Foundation growing strong

The Massey University Foundation, created to receive and manage philanthropic gifts to the University,  has come a long way since becoming a registered charity in 2004, director Mitch Murdoch writes.


Mitch Murdoch.

Mitch Murdoch.

Back in 2004 the Massey University Foundation had almost no profile with assets of just $3 million. It received donations of $5000 from 15 donors in that year.

The year 2017 was something of a landmark for the charity though it is still a long way off reaching its full potential.

More than 1300 people donated to the foundation last year and fundraising reached $7.8 million with one alumni giving an extraordinary gift of $3.4 million to fund scholarships.

University foundations are not new: in the United States they have been commonplace for decades, and many of the Ivy League universities have developed endowment funds of momentous proportions. Here in New Zealand they are a relatively new phenomenon. At just 13 years old the Massey University Foundation is a teenager and it is really only just becoming established.

Given time, the foundation will provide much more to Massey, giving it stability in periods of economic uncertainty.

In 2017 the foundation gave $1.3 million to support scholarships and research at Massey, and this year (2018) it will give away nearly $4 million. I can see a time when the foundation will provide tens of millions each year to supplement the university’s income.

The foundation fundraises for scholarships, bursaries, research and facilities that the University could not otherwise afford. One of its most recent successes is Wildbase Hospital, a charitable hospital that treats highly endangered native and indigenous animals.

It would not have been appropriate for the University to use government funding or student fees to build the hospital, but it was entirely appropriate for the foundation to fundraise for it.

The state-of-the-art hospital was opened in 2017 and is being used to train wildlife veterinarians and to drive conservation research that will help save some of New Zealand’s most critically endangered species.

For New Zealand universities I can only see the importance of foundations growing. Funding from the government (which only covers around 40 per cent of a university’s costs) and research institutions is coming under increasing pressure. There is a growing demand for universities to supply first class-staff, facilities and education while at the same time budgets are shrinking and the teaching and learning environment evolves on an almost daily basis – no sooner has a new pedagogy been put in place than it is outdated.

In this pressure-cooker environment, foundations often bridge the gap between mediocrity and excellence.

The Massey University Foundation’s strapline is “enabling excellence” and that is exactly what the foundation does. We bridge the gap between good and excellent by providing essential equipment or teaching space that the University can’t afford. We level the playing field by giving access to excellent students who could not otherwise afford to attend university.

It’s a sad fact that we still need hardship bursaries and scholarships to allow talented kids to reach their potential. Even with the introduction of free fees, there are kids out there from families that simply can’t afford to help them with living costs.

In recent years the foundation has seen an increase in the number of alumni endowing bursaries and scholarships to support such students.
These alumni give us lump sums to invest, and each year we retain enough income to inflation-proof the initial sums, and we release the rest for scholarships or bursaries in their chosen field.

It’s amazing what people do for other people. Working in a role like this restores your faith in human kind because you see some amazingly selfless acts.

Aileen Claridge with her beloved Griffon dogs.

Aileen Claridge, pictured with her beloved Griffon dogs, bequeathed money to Massey to support research into small dog breeds.

For further information on the work of the foundation go to