New Zealand’s charitable sector income - at $21.19 billion - is comparable to the value of its dairy exports.

The business of giving employs 145,000 people full-time, roughly as many as the transport and financial services sector employ combined, according to Stats NZ figures. 

Adding to this, more than 217,000 volunteers contribute approximately 1.7 million hours of their time every week.

There are almost 30,000 charities in NZ, overseen by Charities Services, a division of the department of internal affairs.

Yet just a handful of regulator investigations take place each year, and only a few charities are ever struck off. 

There is such goodwill in the charities sector that little scrutiny is afforded to these entities, the people who run them, and the things they spend money on.

That’s where we come in.

See the investigation

New Zealand’s charities, their leaders, their assets, their investments, how they make money and spend it will be focus of this series over the next few months.

BusinessDesk will be the place to read about how charities are fundraising and what their challenges are.  

It will also be the place for donors to find out where to spend their money, who the biggest givers are and how donations are collected. 

Our broad account of the sector will also include how charities are defined, regulated and taxed.

An overhaul of the governing legislation – The Charities Act – started in 2018, was delayed by covid, and voluntary sector minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan has promised new legislation this year. 

In any event, sector groups say the proposed reform fails to address key issues within the sector.

Charities that are doing well we will highlight, but just as importantly we will be uncovering those which deserve richer scrutiny.

We’ll be doing this with a team of reporters, data editors and researchers to bring the quality journalism BusinessDesk is known for into a new realm.

Drop us a line if you feel there is a charity we should be covering - we're looking at the good, the bad, the quirky and everything in between. 

This project is funded by NZ on Air under the Public Interest Journalism Fund, and will remain free to read.

Victoria Young 

Charities Project Editor