Small can mean big in terms of success!
Advance Ashburton Community Foundation
27 July 2017
It’s funny to reflect that, when the idea of starting a foundation in the Ashburton district was first put forward in 2003, the general feeling was that the Ashburton district (population approximately 30,000) was too small.
Through patience, hard work and the tenacity of Neil Sinclair (the first chair) and his Trustees Advance Ashburton had time to grow slowly, but surely, to the size and strength it is now – currently $10.2 million under managed funds.
There was very little expenditure and no staff for the first seven years and, when I was employed as the first Executive Officer in 2010, total assets were $569,000.
The success which followed was based on a lot of hard work! The Board all used their considerable time, skills and influence to make things happen. Looking back I think it could be underestimated how much hard work and passion has been put in by a small group.
I think that a small community has the powerful ability to use networks well. If the Board and staff are well chosen those networks will ensure progress is made. A small community, such as ours, is also delightfully parochial. We do not look to the national picture, we just want it to work locally. This has great appeal to our donors. Our donors like to see the results of their generosity. This may be a donor visiting the school, or it may be donors meeting and following the progress of local young people who have been awarded scholarships.
Some of the values that have been important to our growth have been simple but effective. A good reputation, not spending unnecessarily, good investing, great relationships with local media, displaying professionalism and a caring attitude, the integrity and standing of Trustees and staff in the community, really looking after our donors and making sure we tell their story often. We care and it shows.
The Ashburton Hospital redevelopment ($1.5 million last year through Advance Ashburton), the establishment of the Rural Health Academic Centre Ashburton (funded by two of our donors), the BOOST programme (over 100 seven-eight year olds receiving additional literacy help within the primary school system), our scholarship programme ($ 53,000 last year); our assistance at the local high school for a group of “out of control” 13 and 14 year olds – these major grants have all played their part in building community awareness of what we do.
Advance Ashburton gives small grants to many community groups but it is finding the “need” in the community and then finding donors to match that “need”, that has the real impact.
Make no mistake; a small population base does not at all mean “small” in terms of the success of a community foundation!