New charity the Clare Foundation is flush with $35 million in cash from its founder Anna Stuck. 

It plans to make as big a splash as possible by giving it all away in as little as a decade.

Until now, Stuck has probably been best known as the former partner of Xero founder Rod Drury. That may be about to change, as she branches out into philanthropy, along with a new venture capital firm aimed at women.

A typical foundation will marshal its funds to build up an investment portfolio, donate some of its dividends each year, and reinvest the rest for long-term growth.

Instead, the Clare Foundation is structured as a “spend down” foundation and plans to donate it all over a finite period. Chief executive Alice Montague said the foundation’s life span was not set in stone.

"At this stage, there is no firm sunset plan in place for Clare, but it is anticipated that the foundation will complete its philanthropic strategy over a 10-year period."

Montague said the Clare Foundation did not intend to seek donations from the public.  

Founded with a loan

Stuck launched the foundation in 2020 and seeded its finances with an interest-free loan worth $34.8m, as at 31 March 2021. The loan, which is invested and repayable on demand, was advanced by the Anna Margaret Clare Ventures Trust, of which Stuck is a trustee.

Montague would not be drawn on possible circumstances where the loan would be repayable. A possible inference is that this condition is a “just-in-case” clause. 

The Clare Foundation decides what it funds – and it doesn't accept unsolicited applications. It gave out $411,500 in donations in the March 2021 financial year. Its income on investments and market gains was $708,930. Other costs and overheads were $361,064, leaving an operating deficit of $63,634 for the 2021 year.

Montague was appointed in April 2022. The position was advertised last year with an annual pay range of $140,000 to $160,000. 

Anna Stuck had not ruled out topping up the foundation’s funds in the future, Montague said. 

A focus on women

Last year, Stuck founded Even Capital, a venture capital company that aims to fund women-led startups. It planned to donate 5% of its distributable proceeds to the Clare Foundation whenever it successfully exited an investment. 

Even Capital’s website states that less than 3% of the world’s venture capital funding goes to female-founded businesses. It cites a 2018 Boston Consulting Group study that found for every dollar of funding, businesses founded or co-founded by women generated 78 cents, while male-founded startups generated just 31 cents.

The Clare Foundation also has a focus on advancing women’s interests. In March this year, it funded Mind the Gap, a voluntary register of gender and ethnic pay gaps in business. It says its intention is to shine a light on pay gaps, which encourages companies to address the issue.

Montague said the foundation was focused on four areas – women, youth wellbeing, environment and oral health.

In 2021, the foundation spread its funds far and wide, with donations to 32 groups. Its website now lists 51 charities it has helped with what it describes as “give and go” donations and no ongoing relationship.

These included organisations involved in support for LGBT youth, urban farming groups in Auckland and Wellington, conservation groups, iwi support groups and charities that mentor women in business and health. Such one-off donations formed the bulk of the foundation’s giving.

Montague said the large number of groups helped was heavily affected by the need to provide emergency help through the covid-19 pandemic, including food, medicine and help for vulnerable groups needing support during the lockdowns. 

It also donated to organisations responding to crises, such as the war in Ukraine and the volcanic eruption in Tonga.

The foundation does offer ongoing support for three initiatives. They are Wish For a Smile, run by the New Zealand Association of Orthodontists, The Wellington Homeless Women’s Trust and Mind the Gap. 

The foundation’s 2021 investments included $500,000 in “impact investment” funds. These are investments that aim to get positive social outcomes, while providing a return to investors. One fund is for building community housing in Auckland. Another investment is into Nilo, an NZ company that plans to recycle all plastics into industrial products.

To date, the Clare Foundation’s investment income has covered most of its donations and expenses, and there is another potential income stream if Stuck’s Even Capital bears fruit.  

If it really does spend down all its funds in a decade or so, “Clare” has a lot of impact to make yet.

According to Xero's 2022 annual report, Stuck and Drury hold 9,914,789 shares in Xero, which at this week's price would be valued at A$750m (NZ$820m).
The duo sold $300m in shares back in Aug 21, 2021.