Kiwi business philanthropy small on cash, big on in-kind goods and services, sponsorship

The Giving New Zealand report shows Kiwis gave $2.78 billion to charitable and community causes in 2014.

New Zealand businesses have become less generous in handing out cash in the past three years, with many corporates preferring to allow employees to volunteer time or to provide sponsorship, according to research from Philanthropy NZ.

The Giving New Zealand report shows Kiwis gave $2.78 billion to charitable and community causes in 2014, almost exactly the same as a revised estimated for 2011 – the last time the report was done.

Business and corporate giving decreased by 22% to $77.2 million, although at least $20 million of the 2011 total is thought to be related to giving following the Christchurch earthquakes when corporate donations hit an all-time high.

For the first time since giving started being measured in 2006, the report also looked at how businesses contribute in other ways. It estimates for every $1 businesses give in cash, they give $1.43 worth of sponsorship and $3.27 worth on in-kind goods and services.

Business cash donations accounted for just 3% of the total, with personal giving of $1.53 billion accounting for 55% of the pie and the $1.18 billion donated by trusts and foundations making up the remainder.

The report shows the top three activities supported by giving in 2014 were culture and recreation, education and social services.

Philanthropy New Zealand chief executive Liz Gibbs said there are some exemplar companies leading the way in corporate giving such as Perpetual Guardian, Spark New Zealand, and ANZ New Zealand that match staff donations dollar for dollar. While New Zealand is a nation of small to medium enterprises, there were still ways for companies to make it easy for their staff to donate, she said.

"Payroll giving is easy to set up and they can allow staff at times to do work for particular charities," she said. "I would encourage businesses to do more corporate giving because it is extremely good for staff retention when talent is short and it allows businesses to be more competitive."

Although New Zealand ranks third globally on overall generosity, comparisons of business giving were not measured. Ms Gibbs said US corporates lead the world in having an embedded culture of giving, including the likes of the Giving Pledge where wealthy people such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg have pledged to give away the majority of their fortunes.

Antony Welton of Vodafone NZ and chair of the Business Giving Network, whose corporate members want to increase philanthropic giving by Kiwi businesses, said providing sponsorship and donating in-kind goods and services back to New Zealand communities does make "discernible differences to the lives of Kiwis and helps to build strong, resilient and well-educated communities."

But Welton said firms need to dig deeper and develop strategic giving programmes that can benefit the community and their own businesses.

"We saw a significant increase in business giving immediately following the Christchurch earthquakes and a strong sense of community spirit fostered across corporate New Zealand," he said. When companies get it right, staff engagement, satisfaction, and productivity are known to increase.

Some examples of the network's philanthropic efforts include law firm Bell Gully's business-giving programme, which provides in-kind legal services worth up to $1 million annually to a large number of local charities and community organisations and all staff are encouraged to participate in pro bono work.

Countdown has a Food Rescue Programme which donates goods to food charities nationwide, particularly through the annual Christmas Food Rescue Appeal. The supermarket chain's 182 stores each donate a $500 trolley of food to their local Salvation Army food bank.

Vodafone New Zealand mainly gives through its own foundation, which has donated around $20 million in grants since inception in 2002. The foundation has a particular focus on supporting youth who are not in employment, education and training and the telco also has other programmes to help staff support their communities such as instant network, TXT2Give, and Digi-parenting.

The Warehouse last year contributed $4 million to over 600 organisations with a particular focus on education, wellbeing and youth employment and Microsoft NZ donates over $10 million cash, technology, and expertise annually to non-profit organisations.