'Innovative community led philanthropy', Lani Evans
Updated: Aug 23
Lani Evans, MNZM, Head of the Te Rourou, Vodafone Aotearoa Foundation, joins Purposely to share her story.
A celebrated exponent of philanthropy she’s had a significant impact on the New Zealand sector since migrating here from Australia.
Lani is also an entrepreneur and co founder of an artisan subscription cheese company - The Cheese Cartel. She is a prolific charity trustee, volunteer, mother, runner (Ultra Marathons) and outdoor enthusiast.
Lani loves getting things done, meaningful enterprise and philanthropy.
‘I believe in setting audacious goals, experimenting, measuring change and watching for unintended consequences’
Lani credits her parents as the inspiration behind her for purpose career.
‘When I was growing up my mum was always thinking about others and engaged the world with compassion and empathy. My upbringing had a huge influence on my life and the career path I chose.’
Lani was an activist from an early age, she organised a successful protest that mobilised thousands of young people in the fight against nuclear weapon’s testing by the French in the Pacific and Muriol atoll. These early efforts gave her both the motivation and the confidence to work for the community and led her to want to make a difference in the world.
Currently, Lani runs Vodafone’s charitable foundation. She first interacted with the New Zealand Vodafone Foundation in 2009, as a “World of Difference” grant recipient. Now, she leads the organisation, a diverse role encompassing strategy, communications, grant-making and government relations.
Under Lani’s leadership the Foundation has set ambitious goals, reaching into areas of youth justice, meaningful learning and Rangatahi Maori. Lani talks in glowing terms about Vodafone and how the Foundation utilises ‘their brilliance and resources along with their funds to make a positive and lasting difference’.
Lani is committed to community empowerment and philanthropy that happens in collaboration with the very people it is helping to make the world a better place.
To get there we need philanthropy, but we also need activism and structural change and hard work and love. Keep giving, and keep giving in all possible ways, but never forget that philanthropy is not all there is.’
We also explore Lani’s entrepreneurial journey as start-up CEO of social enterprise, Thankyou Payroll for two years before stepping into a governance role. Thankyou Payroll is a purpose driven business that provides high quality, cloud based payroll services to thousands of businesses and charities all over New Zealand. The company also gives to the community through the Thankyou Charitable Trust.
During Lani’s tenure they contributed more than $1.5 million in benefits to communities through funding and in-kind services. They also raised almost half a million dollars through equity crowd-funding and in 2020 they paid out dividends. According to Forbes they were the first equity crowd-funded company in the world to return dividends to shareholders.
Lani is also a fellow of the Edmund Hillary Fellowship (EHF) where she hopes to connect with people who are leaning on each other to achieve the same goals.
‘None of us create ideas alone, we build them from conversations, relationships and sharing. I think EHF offers up an opportunity to grow and develop new networks and relationships to deepen practice.’
Lani is on the Board of the Peter McKenzie Project, their vision is for an Aotearoa New Zealand where all children, young people and mokopuna flourish. The J R McKenzie Trust established the Peter McKenzie Project as a spend-down fund dedicated to reducing child and family poverty.
Lani was Emerging NZ Philanthropist of the year, she is a Winston Churchill Fellow (participatory philanthropy), National Geographic Adventurer, Edmund Hillary Fellow and a member of the NZ Order of Merit for Services to Social Enterprise.