The giving sector’s $5.8b annual contribution shows a changing picture

February 27, 2020

By Sue McCabe, Philanthropy New Zealand Chief Executive


Business giving is up, funding to the environment is low, fewer people are donating but they are giving larger amounts, and a small proportion of charities are getting the lion’s share of the money, a new report shows.

The New Zealand Support Report, produced by JBWere in collaboration with Philanthropy New Zealand, estimates philanthropy, grantmaking and volunteering contribute $5.8b to New Zealand annually. Based on 2018 figures, the report says philanthropy and grantmaking** contributed $3.8b, and volunteering a further $2b.

We welcome JBWere’s significant work to produce this report, in an environment where good data on giving is patchy, and who is giving and who is receiving funds continually evolves.

The face of both giving and receiving responds to shifting societal needs. The rise of social enterprise and crowd-funding channels that facilitate giving to individuals and businesses means there’s now more giving options than solely donating to not for profits. So it’s helpful to have this fresh profile of giving.

Stand-out findings include a rise in business giving from previous estimates. We know cash donations from businesses totalled $143m in 2018. We also have a new estimate that businesses gave a further $429m through corporate social responsibility programmes, which also includes non-financial giving like staff volunteering. It’s heartening to see more businesses recognising their interdependence with the social and environmental wellbeing of the communities they operate in and do business with. This is occurring as they also step up their investment in decreasing their environmental impact.

Community foundations are starting to make their mark, giving $7m in 2019, as knowledgeable intermediaries for people seeking help to distribute their funds to good causes in their communities. These add to the existing national foundations that support donors to make a difference, as an alternative to giving directly to charities.

Using intermediaries can help with an issue the report highlights, that 91 per cent of philanthropy and grantmaking donations go to just 9 per cent of charities. This is likely to be due to New Zealanders seeming preference to give to high profile charities. Given the number of community groups out there it can be bewildering to know who to give to, however there are many amazing charities as well as the big established brands, delivering locally or in a niche area of need.

This report shows environmental funding remains low, in keeping with recent Philanthropy New Zealand research. The Support Report found 1.5 per cent (or $25m) of philanthropic and grant funding went to environmental charities. Our membership is actively discussing how to boost giving to the environment.  With growing awareness as to the scale of the environmental challenge, I’d like to think since 2018, more funds have flowed into this sector.

Fewer individuals are giving, but they’re giving more. New Zealand is mirroring the rise in wealth and income levels that have occurred globally, so we also expect to see the international trend for greater individual giving, including through bequests, to embed here.

There is a lot of data in the NZ Support Report to pore through, and it raises as many questions as it does answers. It shows the limitations of the data that exists to help us tell the story of giving.

This report will hopefully encourage more discussion on how we support those in our society doing good. Government, business, philanthropy, grantmakers, the everyday New Zealander who donates or volunteers, and charities themselves are all part of this important conversation.


**Philanthropy is a term generally used where people give voluntarily with no expectation of a return. The term grantmaking is used to cover those organisations who are required to give by law, for example community trusts, gaming societies, the Lottery Grants Board.


About Philanthropy New Zealand

Philanthropy New Zealand is the peak body for philanthropy and grantmaking. We exist to grow effective giving.

Read the JBWere New Zealand Support Report here.

Read the media release and the fact sheet.