A New Zealand first

January 18, 2018

In a country celebrated for women’s leadership and where women were first to win the vote, it’s surprising to find a shortage of philanthropic funds by women, for women. Dellwyn Stuart of the Auckland Foundation is seeking to change that by establishing the first New Zealand Women’s Fund.

She proposes a collective impact model, in which 100 donors will build a fund to fulfil a range of community-focussed initiatives concerning women. We spoke with Dellwyn about what a women’s fund actually is, why it matters right now, and where she sees the fund heading in the future.

“A women’s fund is a community of interest,” says Dellwyn. “This fund will be a community of people focussed to create an impact on issues surrounding women.”

Dellwyn says the idea of establishing New Zealand’s first women’s fund came about after many conversations about generosity and the recurring theme that women are often more generous in their decisions around giving.

“I thought, ‘Well—that’s interesting. If women are more generous, are women more involved in this decision around giving? If they are, are there particular differences in the way they approach their generosity?’”

Research yielded no answers to these questions in New Zealand, so Dellwyn looked to the States for data around women’s giving and women’s generosity. Her research opened up a window on a whole world of women’s funds, including Dallas Women’s Foundation, Central Ohio Women’s Fund, and the Chicago Women’s Foundation, all of which have been operating for over 20 – 30 years.

“One study showed that baby boomer and older women gave 89% more to charity than men their age.”

“There are about 150 around the world,” says Dellwyn, “all created out of community foundations because the community foundation model offers huge efficiencies in administration cost and effort, which is what people tend to want when pooling funds to make a big impact.”

Women’s funds around the world offered insight into women’s giving and provided access to further research. One study showed that baby boomer and older women gave 89% more to charity than men their age. Another suggested women are more likely to see money as a means to achieve goals and a way to create personal security, while men tend to want to be motivated to support their families and support the status quo.

This isn’t a negative observation — it’s a simple matter of different motivations, and this explains why a women’s fund makes perfect sense, as it provides support for an area that might otherwise be overlooked and a model that appeals to women’s giving.

“Research shows women are much more motivated by empathy. When they can relate to a circumstance or an experience, they tend to be focussed on how to help people change things and how to help those who are struggling with a challenge,” Dellwyn explains. They also tend to give to other women and girls because of that strong empathy driver. They want to give to things that they relate to.

“I think there are some contextual things that have been happening in the last 12 months too, with the election of Trump and the women’s marches across the world — there’s a reenergising of the women’s movement.”

The fund’s participatory model reflects the idea of a collective or a movement, in which everyone is involved to make change or face a challenge. Whether donors wish to commit to monthly payment options or a one-off donation, all will get to decide upon where and how the resources are put to use.

“They’ll come together, explore the issues facing women, meet some of the groups involved and make a decision about where that gift goes,” says Dellwyn.

“Many of the overseas women’s funds explored in the research have tended to focus the gifts around the central idea of ‘if a woman is economically independent, then she can weather more storms’. Variables that determine economic independence are things like prevention of domestic and sexual violence, pay equity, access to health care and safe housing,” says Dellwyn. “So to help achieve that, there will also be an aspect of promoting and supporting access to education that will help vulnerable girls and women overcome barriers and ensure that they have the chance to live the lives they want to live.”

While taking cues from international research and similar funds from across the globe, Dellwyn acknowledges that the New Zealand model will be unique to us. “While women’s funds are a movement of collective giving, they all have their own structures.” It’s a different environment here in New Zealand than say the US. We do have wonderful institutions like the Māori Women’s Welfare League and the National Council of Women that are active in the advocacy space.

“I’m not so much seeing the Women’s Fund as being in that advocacy space, rather being a channel for women’s generosity to each other, applying a gender lens to giving and saying ‘When I give, how does my giving affect girls and women?’”

Since the idea of the fund was publicly mooted in July, it’s been met with interest and enthusiasm around its potential. “To be honest,” Dellwyn happily admits, “the interest is more than I anticipated.”

That interest, Dellwyn believes, represents a desire to do something, to make a contribution towards change. “Whether you’ve got $50,000 or $5 to donate, it’s a way to contribute to help another woman or another girl.”

And although the focus of the Women’s Fund is female, it’s not exclusively for women. There has been significant interest from men and organisations about how they might get involved and contribute as well.

“I guess that reflects on the fact that many men have daughters,” Dellwyn says. “They look at, say, pay equity issues or the number of women CEOs and think, ‘Is this the world I want my daughter to grow up in?’”

Now that the fund has been socialised, Dellwyn says the Auckland Foundation’s role is enabling people to join, come together and start canvassing issues they want to impact. Following that, she anticipates that the Women’s Fund will likely be in a position to set up an endowment fund and make its first substantial grant before the end of 2018.

“They’ll come together, explore the issues facing women, meet some of the groups involved and make a decision about where that gift goes.”

“All donations will be split 50/50, with half going into endowment and the other half granted each year. Donors will get the satisfaction of knowing they’re helping women today as well as contributing to a fund that will endure to create opportunities and meet challenges in the future.”

To establish the donors, Dellwyn has organised a series of events aimed at raising awareness of women’s generosity, including a one-day summit in March, Women Give 2018. It will focus on what is unique about women’s giving, review the role of women philanthropists of different ages, and talk about the different ways women like to give collectively.

Event: Women Give 2018  |  Tuesday 6 March, 2018  |  Auckland.
Philanthropy New Zealand is proud to be supporting this event.

This article was originally published in Philanthropy News Issue #72, December 2017