Our history


Photos (from left): Sir Roy and Lady McKenzie; Wellington-based members in 1992; Delegates at the 1996 conference.

Philanthropy New Zealand was established in 1990 by the late Sir Roy McKenzie as a way of marking the 50th anniversary of the J R McKenzie Trust.

The move was supported by fellow Wellingtonians and philanthropists, Sir John Todd of the Todd Foundation and John and Graeme Sutherland of the Sutherland Self Help Trust.

The new organisation was called the New Zealand Association of Philanthropic Trusts. It changed its name to Philanthropy New Zealand in 2000.

The Association began with just 20 members but by 1992 this had grown to 60. We now have more than 130 members who give or who are interested in giving. These include private philanthropists; family, community and corporate foundations; and iwi and community trusts. We also have 110 Community members – not-for-profit organisations that receive grants.

Philanthropy New Zealand held its first conference in Wellington in 1991, with just 30 people present. It was the first time more than just a few philanthropic trusts had met together. Our conferences are now held every two years and are attended by hundreds of people, with a wide range of national and international speakers.

Growth of philanthropy

Philanthropy had been growing in New Zealand even before Philanthropy New Zealand was formed.  In 1964 Sir Roy commissioned the first Directory of New Zealand Philanthropic Trusts, which was produced by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

It listed 70 grantmaking trusts across New Zealand.  The second edition, produced 15 years later, listed 146 grantmakers and by 1992, the newly formed Funding Information Service had an initial listing of 350 philanthropic, government and local government funding schemes.

The changes over the last 25 years have been huge. They include the growth of family philanthropy, the growth of the trustee savings bank and energy trusts, an increase in corporate philanthropy, the emergence of Māori philanthropy and significant changes in the trustee company sector.

Regular research

Giving NZ 2014In 2007 Philanthropy New Zealand published the results of the first of our regular surveys on philanthropic giving in New Zealand. The publication, Giving New Zealand, was updated in 2012 and most recently in 2015. It found that total giving in New Zealand was $2.788 billion. That includes personal giving, as well as giving by trust and foundations and by businesses.

Giving New Zealand is the only research of its kind in New Zealand and is widely and regularly used and quoted.

From time to time we also carry out research into other subjects of interest to the philanthropic community. You can find these publications here.

Go-to organisation

Over time Philanthropy New Zealand has emerged as a broker working with government on issues such as changes to tax deductability on charitable donations introduced in 2008 – an issue that Sir Roy had raised with successive ministers of finance over the preceding 20 years.

Philanthropy New Zealand has become the organisation that new philanthropists turn to for advice, and it plays a  critical role in the sector by bringing donors together at a regional level or on specific issues.

Following the Christchurch earthquakes, for example, Philanthropy New Zealand played an important role in bringing funders together and brokering partnerships between grant makers that continue today as the earthquake rebuild continues.