CHAIR’S REPORT FOR THE PERIOD 1 JULY 2020 – 30 JUNE 2021

I whānau mai au i te taha o te awa o Waikato.

I raro i te maru a ngā maunga o Maungatautari.

He uri ahau nō Ingarangi, nō Kōtirangi.

Kei te noho au kei Tāmaki makaurau.

I whānau mai au i konei nā te Tiriti i tuku ōku tūpuna kia haere mai ki Aotearoa.

Ko Duncan Matthews tōku ingoa.

 

Tēnā koutou katoa,

As the newly appointed Chair, I want to open this report by thanking the large number of people who have shepherded the Rule Foundation since Peter Rule’s death in 1987. In that time there has been a significant transformation in the ability of Rainbow people to live openly in Aotearoa, and the activity of the Rule Foundation has in many ways mirrored that transformation. I can think of no better way to articulate this transformation than to contrast the early years of the Rule Foundation with today.

In 1987, Peter was not able to include in his Will the purpose for which he wished to leave his estate; stating simply that he had outlined his wishes to his executors. Those who looked after Peter’s estate in those years talk of concern of his assets being confiscated by the government should their true purpose, that is to “assist in helping gay people”, be uncovered. These are the years immediately following homosexual law reform.

In comparison, the year 2017 saw the government issue an apology to the men who were convicted of homosexual offences under outdated laws. In 2020, a $1 million fund was made available to the Rainbow community in recognition of the impact these convictions had on the lives of those men. The Rule Foundation, which was set up from Peter’s estate, was tasked with  administering it. 2021 again saw $4 million put towards the wellbeing of Rainbow communities, of which the Foundation was asked to administer $800,000.

I do not claim that all is well for our Rainbow communities today. I know that not to be true and that there is much work to be done, especially for those who exist at the many intersections our Rainbow communities have with other parts of society.  We are yet to fully grasp the impact that COVID-19 will have on our communities, but internationally and here in Aotearoa, it is becoming obvious that this pandemic is exacerbating existing inequalities. As the Rule Foundation has grown since 1987, we continue to do so while looking to the future to understand the role we can take in it. Below is a reflection of the last 12 months to share what we are proud of, as well as articulate our plans for the year ahead.

General Overview

2020/21 has been another busy year for the Rule Foundation but new systems and processes adopted to support the Rainbow Wellbeing Legacy Fund (RWLF) last year have assisted us. The grant application and management system SmartyGrants has been operating for 18 months, facilitating better responses to applicants, faster turnaround times of grants and increased accountability.

In 2020 Chris Howatson, a key volunteer who provided invaluable administrative support through the inaugural RWLF round in 2020, determined that it was time to move on from the Foundation. The Trustees are hugely appreciative of Chris’s work over so many years, and as has become our custom, made a donation to a charity of his choosing in recognition of his service. We wish Chris all the best for his future endeavours!

The financial year ending 31 March 2021 saw the most number of grants made in our Foundation’s history, including the largest amounts ever distributed. A total of 36 grants were made between the Peter Rule Fund and RWLF, totalling $167,426. This period also represented the first time in the Foundation’s history where the Trustees’ desire to fund applications received exceeded our ability to do so, resulting in some tough decisions to be made.

Rainbow Wellbeing Legacy Fund

A successful but highly contested inaugural round in 2020 saw seven of 55 applications funded to a total of $99,966. Combined, the 55 applications represented over $1 million in requested funding. COVID-19 significantly impacted the ability of most funding recipients to complete their projects within 12 months, and we will report on how these seven went at a later date.

Early 2021 saw the announcement of an $800,000 top up to the RWLF from the government. This was to be administered in a slightly different way to the original $1 million fund, with $200,000 to be offered each year for four years. In response to this and based on our learnings from the inaugural round, the Trustees determined to:

  • Extend the application timeframe, from six to eight weeks
  • Make provision for multiple years of funding, attempting to provide some certainty to our community organisations of ongoing support
  • Provide additional guidance to applicants on applying to the fund.

The round opened on 1st June 2021 and closed on 31 July 2021 with 48 applications and $700,000 in total requested funds. Twelve applications were successful for a total of $200,261, including three grants funded for a period of two years each.  A list of the successful applicants can be found in the press release on the Foundation’s website.

Finances

Total grants awarded in the year ended 31 March 2021 was $167,426 across 36 applications. This represented a significant increase from the year prior, being $56,077 across 20 applications. We expect total grants awarded to increase in the FY2022 with $200,000 to distribute through the RWLF.

Other operating costs for the Foundation increased significantly to $17,256 compared with $6,592 for the previous year. This was expected with the legal fees related to the establishment of the RWLF, and onboarding of a new grants management platform. Legal fees were covered by the Ministry of Health in addition to the $1 million given for the RWLF.

The Trustees expect to distribute a reduced amount in grants from The Peter Rule Fund in the current financial year due to increasing operational needs, and to distribute $200,000 from the Rainbow Wellbeing Legacy Fund.

Financial Strategy and Management

The Foundation has a capital fund that is managed by Milford Asset Management.  Our strategy is to carefully manage the fund so that it grows and ensures our grant making activities are sustainable. The Treasurer has regular portfolio meetings with Milford to ensure our strategy is clear and that we understand the performance of the portfolio. Fund management was significantly tested recently due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, which caused markets everywhere to drop sharply in March 2020. The Treasurer continued to be active in overseeing capital funds held by the Foundation during this time, and  the Trustees remain confident in the performance and handling of Milford Asset Management during these uncertain times.

Foundation Partnerships

Building on the report authored by Trustee Duncan Matthews in early 2020 and the Trustees’ relationships in the sector, the Foundation has been able to work increasingly in partnership with other philanthropic funders. The Rainbow Funders rōpu meets semi-regularly and consists of representatives from JR McKenzie Trust, Tindall Foundation, Wayne Francis Charitable Trust, Foundation North and the Ministry for Youth Development Partnership Fund.

The Funders rōpu has been proactive in working alongside the Youth Sector Rainbow Collective, an initiative the Rule Foundation provided seed funding for in 2018. The Collective has continued to grow and evolve, recently receiving a $60,000 grant from three of the members of the Funders rōpu to develop a three year strategy and work plan.

We are very proud of the Rule Foundation’s ability to work alongside other organisations to ultimately provide greater levels of funding than we may be able to alone. While it is early days, we will be endeavouring to build and expand our partnerships to provide funding for Rainbow initiatives in Aotearoa.

Operational Update

This year Trustees responded to the growing administrative requirements of the Rule Foundation. We noted the significant increase in administration required over the last few years, particularly in relation to the RWLF. We determined that it was no longer feasible for all of these administrative tasks to be completed in a volunteer capacity, and that paid support would be sought. Michael Sousa joined the Foundation in a part-time paid capacity in August of 2021, making quick work of a growing pile of emails and other tasks. Welcome Michael!

We also noted the ongoing, but as yet unmet, desire for more consistent communications from the Foundation to our communities, our donors and our key stakeholders.. Again this is something that is beyond the ability of volunteers to deliver well, and the Foundation welcomed Imogen Haliday in a part time communications capacity from October of 2021. Welcome Imogen!

Rule Foundation Trustees

Joy Liddicoat’s four year term expired on 1 August 2021, however she was unanimously appointed to a further term.  In September 2021 Joy stepped down from the role of Chair, taking on the challenge of Secretary. Duncan Matthews stepped into the role of Chair, and David Reeves has taken over the role of Treasurer. Thank you to Toni Duder who stepped down from the role of Secretary, including overseeing the transition with Chris Howatson leaving his voluntary administration role.

Peter Rule’s Legacy 

The Trustees continue to strive to honour Peter’s legacy by developing the Foundation so that it can continue to advance the health, well-being and visibility of New Zealand’s Rainbow communities in a way that Peter would be proud of. In the last 12 months we shared more information about Peter and his life tothe Rule Foundation’s website, expanding on his achievements and activities.

Closing

The Foundation has spent a year embedding the changes begun in 2020. We have strengthened our systems and processes, and are delighted to have welcomed two new team members. As we reflect on the place of the Rule Foundation within Aotearoa, we turn our attention to the future and begin to consider what it could hold for our Rainbow communities. The year ahead will be formative in our understanding of how the Foundation can contribute to that future.

Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou katoa,

Duncan Matthews

Chair  |  duncan@rulefoundation.nz