Q&A with new CE of Wellington Community Trust, Georgie Ferrari

October 3, 2017

Georgie Ferrari was appointed Chief Executive of the Wellington Community Trust in August. Philanthropy New Zealand spoke to Georgie about her journey in the not-for-profit sector and her new role.

Georgie brings more than 25 years’ experience in the not-for-profit sector, working in the areas of youth, health, housing, disability, education and violence prevention in New Zealand, New South Wales and Victoria. Prior to returning to the capital, she served as the Chief Executive Officer for the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria for the last 14 years.

Georgie has returned home to Wellington to take on this role where she will lead the implementation of Wellington Community Trust’s new strategic vision, investment portfolio and granting framework.

What was your first experience in the not-for-profit / grantmaking sector?

Hmmm…good question. Probably when I was fresh out of high school, I got involved with the YWCA as a volunteer.  I remember very early on, sitting in the DIA offices in Dunedin with a bunch of volunteers, brainstorming about where we could get funding from for an upcoming young women’s hui we were putting on. The DIA staff member took us through a budget process, explaining we couldn’t apply for funding until we knew what our income and expenditure would be. It was such a great process, being taught how to do that. (We got the funding too!)

 What have been some major highlights of your career in the not-for-profit / grantmaking sector?

There have been too many to list. In my last role, I was the CEO of the largest youth peak body in Australia.  I grew that organisation from having an annual turnover in 2003 of $360,000 to over $3.6m in 2016. I’m pretty proud of that achievement. We diversified the things we did, expanded our operations into advocacy for young people with disabilities. We worked with young Aboriginal people to develop a Youth Council for them. We worked with a student advocacy body who worked solely towards the goal of having high school students’ voices embedded in decision making processes in all level of education. We supported a network of 17 providers of support services to LGBTIQ youth and ran a small grants programme for organisations wanting to work with LGBTIQ youth. All of those things I’m very proud of.

 What most appealed to you about the role of CE at the Wellington Community Trust?

As I said in my interview, you can’t have worked for over 20 years in the NFP sector and not be interested in how community organisations are resourced. I understand community organisations, our strengths and our challenges. I also understand funding models and how they can assist or inhibit innovation and collaboration. I saw the WCT role as a great opportunity to put some of my learning and thinking into practice in the Wellington region, a region that I care deeply about.

Now that you’re a month in, what are you looking forward to?

Everything! I’m keen to look at ways we can collaborate more as a funding sector. I like the idea of granting smarter in the Wellington region, saving our grantseekers time and resources in the endless search for dollars. WCT has recently announced that we will develop a $5 million innovation fund in the next few months (stay tuned for more details), I am really keen to look at how we can test some new ways of funding with that fund.

What is one of the most interesting papers/ books or pieces of research that you’ve come across recently? 

I am really interested in having some theory or logic behind what we do in our work. So I’ve been thinking about theories of change models. I hadn’t seen very much about how and why we should do this as funders until I came across Using a Theory Change to Guide Planning and Evaluation from GrantCraft. I’ve found it very useful.

Finish these sentences:
For me, good grantmaking is…
not done easily or quickly. In the words of Hannah Arendt, “We need to think about what we are doing…” If we’re going to fund well, we need to understand what it is we want to change and how it is we think we can change it.
For me, good philanthropy is…
not the paternalistic model of ‘do gooders’ doing good for those less fortunate. It’s a collective approach that understands we’ve all got a role to play in making our communities better. That’s the kind of philanthropy I’m interested in.  

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

I like to spend time with my five-year-old son, exploring and reacquainting myself with Wellington. I love to cook for family and friends. Reading…walking…gardening.

Do you have a message for other Philanthropy New Zealand members? 

Yes! I’m keen to work together! I’d love to test and exchange ideas on how we could distribute this $5m fund we’re thinking about. Feedback is a champion’s breakfast! Get in touch, georgie@wct.org.nz

Thank you, Georgie