Ten years to make a difference, Alice Montague, CEO Clare Foundation
Updated: Jan 24
Alice Montague joins Purposely to share her journey from fundraiser to philanthropy leader.
Alice was appointed CEO of the Clare Foundation in May 2022, following three years leading the Nikau Foundation, one of seventeen community foundations based in New Zealand.
Founded in 2020 by entrepreneur Anna Stuck, the Clare Foundation will use a ‘spend down’ approach to giving and plans to donate more than $35 million over a ten-year period to charities and initiatives that match their themes and deliver impact.
‘We have four strategic focus areas, amplifying opportunities for women, youth wellbeing, the environment and oral health. All areas that Anna is particularly passionate about’
Anna chose the name of the Foundation, inspired by women in her family who all share the same name, she wanted the foundation’s name to provide a legacy.
While relatively new into the role Alice is clear about the mission and purpose of the foundation, describing their interest in long term transformative change and the ‘complex world of system change’.
The challenge for Alice is that the foundation will only exist for 10 years, or at least that’s the plan. They will look to spend down the funds and deliver positive impact as quickly and as effectively as possible.
‘We are looking at that timeframe and the resources we have, trying to work out where that sweet spot is for us and where we can make the greatest change with the resources we have.’
Alice has worked in the charity sector for the last two decades and this wealth of experience is helping to shape her approach and how her team will carry-out their charitable giving.
‘We plan to be a high trust funder and we want to have good relationships with the organisations and people that we fund’
We look back and delve into the reasons why Alice chose the non-profit sector and why a career focused on purpose was always likely.
‘I had a real strong sense of social justice and wanting to contribute’
Alice also describes herself as an activist and she is constantly looking at how she can do things differently and bring about lasting change.
‘I was always a bit of an activist, and at 17 I remember standing outside of McDonald's in Northridge (UK), handing out flyers to people about the destruction of the rainforest’
We also discuss leadership; she explains her style as collaborative and how she works hard to get the best from her teams. We also discuss how she approaches her relationships with trustees and governance boards of the charities she leads. Her ‘honesty first’ approach was particularly evident when she interviewed for the role of Executive Director at the Nikau Foundation.
‘I remember them asking me in my interview, one person said… how long do you think you will be here for? and I responded by saying probably about three to four years. One of the Board members looked horrified and another nodded and said that sounds about right. I said look… I will do everything in my power to achieve what you want in this timeframe’
Alice has held a range of high-profile roles with organisations such as the Red Cross, Experience Wellington, Creative New Zealand and most recently in her role as Executive Director at the Nikau Foundation before taking the reins at the Clare Foundation.