The Wakatipu Community Foundation (WCF) is the fastest growing of the 17 organisations in the New Zealand’s national network and its CEO Jennifer Belmont is credited with spearheading the philanthropic initiative five years ago.
Arriving in Queenstown with a background of 30 years working in the not-for-profit world in the US she was intent on establishing a foundation locally and it was her foresight and determination which saw it launched and find early success.
“My personal mission is to grow philanthropy in all its forms by helping people get on the philanthropy bandwagon and that’s the focus. It is immensely powerful for me personally.”
She says the big driver for Kiwis in the past has been support of offshore charities but that has changed in Queenstown since the advent of Covid-19 and people are contributing more at home.
The WCF has 41 endowment funds and initiatives with over $3.5 million raised in endowments and pass through giving, $30 million in will based endowments and to date more than $1.25million has been donated in grants and pledged grants.
Jennifer says there are many different ways of providing funding streams under the foundation’s umbrella.
“After three years almost half a million dollars has been contributed locally. The appeal of Impact 100 is it allows people to step into the realm of philanthropy in a group based setting and becomes a springboard into other avenues of giving.”
The successful Greatest Needs Fund initiated during the Covid-19 pandemic provided support for Queenstown people in a range of areas particularly mental health.
“This was a one-off fund which raised $1.2 million and showed people what the foundation could achieve and how the model, which is so strategic, can be flexible allowing people to create their own fund and decide where the money should be spent.”
Corporate giving is a growing area of funding and Jennifer says there are also an increasing number of significant sponsors throwing their weight behind the foundation.
“We are excited about where we have got to in our first five years and recognise the assistance of the Community Foundations of New Zealand network which has been instrumental in guiding us. We are also part of the Tindall Foundation’s milestones programme which is invaluable as each of their milestones we meet receives a grant.”
Behind the scenes
Jennifer Belmont arrived in Queenstown with community foundation experience in the US and a long history of volunteering.
“I am a big proponent of volunteering which allows you to meet likeminded people in a community. I looked around in Queenstown for opportunities and at the time the Wakatipu High School Foundation was being set up and I offered my help and eventually became CEO for three years.”
But, she was intent on creating a community foundation and armed with her proposal approached key people in Queenstown to get support. With that in place the Wakatipu Community Foundation was set up and Jennifer has been responsible for driving the venture to the point where it is the fastest growing in New Zealand for its age.
Jennifer is modest about her achievements and says the foundation was always going to happen – “if I hadn’t done it someone else would have. It’s too powerful a vehicle not to happen and its appeal is that anybody can give at whatever level works best for them.”