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'From corporate exec to charity CEO', Rich Easton

Updated: Mar 14

Rich Easton, CEO of the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand, joins Purposely to share his organisation's mission and his remarkable career journey, which took him from corporate project management to leadership roles within the New Zealand charity sector.



Additionally, he reveals his passion for the open road and his affinity for owning motorbikes.

Rich's professional journey began in the early 80s in the telecommunications industry, where he worked for British Telecom. This experience profoundly influenced his trajectory, leading to a successful corporate career in telecommunications both in the UK and, more recently, in New Zealand.


Rich's decision to relocate to New Zealand was driven by matters of the heart. While residing in London, he fell in love with his kiwi flatmate's sister, who would later become his wife. This unexpected turn of events prompted Rich to move to Hamilton, a small City south of Auckland, while commuting to Auckland for work in the early 90s.


During this period, Rich began contemplating his career and the possibility of transitioning from the corporate world to the charity sector. Seeking guidance from someone well-versed in the charity sector, he was advised to explore volunteer governance roles. This approach allowed him to gain valuable exposure to the challenges faced by non-profit organisations, with the hope of gaining a competitive advantage for future executive positions.


In 2015, Rich joined the Board of Volunteering Auckland, a charity he eventually chaired. This experience also paved the way for board roles with mentoring charity First Foundation and the Make A Wish Foundation, all of which served as excellent preparation for his current role as CEO of the Neurological Foundation.


Established in 1972, the Neurological Foundation of NZ raises funds to support local neuroscientists in conducting research on neurological disorders, along with raising public awareness of neurological conditions. While there are over 700 neurological conditions, Rich emphasises that researchers often focus on areas of research that can attract funding and have the greatest impact. He also highlights that research into specific conditions or disorders can be initiated by individuals affected by those conditions or their loved ones, who work together to raise awareness and funding. Some of the conditions encompass Alzheimer's, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, Parkinson's Disease, Stroke, Cerebral Palsy, Motor Neurone Disease, as well as mental and behavioural diseases such as bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety.


Although the foundation receives more funding requests than it can accommodate, its fifty-two-year history has endowed it with organisational knowledge to select suitable causes. Rich describes their funding ethos as being focused on making a tangible impact. To achieve this, they rely on the expertise of advisory panels composed of experienced neuroscientists with diverse skills and relevant expertise.


It is worth noting that, on average, 1 in every 3 people will experience some form of neurological condition. Rich explains that the organisation he leads is striving to forge a "pathway to hope," which is particularly pertinent when considering the aging populations both locally and globally.


The Neurological Foundation of NZ is dedicated to funding research aimed at preventing or curing these conditions whenever possible, as well as enhancing the quality of life for those affected by them. Rich further explains that recent advancements have led to successful treatment options for certain conditions where previously no treatment existed.

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