The Fifeshire Foundation
Any scepticism I had about the Fifeshire Foundation has been laid to rest. A chance meeting with one of the trustees left me confident that it is a well-run organisation that is careful and considered in how it allocated funds.
Subsequently I met with employee of the foundation, Shanine Hermsen, at its birth place and enduring home, Fifeshire House.
Shanine is effervescent in her positivity about the foundations work. She’s employed twenty hour a week, and a co-worker has twenty-four hours. That is the sum total of paid employment at the foundation, and those wages are covered by sponsors, not general donations. All donations hit the mark. Nothing is side-tracked.
She has a four-year-old son, so working twenty hours a week is a good match for her, but it’s the alignment with her values that makes her so happy in her work. She is even more enthusiastic about the Foundation, than she was when she first took on her role. The stated purpose of the foundation is to help people in crisis and help people make long term changes to their lives. Initially She had thought she would have to bear working with some hopeless situations. Instead, she has been heartened by the many instances where strategic support has helped someone, or a family to cope, and improve their lot.
The Foundation was established in 1993 as the ‘The Fifeshire FM Foundation’ by ex-prime minister Sir Wallace Rowling, past chief executive and chairman of Brierley Investments, Bruce Hancox, and entrepreneur, Digby Lawley.
Radio Fifeshire lives only in the memories of those of us who reflect on that trendy renegade that challenged, government supported, Radio Nelson. Fifeshire House, despite being subsumed by Mediaworks, and their stations ‘The Edge, More FM, The Breeze, The Sound, and Magic, is still much the same as it was back in the days of Fifeshire FM. Mediaworks provides accommodation in every way (office space, reception and meeting space) to the Fifeshire Foundation exactly as was done in the days of the independent Fifeshire station.
Basics such as food, firewood, power, baby car seats, washing machines, fridges, clothes, and doctor's bills are typical of the support the foundation gives out, but it also responds to all kinds of requests if they help people get on with their lives.
The foundation does not give cash grants, but will pay a bill or make a purchase on someone's behalf.
All applications are vetted, must provide evidence of hardship or crisis and be supported by two credible referees. If an application is unclear, or more information is required then it's held over until the next meeting.
The aim is to provide help when no government funding is available. Applications must confirm no Work and Income support or special needs grants are available.
At the moment, there are ten trustees on the board (two positions are vacant). In the thirty years since its inception the foundations mode of operation has not changed. The aim at the start was to have broad representation in every way on the board. A hairdresser, accountant, school principal, a financial adviser and a marketing person are currently included in its ranks.
Trustees meet monthly to thrash out the merit of applications received, and usually ended up responding positively to twenty-five to thirty-five of these.
Completing the funding application form, can prove too daunting for someone already under stress, and feeling embarrassed at having to ask for help. Most applications come through agencies such as the Salvation Army, Work Bridge, Te Piki Oranga (Maori Wellness Service), Nelson Budget Service or one of a number of other agencies.
The Fifeshire Foundation is one of a kind. There’s charitable trusts throughout New Zealand, but the Fifeshire Foundation is unique in that it does it’s own allocation and delivery.
Bill Gates says that 80% of his philanthropy misses the mark. Making the right decisions is difficult.
The Fifeshire Foundation has built in a mechanism for making good choices. Other foundations give money to support agencies and the agencies do the hard work of deciding on allocation.
‘The Big Give’ is special effort that the foundation makes over Christmas. This will be its eleventh year. Approximately 300 hampers will be compiled and delivered to families for whom Christmas might otherwise have little cheer. There could be no better return of happiness per dollar spent. Here’s a link that will tell you everything you need to know: https://www.fifeshirefoundation.co.nz/events
I’ve journeyed from being sceptic to being a true believer. The Fifeshire Foundation conducts due diligence, and all donations end up with those in need. Administration is covered by volunteer effort and corporate donors including Mediaworks who provide their facilities at Fifeshire House.
The Fifeshire Foundation ensures that the maximum amount of good is achieved by all donations. It gives a hand up rather than a hand-out.