Pasifika Funders Network: working collaboratively to make philanthropy more equitable and Pasifika-friendly

What began as a handful of Pasifika individuals looking to connect with others working in the philanthropic sector has grown into a nationwide network of more than 30 people advocating for greater visibility and more equitable funding for Pasifika groups and organisations.

“We’d get together and talk about our frustrations with the sector, why our communities weren’t being better supported and why they were not being seen,” says Hainoame Fulivai, co-founder of the Pasifika Funders Network, one of Todd Foundation’s community partners.  

The network was established in 2020 and received support from Philanthropy New Zealand. Initially it focused on finding ways of helping Pasifika communities to access relevant funding pathways during the Covid-19 response effort. Since then, its focus has expanded to look at the key challenges facing Pasifika staff, trustees and community organisations, and to identify opportunities to address those challenges and collaborate on ideas and solutions.

“We see our network as a conduit between philanthropic funders and our community across the board,” says Hainoame.

Members of the Pasifika Funders Network represent more than 20 organisations working in the philanthropic sector. Thanks to some of their members there was increased Pasifika involvement in the 2023 Philanthropy New Zealand Conference, including running breakout sessions. The network also held a hui with Te Kāhui Pūmanawa or TKP (a collective of tāngata Māori working in the philanthropic sector).

“It was really useful to get together and share thoughts and experiences with TKP and it’s something we’re looking to do more regularly.”

Network members also held several fono during 2023 to develop a strategic plan and set two key focus areas for 2024 and beyond – Pacific-led climate change and digital equity in Aotearoa.

It's not known exactly what proportion of philanthropic funding goes to Pasifika groups but it is almost certainly much lower than the 8% of New Zealanders who identify as being of Pacific origin. According to PFN co-founder Sandy Harman, that lack of data is an indication of just how invisible many Pasifika organisations are to the philanthropic sector. It also shows how important it is to work together with Pasifika people to achieve equitable funding distribution for Pasifika communities in Aotearoa.    

She says not all funders measure Pasifika funding statistics and in some cases they’re not able to accurately identify organisations that truly represent Pasifika communities.

Sandy says anecdotal feedback suggests that many Pasifika organisations feel excluded by the funding process, with its emphasis on making formal online applications, rather than face-to-face.  Even the language of philanthropy with its focus on ‘giving’, ‘donating’ and ‘granting’ does not fit with the notion of reciprocity that underpins Pasifika cultures and values.

However, both she and Hainoame are delighted by the fact that a growing number of philanthropic organisations  – including the Todd Foundation – are changing the way they work to help break down these barriers.

“It's really exciting and heartening to see a few funders already challenging themselves to do this, and we hope that other funders will follow suit,” says Sandy.