It is perhaps a testament to our success and exposure that people so often ask “who funds Greater Auckland?”. Our supporters wonder how we manage to be so prolific and high profile, while our detractors allege we must be in the pocket of government or big business.

The simple answer is not very exciting. Greater Auckland is an entirely volunteer organisation, run with a small amount of monetary funding from donations and memberships, and a whole lot of donated time and effort from a small group of writers and a big group of supporters. None of the writers or representatives are paid anything, and Greater Auckland receives no money or support from Auckland Transport, Auckland Council, NZTA or any other agency.

Greater Auckland is a politically independent and non-profit advocacy organisation. It sounds cheesy but we do this for free, from the heart. It’s for the love of the city we live in, and for the hope of an even greater Auckland.

As Greater Auckland is an incorporated society it is required to prepare annual financial statements. We’re more than happy to be fully transparent on how Greater Auckland runs its operations, how much money it receives and how it was spent. This post gives you a summary of the society’s finances for 2017.

Membership and donations

For a few years now GA has collected a voluntary membership donation of $50 dollars a year, and a few people have decided to pay more than that. In total the regular memberships brought in $1,400.

Obviously the big thing for the year was the PledgeMe campaign. Kent Lundberg and the others did an amazing job with this, it put us on a very firm financial footing. According to the web page we were pledged $20,520, but net of fees and a couple of missing payments we received just under $19,000 into the bank account.

Sponsorship

The only real funding GA gets is a regular $3,000 a year sponsorship from RCG to host and run the Development Tracker. However, we didn’t actually invoice this in 2017 so it’s not on this year’s books.

Expenses and liabilities

In 2017 the main financial expenses incurred were the printing of the posters, booklets and materials for the Congestion Free Network 2 and Regional Rapid Rail projects, this came to a little more than $5,000 all up.

In terms of regular expenses we have hosting fees of around $1,800 a year for some of the website’s supporting applications, and to manage the mailing list of supporters. In addition, there was about $1,000 of bank fees and sundry expenses.

GA has some small liabilities. As part of the PledgeMe donation drive we received dozens of donations in exchange for movie night packages. We have yet to host the next movie night (coming soon!), so we still owe those folk around a thousand dollars’ worth of tickets and snacks. In addition, we expect there will be a small amount of tax to pay come March.

In-kind support

In addition to financial donations we are also supported by donations in kind. Our website is hosted free of charge by Sandfield, who donate their staff and server resources to keep it running. This is now saving us around $2,700 a year compared with commercial hosting, and many thousands more on web developers. So thanks Sandfield, you’re a huge help.

We also need to thank Cornelius Blank of Frontier Design Studio, a professional designer who not only donated many thousands of dollars’ worth of his time to the Greater Auckland rebranding, but also to the design on the CFN2 and RRR campaigns. This professional design is invaluable as it really helps us communicate our message and make a large impact in the media.

Volunteering

That’s the financial summary, but the biggest input into keeping Greater Auckland running isn’t on the balance sheet, it’s the time donated by the folk that write the posts.

Last year GA published 532 posts, with each one being read an average of 4,000 times. Some of these are short snippets of news, some regular features like Sunday Reading, and others are in-depth articles based on original research. But they all take time and effort. Five hundred posts represents something like 2,000 person-hours spent meeting, reading, planning, discussing and writing. If you had to pay professional journalists and editors for that work the bill would run to over a hundred thousand dollars.

For that Greater Auckland owes a great debt to its regular and guest writers. While it’s a team effort, the greatest debt is once again to Matt Lowrie, who somehow manages to keep writing six or seven posts a week, every week, despite having a full-time job and what is probably Auckland’s longest multi-modal commute.

We also need to recognise the stellar contribution of Harriet Gale, in a little over a year she has written almost a hundred posts as well as volunteering a huge amount of work to deliver the CFN2 and RRR proposals. Altogether on the CFN2 and RRR campaigns Harriet and the team spent hundreds of hours more planning, writing and promoting the proposals.

The volunteering aspect is something we will be thinking about seriously this year. In the long run, it’s unsustainable to expect a small group of people to spend so much of their personal time keeping the blog running – especially as we grow bigger and more widely read. It might be time to consider new models for funding, staffing and content. Somehow Auckland needs to find a way to sustainably support high quality independent advocacy.

Summary of 2017 financials

In 2017 Greater Auckland received just over $20,000 of private donations and memberships, collected no sponsorship money, and spent $8,000 on operating expenses and campaign materials. Together with a bit of money left over from 2016, GA enters 2018 with $15,000 in the bank account. Thanks to regular memberships and the PledgeMe donation drive Greater Auckland has, for the first time, enough funding in reserve to ensure it can keep blogging and campaigning right across the year ahead.

However, for the question of what “funds” Greater Auckland, the answer is mostly the effort and enthusiasm of people like Matt, Harriet and the rest of the volunteers, and the support of the thousands of people that read posts every day.

Movie Night

Finally a little tease. Greater Auckland will be hosting another movie night soon. We’ve got a great film lined up and will be releasing more details shortly. Those that helped support us by buying a ticket from our PledgeMe campaign will automatically get a ticket.

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31 comments

  1. Great work team. I’m in awe of the dedication of you guys, especially Matt, to put something out just about everyday for no more return than the satisfaction of slowly seeing a change in the way the city works and people think about how to get around. Keep it up!

  2. Its so good and right to get this information. This is how a democracy works.
    When clubs, businesses, governments, etc are open with their information and budgets people better understand it and are more willing to help.
    I have known of several bowling clubs where the treasurer was trusted
    No reports were prepared and $10’s of thousands were stollen.
    Donald Trump does not and will not prepare a budget.

  3. Great work team.

    Would it not be worthwhile having (limited) advertising on the website to generate some income?
    Of course nobody wants to be blasted with ads but surely a couple of those side banners or a footer advert shouldn’t be too intrusive and would make a decent amount.

    1. There are a couple of problems with advertising, apart from being annoying it doesn’t actually bring in much money. Also the website has no control over what advertising is displayed, which can be counter productive. My favorite train-holiday planning website frequently has ads for car rentals, for example.

  4. There are ways you can fund raise:

    -Hosting seminars by inviting experts and decision makers as speakers. You could charge entry ticket and have a few paying sponsors. That would raise a few grands.

    -Organise a march/protest toward a popular issue. Ask for minimum donations and in return offer badges/T-Shirt and sausage, drinks at the end.

    -Partner with NZ on Air and get some grants to make a TV series about Auckland issues and broadcast it on TV.

    -Partner with Radio stations to host talking shows and get some money from the contract.

  5. Isnt one your main contributors now on the board of Auckland Transport. May be worth flagging that up, even if its just to negate any potential conflict of interest regarding the amount of lobbying that GA do to AT AC NZTA etc

  6. Well done GA. Your voice in the transport debates of Auckland is indispensable. Thanks very much for the growing influence you have had on the local and indeed the national government. I don’t think it would be hyperbole to say that future generations of Aucklanders owe you a debt of gratitude.

    1. That’s right. Make sure your tin foil hat is firmly attached while reading this blog.

      I am always amazed that a non-binding UN resolution manages to fund so many groups.

  7. I found TransportBlog as it then was, to be an invaluable source of learning, when I started as a local board member some years ago, and now I am no longer a member I still read it just as avidly. Transport and urban design are fascinating, especially when as well-presented and explained as you do. I knew TransportBlog was voluntary and remain in awe of the work you do and the skills you bring to the task.

  8. Yes thank you team. You do an amazing job and even though I knew it was voluntary I still am in awe of how you find the time to write and research so well and so often. I barely find time to read it!

    Now .. someone just needs to find the time to create a ‘Greater Wellington’ blog … mind you .. that’s the Regional Council, so we’d need a better name .. anyone?

        1. As an aside, need advice from anyone that has used the Northern Explorer from Auckland to Wellington. We are planning a journey down in late August via the train & return flight from Wellington. Is this the best way if anything or the other way around?…Thinking better as an Aucklander to travel & arrive into the city the scenic, exciting way rather than the return trip.

          1. See below. Also, unless things have improved recently, decide whether you’d prefer to arrive a few hours late in Wellington or in Auckland. Can you cut into your holiday, or into your time back home? 🙂 Not trying to be smart – I took multiple journeys about 5-15 years ago and the arrival-on-time rate was reasonably low.

          2. OK thanks for the feedback, have you gone in recent years, since revamped more expensive service? Getting there of back late won’t matter to much to us….see what you mean though..perhaps better to be at the holiday destination on time.

          3. No, sadly, we’ve allowed ourselves to get too busy in recent years. So it’s quite possible the tardiness is a thing of the past. I love the journey so much; definitely want to go again soon. There might still be a good model of the Raurimu Spiral at Taumarunui, and I liked reading my kids the poem “Taumarunui”. Found it here but not sure if I like it as a song:

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