Philanthropy New Zealand talks to Leighton Evans about his recent appointment as Chief Executive of the Rātā Foundation.
This new appointment sees Leighton move to Christchurch from Gisborne, where he held senior leadership roles in the Gisborne District Council and civil construction company, Quality Roading and Services, before taking up his former role as Chief Executive at Eastland Community Trust in 2010.
During his time at ECT, the Trust distributed $26 million to strengthen local organisations, support events, develop community assets and generally improve the quality of life in the region. They also invested around $16m in job creation.
Leighton says he is looking forward to getting stuck in and gaining a better understanding of the needs, ideas and perspectives of the people and communities of Rātā Foundation’s four funding regions—Canterbury, Nelson, Marlborough and the Chatham Islands.
- What was your first ever experience in the not-for-profit / grantmaking sector?
I think the best experience, to-date for me, was my involvement in Gisborne’s home insulation programme. The project was massively wide-ranging and impacted almost one in three people in the community. Data from hospital admissions showed that the number of those presenting with respiratory illnesses tanked as a result of the project—simply because homes were warmer and dryer. So, it was a big win for the Gisborne community.
What was also personally satisfying was being able to negotiate a large contribution from the government and private sectors for the initiative. It’s an example of how, together, we can make a difference and how we can influence government and the private sector for the betterment of our community
- What most motivated you about the role of CE at the Rātā Foundation?
A combination of factors motivated me to join Rātā Foundation—mainly, I was excited about the Foundation’s vision and the prospect of playing a part in its continuing evolution and momentum. Being part of what is clearly a great team, doing great work was certainly another contributing factor! In my past role, I saw first-hand the difference leadership and supportive funding can make, and I wanted to continue working in a sector I am passionate about.
- Now that you’re almost a month in, how have you found the transition from North to South, and what are you looking forward to?
The opportunity to live in Christchurch and build connections into the Nelson, Marlborough and Chatham Island communities was a big draw card. The family were pretty keen as well! I’m taking some time to learn but I’m passionate about supporting great ideas which make a difference and empower communities to dream and achieve their aspirations.
The people I’ve met so far have been really welcoming and I’m enjoying the opportunity to get to know this place better. Have to say though, the weather has been a bit of a shock, but the team here kept telling me it will get better, and I’m pleased to say that seems to be the case.
- What is some of the most interesting writing relating to the sector that you’ve come across recently?
Nine Steps to Effective Governance – Building High Performing Organisations from Sport NZ.
It’s a really good guide for organisations looking to improve the way they work, and find good practice, advice and research in a range of areas.
The New Zealand Project by Max Harris: is a book which challenges the way we think as a society about the problems currently facing New Zealand. It also offers a different way we could think about how we could work to address these issues.
Legacy by James Kerr: offers an in-depth look at the world’s most successful sporting team, the legendary All Blacks of New Zealand, to reveal 15 powerful and practical lessons for leadership and business.
- Finish the sentences:
For me, good grantmaking is…supporting and helping to build capacity and sustainability in our community organisations to they can achieve great outcomes in their sector.
For me, good philanthropy is…identifying and investing in an area where real impact and positive social change can be delivered.
- What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
That’s easy—the three F’s—family, fun and fishing!
Thank you Leighton