Extraordinary path to charity leadership, Stephen Brandon
Updated: Jun 13
Welcome to Purposely with Stephen Brandon, Manager of the Whanganui Community Foundation.
Stephen's path to charity leadership is truly extraordinary, characterised by a rich tapestry of experiences. In our conversation, Stephen shares how his faith, empathy for others, and unwavering dedication to his local community fuel his pursuit of excellence in leading the foundation.
Alongside obtaining a master's degree in music, he developed a passion for technology and coding, enabling him to create software solutions. He has also ventured across various countries, including Japan, Scotland, Eastern Europe, and his native region of Whanganui in the North Island of New Zealand. In his current role, Stephen draws on these diverse experiences to make a meaningful impact on the local community while also supporting community trusts nationwide.
One of 12 community trusts in New Zealand the establishment of the Whanganui Community Foundation traces back to the sale of Trust Bank shares, specifically Trust Bank Whanganui. Initially, their primary focus was on benefiting the community through charitable work. However, in recent years, their purpose has evolved to adopt a more strategic approach, targeting specific areas of need and deprivation.
The foundation is deeply committed to creating a significant impact within the community using the available funds. They give away approximately a million dollars each year, and these funds are distributed among numerous organisations, often in smaller amounts. While these contributions make a meaningful difference to many organisations and are critical for some, the foundation aims to avoid becoming the sole source of funding for any organisation. They strive to foster a diverse funding landscape where organisations have access to a variety of resources.
To increase their impact the foundation is actively exploring avenues to raise additional funds and expand their endowment. It is hoped that this transition from an endowed trust to a foundation that pursues growth opportunities and additional funds will mean they can give more. The foundation is engaged in discussions with other funding organisations regarding potential partnerships for grant-making although no decisions have been made. Leveraging their efficient systems, strong community relationships, and sound decision-making, they aim to include additional funds within their processes.
Stephen also highlights the positive changes implemented by the foundation. Previously, there was no public face to the foundation, resulting in minimal feedback provided to applicants other than a standard rejection letter. However, they have now begun collaborating with local funders and exploring possibilities of co-funding, which holds great potential for supporting other organisations.