Is there really a way that you can live on forever?
16 October 2017
My father, Bob Cater QSM, died very recently. We buried him on a rare still and sparkly spring day in Wellington. I looked up at Wellington’s endless blue yonder and found myself wondering what is the point? Do we simply live and die and that’s it, we are gone?
We said our painful goodbyes to Dad and in the following days and weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about leaving a lasting legacy. What could I leave behind as a footprint on the world?
Enter the ‘community foundation’ concept, where communities are busy building funds to support good causes, forever. It’s a growing trend for generous people to put their life’s work to good use.
And, my favourite part, is that you don’t need to be wealthy to be generous! What we are seeing in small New Zealand communities is generosity is for everyone; the elderly lady who lives next and who leaves gift in her Will to the local foodbank, through to the farmer who really cares about the future of his local environment, we are seeing enormous acts of personal generosity across New Zealand – from both wealthy and not so wealthy people.
Community foundations began in North America and have spread to most of the western world. It takes time – typically 10-20 years – for a community to build up their funds to a good level but when they do they can really begin to make changes and see the results.
It takes patience, time, a huge dollop of community spirit and an enormous amount of foresight to begin a community foundation, which is exactly what has been happening in many pockets of New Zealand.
There’s a saying “From tiny seeds grow mighty trees.” It’s simple: grow funds from donations from generous people in the community and give back to the community from the investment revenue from those funds. The original fund is not spent and is protected (i.e. managed so it grows) for inflation.
Ways of giving vary widely and there is enormous potential to create something lasting that appeals personally to the giver. Many people start funds while they are living, giving regularly to build up the fund, or establish their own fund in their Will so that their life’s work can carry on.
Those working in the philanthropic sector (ok, just a fancy term for those who work inspiring generosity) know that wealthy people say that it is extremely difficult to give money away effectively. I know… it seems a difficult concept to many! Most of us support good causes but do we really know how effectively that money is being used?
With a community foundation model you can specify exactly how your money will be used in the future, it gives peace of mind that you are, in fact, giving it away effectively.
Recently I had a conversation with a friend and her eyes lit up when I talked about giving in perpetuity to a cause she was passionate about. The next time I saw her she told me she had decided what her fund would be: a gift in her Will to help vulnerable children. She was totally chuffed to be given the opportunity and the means to do so.
Should we talk about our personal generosity? I have a belief that we should, just as Bill Holland did here in his recent Radio New Zealand interview. I think it normalises the idea and it encourages others to consider what they would do, to dream big about ‘giving back.’ I don’t find it distasteful, I personally find it very empowering.
So, yes, I proudly say that I am setting up a fund through my local community foundation, Nikau Foundation in Wellington. It will grow through a gift in my Will – hopefully thinking very long-term here! – and it will benefit tertiary students who otherwise might not be able to afford a tertiary education. It’s a win two-fold, I feel good that my life’s work will live on and it has the potential to transform many lives into the future.
As it happens, my father Bob Cater was a very community-minded person and he also saw education as a privilege. Perhaps this really is his influence living on? Maybe that is the real point after all.
Community Foundations of New Zealand are proud to be members of Include A Charity, promoting the transformational impact from gifts in Wills