University of Auckland fundraising success shines a spotlight on generosity

November 22, 2019


Written by Sue McCabe, Chief Executive, Philanthropy NZ

The generosity of New Zealanders has once again been highlighted by a fundraising campaign that’s raised just over $380m for research and innovation in New Zealand.

The University of Auckland this week announced it had raised $380,271,165 to fund research, innovation, and initiatives to support students.

This includes a $16.5m donation from the Hugh Green Foundation. This donation, the single biggest, will specifically support brain research.

To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest amount raised by a fundraising campaign in New Zealand’s history. 23,592 separate donations were made, gifted by more than 7000 donors. Almost all were for a specific, nominated purpose.

The University of Auckland’s Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon has said many of the biggest donations were for medical research, while other contributions supported donor-funded student scholarships.

In a small country like ours, this is a gob-smackingly large sum to raise. Many other charities will look at this total with envy. While it’s big, it should not be surprising. New Zealand consistently ranks extremely well on global giving indexes.

We’re so small that we can understand the work of our charities. Our interconnectedness means we can build the solid relationships and trust that are usually needed before significant amounts can be gifted.

The most used statistics around the level of giving in New Zealand comes from Philanthropy New Zealand’s 2014 Giving New Zealand report. This showed $2.8b was spent by philanthropists and grant makers in a 12-month period. 55 per cent of this philanthropic dollar came from individuals and the rest from organisational giving.

Recent JB Were research estimates that 90 per cent of money given goes to 10 per cent of our charities. Or, to put this another way, 90 per cent of our charities only receive 10 per cent of the philanthropic spend.

The charities that receive the bulk of the funding will be high profile and trusted institutions, with teams focussed on building relationships, ensuring donations have impact, and taking time to talk with donors about the difference their money has made.

Good fundraisers play an essential role in New Zealand, as they connect people who are willing to give with the causes they want to support. So often people are happy to help – to give their time or money – but struggle with how best to do this in a way that connects with their heart and head.

Research has shown the many benefits of generosity, be it giving of time or money. For example, Statistics New Zealand research has shown that volunteers have higher life satisfaction than non-volunteers. Other research has shown the generosity begets more generosity.

My hope is that telling stories – like the university’s – of high profile, well run fundraising initiatives, and of the benefits they deliver, will encourage others that can give more to do so.

Donors can then experience what can be called the ‘helpers high’, or the ‘givers glow’, while improving the lives of New Zealanders at the same time. Medical research in particular has a global impact, as discoveries here will feed into other medical institutes’ programmes, both in New Zealand and overseas.

Congratulations to the University of Auckland for raising this amount of money to be put to good use. We acknowledge each and every donor who is voting, through their contribution for a better world.