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.
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 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.
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.
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.