Editorial – May 2016

An inclusive Christian community in Auckland, New Zealand

Editorial – May 2016

Charity where it matters

Last month I attended the 60th Anniversary open day of the Auckland Cancer Research Centre, which made me aware of its prominent place in international research into the causes and treatment of this devastating illness.  The development of two promising drugs currently on trial in the USA bears witness to the dedication and tenacity of a team of highly qualified and inspired scientists working under constant funding restraints and with limited tenure.  As a contributor to the Auckland Cancer Society, which is a substantial funder in this research it gave me the assurance that my donations served their intended purpose.  While I admit that self-interest influences my generosity, I also accept that the eventual outcome will not occur in my lifetime, but serve the next generation and beyond with effective treatment options.

I am conscious from my own experience that those of us, who in our senior years due to foresight, hard work and prudence are financially self-sufficient, are also seen by the promotors of good causes as potential benefactors.  There are many opportunities to contribute and depending on their emotional impact, attract our attention and benefice.  Deciding the merits of each case and the credibility of individuals can be difficult.  The mere fact that they are registered with Charity Services and have an exemption from Inland Revenue provides no proof of the viability, outcome and most important, the qualifications, ability and experience of their trustees.  Provided that such an entity appears to be serving the public benefit and meets structural requirements, the Registrar is required to approve incorporation.  The credibility test invariably occurs when the charity renders its first annual report and fails to meet muster.  The consequences of its ability to attract donations in the interim are illustrated in a recent client assignment, where the founder managed the trust as her personal fiefdom with a first call on its income for her own purposes.  In my professional approach to new clients in the formative stages I place emphasis and require evidence that the cause has viability in an increasingly crowded market, serves the public benefit with an emphasis on delivery in New Zealand and will be governed by a team of well-prepared trustees without any expectation of personal gain.

During a recent worship service we were addressed by a well-regarded previous member of our congregation inviting us to the launch of a charitable initiative.  Its aims outlined to us did not meet my first two requirements for a viable proposition.  A subsequent search of the charities register revealed the entity, due to resignations, to be short of the required number of trustees and in breach of the provisions in its trust deed.  I also had to ask myself whether the founders, who may lack qualifications and governance experience, will be able to cope with the regulatory, administrative and fundraising commitments while in full-time employment.  The good intentions in this case are overly ambitious and unlikely to come to fruition.  Unfortunately many charities on the official register fall into this category and attract donations, when the most deserving and outcome specific foundations, like the Auckland Cancer Research Centre, deserve more funding to succeed.