Wellington funders got together a while ago and have now produced a report on the grant making space in their city. Heralded on Radio NZ as something done “for the first time” – a claim that I let go after kicking the dog and knocking back a bottle of chardonnay – nevertheless, it’s an interesting look at the grant ecosystem in Wellington.
Below is a comparison with Wellington, Canterbury and Otago – the South Island data you can find on my website. I confess to being a bit surprised by the similarities in the results given my rather dubious categorisation methodology, and the (likely) well-debated methodology of the Wellington work.
Of course, there are numerous issues in the above comparison.
- Classification. One of the issues identified in the Wellington study was a consistent and meaningful classification system. They adopted a standard classification system, but when I looked at this I felt it did not represent the richness of grant making. When I did the Canterbury and Otago work, I did sort of make it up into something that, as a user, was meaningful to me. This included classification by sports code. It's likely that there will be differences in classifications.
- Missing data. My data missed some of the smaller district councils, as getting good data out of them is a challenging task - although they are not perhaps material in any case. And Lotteries, of course, are missing from the Wellington data: in both South Island regions Lotteries make up about 10% of the grants into the area. Lotteries grants tend to go on the community side of things. And of course, we have to remember that grant income makes up only a percentage of total income for NFPs. Income will include taxpayer funded contracts, self-generated funds, individual giving and fundraisers.
- Effect of gaming trusts. Within the Wellington data is information on NZ Racing Board, Lion Foundation and NZCT. There are another five or so gaming trusts which operate in the region whose data is not within the dataset. Further, when I did research on Otago and Canterbury I ignored NZ Racing Board. Although they are a large operator, they do not give grants out to general organisations. They are counted within the Wellington data, so will skew the sport number accordingly.
- Region. As the capital, Wellington data could possibly be skewed by national organisations based in the city. This happens quite often: Canterbury funders will give funding to the likes of Royal NZ ballet to give performances within the region.
The Wellington decline information is quite interesting, in that they have actually looked into the issue, identifying some 32% of requests as declined. As a grant maker, a decline can be a bit angst ridden and of course high cost. Real time information about this would help decision makers understand other organisations’ concerns.
And as an aside talked about on the wireless during the interview was a concern about a lack of special interest groups applying for funding. Looking at the Wellington data, one could make some assumptions around this. However, I see that most NFPs deal with everyone. A cancer charity works with anyone with cancer. A school educates those who are enrolled. A sports club caters to members. A community group caters to those who live within the community. So to put in some sorts of percentage on special interest has the potential to result in some fairly silly outcomes, with even more replication for a sector with over 27,000 charities.
So where to from here. While the Wellington report talks of this as an interim report designed to encourage funders to share their data, and ends on a desire for funders to pitch in on this, I see that Central Government has to come to the party. They fund themselves, they oversee many other grantmakers, they regulate gaming trusts, and they monitor charities and societies. Funders are, by and large, disparate, regionally focussed, small (within the national context) and I hate to say, see themselves as central to the ecosystem rather than as an enabler. So, while I hope for their sake that they will be able to pull something off, I think that some sort of information solution where Central Government is a key stakeholder (not necessarily project owner) is the best way forward. Looking forward to the DIA’s Community Engagement Feedback due in September to see if there is more on this.
And one more thing. I confess to being a big fan of the 80/20 rule: putting 20% of the effort in to yield 80% of the result (good thing I am not a brain surgeon). My point is that we don’t need to design a perfect platform up front. Something now is better than an almost perfect solution in five years’ time. Be good to get started.
Love to talk with you if you think this is at all interesting. Check out my website www.delfi.co.nz.