero at present?

EH ‘My change maker hero is Jade. This year Jade has been doing the Leadership New Zealand programme and this time last year (I was just coming to the end of my leadership programme) Jade was really doubting herself and if she was a leader. She is a leader. Jade gathers people, she can motivate, inspire and if that’s not leadership I don’t know what is. This has redefined her and she has started to recognise these leadership qualities in herself. Nothing is impossible for Jade Tang-Taylor. She is tenacious.’

JT ‘ Eddy, it’s always been Eddy… And it will always be Eddy. But recently we’ve appointed advisory board members who are all exceptional changemakers and Curative Heroes; Louise Marra, Marisa Fong & James Hurman.

Why are you so passionate about cups of tea?

EH ‘I just don’t think there is a single problem in this world that can’t be solved over a cup of tea. There is something heartening about a cup of tea. It’s a bit of a leveller, it warms and nourishes your soul.’

JT ‘I think the same also applies to a glass of red wine ;)’


Aroha as innovation, quiet leadership and good power

Today I presented at ZEAL Tall Poppy 2015. Such a privilege to be invited thanks heaps guys! Below is a transcript of what I shared, essentially a reflection on the last decade or so in the corporate, community and non-profit sectors.

In 2003 after the Bali bombings, I had the opportunity to spend a year in Indonesia as Project Manager for a local health trust. We worked with bomb victims and ran a mobile clinic to the poor northern villages. I was supported by the Vodafone New Zealand (NZ) Foundation (the charitable arm of the NZ business) in their inaugural or very first World of Difference programme. I had my salary and expenses paid for the year.

The year was tough and incredible. From earthquakes, floods and Bali Belly to unforgettable moments in rural villages with Trust patients and lessons in Hindu dharma and karma. It was a year in which much was achieved – we worked alongside hundreds of patients providing medical and educational support; Trust revenue was quadrupled; our supporters base grew 600%; we were donated a clinic on the northern coast by local leaders; and for the first time the organisation had a website and a marketing and funding strategy.

The highlight for me was the magical moments with some very brave patients in the villages, especially those with leprosy. My favourite patient Made Despar (pictured) was 80 years old and paralysed with the disease. Some of his wounds went to the bone – however despite his plight he remained joyful, calm and even spirited. He taught me some humbling lessons and helped to change my world view. Made taught me about optimism and acceptance in the face of adversity. About never taking for granted life’s basic requirements of food, shelter, water, and health. Whenever the going got tough, the spirit of patients like Made kept me going.


Kia ora koutou, I’m Annette Culpan and today I’m going to share about my experience in Bali Indonesia, my experience managing the Vodafone NZ Foundation for nearly ten years, as a Board member of Philanthropy New Zealand and some of the stuff I’ve learned and found helpful along the way.

It’s a privilege to be here.

My World of Difference year in Indo was a tough year – One of the toughest of my life. I became extremely ill and nearly died. I found the corruption disheartening and it impacted on our work in a very real way. But what I found toughest was the isolation. I worked for long periods on my own with little support or supervision. And something didn’t add up for me – even though I was part of a group of Vodafone World of Difference recipients – we were not connected in any way – even though we had so much in common in terms of values and heart to make a difference. I felt very strongly that there was a missed opportunity to connect this group together (that insight would become important later).

Through the year there were a number of times when I wanted to throw in the towel – yet my intuition kept saying, ‘this year is important, it’s not about you, this is about something bigger and long term’ and I would often think about Winston Churchill and his words, “Never give up, Never give up, Never give up.”


It’s lucky that I listened to that intuition, that gut feeling.  

It was an important year as it was the very first year the Vodafone Foundation had run the World of Difference programme and if I had quit – that would have likely spelt the end for the future of the programme.

To date World of Difference has supported 80 change makers to make a World of Difference in their communities, largely here in NZ and largely working with young people. That’s an investment in 80 years in the community sector with salaries and expenses paid. The programme has supported some incredible change makers in the community, some of whom you may know. People such as Pete from ZEAL Hamilton and other change makers such as Sarah Longbottom who heads up Nga Rangatahi Toa – an arts mentoring programme working with young people outside mainstream education. Terrance Wallace founder of InZone – with a vision of ensuring Maori and Pacifica young people have equal access to a top education and are not excluded due to zoning. Billy Graham (speaking later today) who has the biggest heart of pretty much anyone I know and runs the Naenae boxing academy for boys. I’ll let him share his story but what I will say is this work has transformed the community of Naenae.

Change makers such as Marcus Powell founder of Crescendo Trust – utilising music and mentoring to bring out the best in young people and help them realise their potential. Bernie Hetereka from Whangarei Youth Space who is trialing new models of youth governance and leadership in Whangarei. Haimona Waititi and TUIA who are connecting young Maori leaders and change makers across the country, growing leadership and embracing a kaupapa of multi generational systemic change. Not looking at change over one, two or five years. Looking at multigenerational change. Guy Ryan, Chief Executive of Inspiring Stories, Live the Dream and the newly launched Future Fund. Lani Evans, social entrepreneur, Programme Manager of the Vodafone Foundation and mountaineer.

And that’s just a handful of the 80 change makers supported through World of Difference. And something they all have in common & one of the reasons I believe they are successful is simple. They BELIEVE in young people. They BELIEVE in the potential of young people. They see the BEST in young people. And they have a huge HEART for young people. They come from a base of love.

I remember interviewing Sarah Longbottom of Nga Rangtahi Toa. I asked her what innovation meant to her in the context of working with youth. She said, ‘when are we going to start seeing LOVE, seeing aroha as innovation.’ And that stuck with me. LOVE as innovation. There can be all the theory in the world – but at the end of the day COMING FROM A BASE OF AROHA is the single most important thing. And that lesson is for more than youth work, that lesson is for life.


Just as coming from a base of love is fundamental, so to is reflection and strengthening practice. As I mentioned earlier when I was in Bali I felt very isolated – at times I was close to burnout and I wanted to quit. One of my insights in that year was I really questioned the isolation, when I could have been part of a connected World of Difference community.

When I became the manager of the Vodafone Foundation, the first thing I did in the role was act on my earlier reflection and insight and begin bringing our crew together through hui. I’ll never forget the first hui in the Vodafone business boardroom in Wellington. I cleared out the board table, set the room up in a circle of beanbags. In that room was Vodafone’s CEO Russell and the executive team, the Vodafone Foundation Board and our community partners. This was unchartered territory. I felt worried. How was this going to go? And then I recall Paul Fong from Youthquest started sharing about his work with young people coming through youth justice. All of our community partners started sharing stories of success and failure. Sharing their heart and vulnerability. And something magical happened – hearts opened and that was the beginning of a very special connection. The start of a relationship between the Vodafone business, the Foundation and our partners in the community.

It was the beginning of a community of practice. The Foundation now holds regular hui and bring together our partners past and present and these are codesigned with our World of Difference partners, so power is shared.

I no longer work for the Foundation in an operational capacity, rather I lead a Foundation Alumni Advisory and we have been asked to develop the strategic framework for the future of the World of Difference alumni. This demonstrates a beautiful empowering model of shared strategic ownership and a different way of working, ‘with’.

A few years ago the Foundation funded a 10-year external evaluation of World of Difference. It was interesting because in that the Foundation community partners shared that the funding was great, but what was even more valuable and the real point of difference – was the support and the network through the hui and the community of practice that had been created. The safe space. The relationships built over time. The network of leaders. The power of holding and being held by a community described as whanau.

Feeling supported has been integral to my own journey, and when I have felt well supported that is when I have given my best. For me there have been some key supportive people on my journey that have really helped me. The first is family in particular my mum and my nana on my maternal side. My mum taught me about social justice, about compassion and about always supporting the under dog. She taught me about LOVE.

My Nana taught me about love and optimism. I was looking through her prayer book a couple of weeks ago and came across the optimist creed. I love all of it and the third one in particular speaks to me, ‘to make all your friends feel that there is something in them.’ If you translate that to working with young people ‘to make all young people feel that there is something in them’ – it comes back to love.


You never forget in your life the people who have believed in you, who I refer to as cheerleaders. My very first manager at Vodafone in the commercial procurement team was one of these cheerleaders for me and he had a profound impact. His name was Greg Bannon. Simply put – He had my BACK. And when the opportunity came up for Indonesia, Greg encouraged me to apply and take a sabbatical from my corporate career & promised me a role to return to after the 12 months. His support and belief enabled me to apply for the opportunity and enabled me to be successful.

He’s one of many cheerleaders I’ve been blessed to have along the way. My experience is that cheerleaders are more than powerful. Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Of course there’s another side to this coin. Be a cheerleader for others. As I said before, you NEVER FORGET in your life those people who believed in you. Choose to see the best in others and magnify their best. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.


After nearly ten years of walking alongside youth workers, my experience is that compassion fatigue is very real. Social work and youth work, can be intense and tiring. Self-care is fundamental – keeping our fuel tank full. For me self care is about nutrition, exercise, yoga, dance, time in nature, salt water, surrounding myself with people that I respect and who inspire me. For you it will be something else. Whatever it is. Keep your fuel tank full and treat self care as a priority.

It is also fundamental that we surround ourselves with people who believe in our kaupapa and are supportive – that we’re connected. If we are to hold others safely, we must be held. You probably already are, but if you are not, I would really encourage you to surround yourself with people who are as passionate or MORE PASSIONATE about young people as you are, people you deeply respect and people you can learn from, maybe people who intimidate you a little bit because of their brilliance. And create your own community of practice.

I want to talk a little bit about the power of quiet leadership, which has had a big influence on my journey. Russell Stanners CEO Vodafone is a businessman who has had at times to make some tough business calls. What most people don’t know is he’s also a man with a big heart who behind the scenes has been a passionate advocate and enabler for community through the Vodafone Foundation. There is the less known story of a guy who is hugely passionate about young people and education and equality of opportunity.

When the Global Financial Crisis hit in 2009 – a number of the large corporates were cutting their funding to community. I asked Russell what was going to happen to the Foundation and he said ‘I would have thought this is the time we invest more’ and that’s what happened. He quietly made it happen.

I sit on the Board of Philanthropy NZ and another quiet leader I deeply respect is our Chair Kate Frykberg – she is very thoughtful, listens intently and leads with courage. Kate always brings the team back to being mission led and serving the greater good. My experience is that some of the most influential leaders, lead quietly.

I also want to touch on the idea of power. Power can be good right. It can also be negative. Bharat Mehta (CE of the Trust for London) put it really well, ‘sometimes as funders we can strut about, thinking we should have a place at the table because we have the money.’ He was really talking to negative power, or power over, which is destructive. It’s something the philanthropic and grant making sector needs to be very conscious of.

The type of power I’m increasingly interested in is ‘power with’ community. Shared power, which, in my experience – comes from a place of trust, equality and respect. And it leads to true relationship and partnership and shared ownership.

My final point before I close is a very simple one. I have had the privilege over the last decade of working alongside some amazing change makers and leaders in the community and in particular in the youth sector. Most of them are ordinary people, who have achieved extraordinary outcomes through one simple thing – ACTION. Something they all had in common was they TOOK ACTION on something they deeply believed in. If you have an idea of how you can make this world a better place – beyond what you are currently doing – if you have a dream. Figure out what the first step is to make it happen and take action. You have one life, this is it. A question I often ask myself is how can I use my unique skills and experience for maximum positive impact on this world in the short time I am here. It’s an important question.

Today I have shared about my experience in Indo, the importance of intuition, believing in young people, coming from a base of aroha, reflecting on your practice, the role of cheer leaders, creating your own community of practice, the strength of quiet leadership, using power for good and taking ACTION.

I would like to close with a message of peace from Parum Samigita – the think tank for the Banjars (village councils) of the Kuta, Legian and Seminyak areas. This was issued soon after the terrorist attacks in Bali October 2002.

‘The past is not significant, it is the future which is important. This is the time to bring our values, our empathy, to society and to the world at large. To care. To love. We have a concept in Bali, Ruwa Bhineda, a balance between good and bad.

Please, we beg you, talk only of the good which can come of this. Talk of how we can reconcile our apparent differences. Talk of how we can bring empathy and love into everybody’s lives.’

Thank you